Shredded hearts heal, but some take longer than others. I wrote this last week, but I’m only just now (barely) able to post it. Still, I have to share.
Today is a sad day. On the sad-o-meter, it’s pretty much off the charts. In a little less than an hour, Brittan and I are off to the vet with Iris the Irritable Corgi on her final car ride. And my heart is breaking. Whoever said, ’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’, never owned a dog.
As I type this page, Iris is lying uncomfortably beside my chair, in constant pain, but not wanting to be away from us. She looks older than her 12.5 years, and because of her infirmities she acts it. Our once upon a time all-star athlete can’t even go down the three steps from our deck to the yard. Often she can’t even step over the threshold without tripping and doing painful splits across the kitchen floor.
My mind races back to better days. I smile wryly at her arrival all those years ago, when she gave us a run for our money as she bolted through the Bangor, Maine airport, when an airline employee foolishly opened her crate to take a peek at the little bi-eyed monster inside.
Iris darted out of the crate and down the corridor past the gaping airline worker and a dozen wide eyed travelers. Had it not been for her need to take a dump, we might still be chasing her around the airport.
Iris and I got off to a rough start. She was just under a year old, and full of bad attitude. Like many Cardigan Corgis, she had a bossy streak and was a natural ankle and calf nipper. Herding is in her DNA.
She was Brittan’s dog, so I didn’t take her antipathy personally. Besides, I had my rowdy team of sleddogs outside to spend my time with.
Frankly, most people had a similar experience with our little squatty terrorist to the one I did. She was just not a friendly dog. She adored Brittan and tolerated me, but other people were a genuine nuisance to her, and she refused to hide it.
Our relationship changed a few months after her arrival, when we took her to basic obedience classes to help socialize her and hopefully earn her a Canine Good Citizen certificate. During the first class, Brittan handled her and it was rather stressful, so beginning with lesson 2, Brittan asked me to handle the Queen of Irritability, and for some reason I agreed.
We instantly formed a teamwork bond. A switch flipped and Iris became the star of the class. Within just a couple weeks, she was perfect at every skill. We only had to practice a few minutes a day. It turns out the little beast was a genius. She learned quickly, and would do anything for a treat.
When test day finally came, I was a nervous wreck, but Iris flew through her exam like a champ. I was so proud of her. I didn’t like her, but I was proud of her.
We thought she might have a future in competitive obedience, but we discovered that she had hip problems and would never be able to handle jumping. It was the first step in a series of steps that has led us to where we are today.
One of the worst nights of my life, was watching Iris start a fight with Lucy the Bullmastiff. This was about 4 years ago now. Both were Alpha females and disliked everything about the other, but Iris was 35 lbs of middle aged arthritis and attitude, while Lucy was 110 lbs of solid muscle.
Iris snarled and snapped at Lucy over something, and in a flash, Iris was sliced from stem to stern and Lucy was shaking her like a rag doll.
I can’t even remember how we got Iris free from Lucy’s grip, but by some act of Grace we managed it. This was late on a Saturday night and the nearest emergency vet was an hour away. I raced through the dark streets while Brittan furiously fought to stem the flow of blood.
The vets rushed Iris into surgery, with little hope for her, while Brittan and I paced and prayed and fretted the night away. Sometime between 2 and 3 a.m. , weak but alive, Iris was placed in our arms along with a bill roughly equivalent to the GDP of a small European country.
Like I said, that was roughly 4 years ago. Iris has not been the same since. Oh, she’s still sometimes grumpy, and gets into all kinds of trouble, but I don’t think she’s had a pain free day since.
She has extreme arthritis in her shoulder from trying to compensate for her hips and she has a permanent bladder infection. The stumpy grumpy one rarely runs these days, and when she does, she regrets it. It breaks my heart.
Iris still loves attention, and dare I say it, especially from me. She’s completely incontinent now, having multiple accidents per day. Tramadol is practically a food group and she can’t leave the deck.
On some level, we’ve known we were on borrowed time for several years. We are so blessed to have enjoyed our adventures together. Now, in 15 minutes, we go on our last one. And it feels like a sword in my stomach.
Brittan believes that God will allow our special pets to be with us in Heaven. I never have. I have never wanted to be wrong about anything so much. Farewell, Iris the Irritable, bi-eyed, bat eared, spotty, squatty Corgi. So difficult to like. So easy to love.