I posted about the loss of Reba on PBF, but for some reason, every time I tried to post elsewhere, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. But I think I'm finally able to do it. And accept the fact that after 16 years with me, Baby Reba is now gone. She died on Oct. 8.
Most of this is repetitive for those who have seen it on PBF, but I really can't write anything new on this right now without breaking down, so I'm just doing a copy and paste. I know this is long, you don't have to read it, but it made me feel better to write it out. And I'm so scared I will somehow forget if I don't recall everything, get it all down, make sure it's somewhere I can go over it again and again if I need to.
And I really don't have the patience or stomach to resize all my pictures right now to fit on the forum, so if you want to see them, just click the links. http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/Rebainthesun2.jpg
I remember the day I got her at the dog pound—the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society in Menands, N.Y. She was a puppy being housed in the older dog runs. I don’t know why she was there—maybe because she was a bit too big for the puppy cages in the front. Or maybe because she was just a plain old dirty black mongrel—not a flashy mark of white anywhere on her. Clearly not a purebred anything. Mostly lab, partly something else that didn’t reveal itself very well—they listed her as lab/pit bull, but I often suspected maybe it was Rottweiler that gave her those shorter ears that rosed a bit and the coarse, thick coat that developed a wave when it got wet. But really, who knows—she was a big black dog. Sadly, I don't think I had the foresight to take photos of her as a baby--I don't think I realized how incredibly important she would ever be to me. I was just a college kid, 20 years old, and I knew I'd love her. I had no way of knowing how much. http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/Rebascowl.jpg
If you knew Reba, you knew that she did things her way. Only. All the time. She was not very cooperative but she somehow seemed to understand compromise and though a couple of dog trainers I took her to when she was young thought I was a fool for putting up with some of her quirks, and instructed me to yank her off her feet for things, we learned to live together with a kind of mutual respect that I wonder if I will ever have with another dog in my life. http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/P1090895.jpg
She was obsessed with squirrels, right up until her last week on earth. Somehow, I made her understand that chasing squirrels on leash and yanking my arm out of socket was not permissable--but to teach her that, I had to be willing to agree to let her stalk them once in a while to get her fix, then when the squirrel was safely stowed up in the tree, I could tell her "OK" and she could rush the tree trunk with a ferocious "I dare you to come down from there" woof. http://farm1.static.flickr.com/167/439904959_f50aa85500_m.jpg
She did not like most other dogs, but she would agree to not raise a ruckus about them, even if I brought them into her own home, as long as I didn't force her to associate with them. If I would keep that infernal dog on the other side of the room, no problem. If I tried to coax her or cajole her into being social, she could be a bit of a loose cannon. So we just made sure other dogs stayed a respectful distance from her--until Tucker. Something about him, from his puppyhood, appealed to her. After a lifetime of refusing to have anything to do with 99.9 percent of dogs on this earth, she suddenly found a brother--a dog she wanted to play with, lay on the couch with, act like a dog with. It was amazing. http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/P1090662.jpg
Reba always made me feel very safe. She had no protection training, but she had a very natural protective instinct I learned early on. She was not aggressive, but she did respond to threats. I can’t tell you how many times one particular homeless man in Albany, who was rather overbearing and a little unpredictable, would try to harass me for money or whatever. Reba would not have him coming close enough to touch me. She would get in between us and if he reached for her or for me, she would growl and warn him off. When Reba and I were living alone in an apartment in a borderline neighborhood, she saved me from God only knows what fate when, one morning when I was on the shower, she kept a would-be intruder from climbing in my front window. I could hear her barking and snarling, and I knew something was wrong--I threw on my robe, ran to the living room, and found her snapping and lunging at a pair of hands hanging onto my windowsill. She bit, the hands disappeared, I called the police. They caught a homeless guy who admitted to trying to come into my apartment. He says he thought it was vacant, was just looking for a place to sleep. Thank God for Reba. My mother used to always say she worried about me, living alone in all sorts of different places, and she was petrified when I decided to move to "dangerous" Baltimore. She said she always felt better knowing I had Reba with me though--somehow, she figured between the two of us, we would figure out how to take care of each other and keep one another safe. And we did.
Reba liked to hike. A lot. The dog was born to be in the north, in the woods. She hiked a bunch of Adirondack mountains with me. We went up Blue Mountain, Crane Mountain, Buck Mountain, Hadley Mountain, Prospect Mountain, Sugar Loaf Mountain, various state forests in Massachusetts and some places in Vermont, in addition to some I’m probably forgetting. We hiked in the Catskills, in the Shawangunks, in southern Vermont, in Western Massachusetts. She also liked to swim and if there was a body of water in sight, it was all I could do to keep her out of it. She swam in the Grafton lakes, Blue Mountain Lake, Lake George, Lake Champlain, Indian Lake, the Hudson River, North and South Ponds, Long Pond, Lake Minnewaska, the Chesapeake Bay (yuck!), the Patapsco River, the Atlantic Ocean, and a whole bunch of mucky ponds and tributaries that probably don’t even have names. http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/Rebabeach.jpg
I remember that she was ridiculously agile for a bulky, larger-breed dog. We took her to Crane Mountain, which had areas that were like 90 degree stone faces that had to be practically scaled to get to the top. I would let Reba off her leash, and she’d be up that rockface like a mountain goat and looking down at us from above, waiting for us to catch up. It was something to see.
I remember when I realized one day that Reba had gotten fat—really fat! We had taken her hiking in the Shawangunks in the fall, and my boyfriend took a photo of me with my arm around her. When we got the photos developed, I was stunned to see that she looked like a fat black bear with a little head instead of a dog. When I took her to the vet that year, she weight a big fat 77 pounds. It turned out she had a thyroid deficiency that was causing her to gain weight. We put her on meds, and she was a nice, svelte 68 for pretty much the rest of her life. http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/340908162_8df2bb9d1c.jpg
I remember that she really, really, really liked Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. She developed a taste for it because I worked at a Ben and Jerry’s store all through college, and I stopped in with her pretty frequently to pick up my paycheck or get a pint of something sweet. Sometimes I’d get a cup of plain vanilla and we would share it sitting on the front step of the store or Washington Park nearby.
She used to sing, a lot. Whenever the mood struck her, usually first thing in the morning. I wish I could find video of it now--it was ungodly but clearly it made her so happy. She'd bark and howl and screech and sneeze. It was a unique sound that I always called Reba's Morning Song. http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/Rebainahat2.jpg
I remember that she loved the snow. http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/reba.jpg
For the first 9 and a half years of her life, we lived in upstate New York, where we got massive amounts of snow all winter. When my car needed to be dug out of a snowdrift, I would take a shovel, Reba, and a tennis ball. I would shovel one tire out myself, and I would throw a tennis ball into the snow drift next to another tire. Reba would go to work digging out the snow to find her tennis ball at the bottom. Before long, she would not only find her ball, but she’d also have cleared one of my tires from being buried in snow. She was a good worker.
I remember when we got the huge 2003 snowstorm in Maryland, I told my boyfriend that she would help dig out the car. I’m not sure whether he really believed me until he saw her doing it. That was the last time she helped dig me out of a spot, since Baltimore doesn’t really get much snow.
I remember when we rented a house on Chincoteague Island one summer with some friends. We got a house right on the channel, and Reba was so excited to see the water that she waded into the shallows then got too deep and started to get swept away in the current. She was paddling against it and crying a little at the same time, so I jumped in to save her. But then I started to get swept away too, so I grabbed onto the dock and yelled for help till we got pulled out by our friends who were nearby unloading the car. I was clinging to Reba, and she was clinging to me. I thought we were going to get swept out to sea, but finally we were rescued by my patient friends who were probably shocked at our the idiocy of me and the dog for jumping into such dangerous waters!http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/rebaandme.jpg
Tucker gave her back a lot of the youth that I thought had long gone. She played and romped with Tucker in the living room (we called it “fighting” because they were so loud), bowing and barking, and trying to instigate him—it was amazing. She stopped howling when we left the house. She started gaining interest in working for her treats again, and would come hobbling over to me to show off that *she* knew how to sit or lay down or give pay, every time I tried to teach Tucker a new command. It was too funny.http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/P1090856.jpg
I remember the last day of her life.
I remember that the night before, she had fallen asleep on the couch and because she could no longer walk up and down the stairs, when she woke up at 6:45 AM, she stood at the foot of the stairwell barking to wake me up and get me moving for the day. I got up, and I was a little grumpy because I wanted to sleep for 15 more minutes, but who can sleep when a super-demanding old dog is insistently barking her fool head off till you finally obey her wishes? I got dressed. I took her for a walk. I remember that she was decidereally slow and limping a lot more than usual that morning. I made a mental note to give her extra pain medication with breakfast that day.
We went inside and she got on her bed. I went into the kitchen to do stuff with Doc. I remember hearing her kind of scrabbling around on the hardwood floor. I remember looking at her laying next to the coffee table and trying to get up. Lately, she had been having some hard times getting her back end underneath her, so I would help her up. I went to help her and immediately knew something was wrong. Her feet looked limp. She’d get her front end up, and she wouldn’t put weight on her back legs. I thought maybe some pain medication and breakfast would fix it. I made her breakfast, put her pills in a hunk of chicken breast. She refused to eat laying down (she hated doing that) so I held up her rear end while she gobbled up her meal. I laid her on her dog bed, called Rob, waited to see if maybe she’d get better.
By 10, I knew she was probably not going to improve. I had a message into the vet to ask what to do, but I kind of knew. So I stayed home from work.
Around lunch time, I took her out in the sun and laid her in the grass. She looked over her shoulder at me, smiling like nothing was wrong. She loved laying in the grass out front. She rolled around a bit, she rubbed her face in the grass like she liked to. After a while, I flipped her over on her other side so she could bake evenly. Tucker came out for a while and laid next to her. Then, when it seemed like it was getting warm, I carried her back inside and put her on the couch with Tucker. http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/P1100224.jpg
The vet called. We talked about options. There really weren’t very many. Wait and see if she gets better, which she might. Or she might not. Or let her go now rather than make her last day or two painful and scary and immobile, not knowing if she would get better or worse or just stay the same. No peeing or pooping without help, no walks, being carried around (which she hated more than anything), watching us cry over her, becoming stressed because everything was so confusing and uncooperative.
Rob came home. We gave her a raw meaty bone, the kind I give all the dogs but take away once they’ve stripped most of the meat off so they didn’t break teeth or end up swallowing bone fragments that could later cause constipation or worse. I let her eat it to her heart’s content, I heard her gnawing and chipping away at the hard bone, satisfied to get at the center where there was still some blood. Eventually, she was done, panting and satisfied with herself. We pet her, talked to her, cried a bit over her. She seemed really happy.
At 4 PM, I got a couple of hot dogs and put them in pouch. Rob loaded her up in the car. Our appointment was at 4:20 PM. We stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts because when we lived in Catonsville, I used to take her there on Sunday mornings so we could share a plain donut while I had my coffee. She liked those trips, which eventually we stopped making because getting in and out of the car had become such an ordeal for her. But this one last time, she got to stop for a donut. A whole one, she didn’t have to share with me.
We got to the vet and in the room, they had laid out a nice soft comforter for us to put her on. They examined her and talked to us about our options, told us that she might get better but that if we tried to wait it out, it might become more stressful and difficult for her and for us. That even if she did improve over 24 hours, it probably would not be long before she had another occurrence, since at her age the tissues were not likely to repair. That right now she was not mobile but she was not in pain, so in the grand scheme of things, letting her go now would not be unreasonable. In fact, it would probably be kinder.
They left so we could talk. We cried. We hugged her and kissed her and petted her. We told them we were going to let her go.
We kissed her more, cried more. In a few minutes, the vet came in and gave us a jar of beef flavored baby food and a big bucket of biscuits. She told us that what would happen is, one minute Reba would be licking up baby food and we’d be petting her and she’d hear us, then she would suddenly start feeling woozy and then become unconscious. As soon as she was out, she would administer the euthanasia drug. That’s exactly how it went. Rob was laying out behind her head, I was right in front of her, petting her and feeding her, she was licking, licking, licking that food like she’d just hit the jackpot, then I could tell the telazol kicked in, she had her tongue out and covered in a lick of food, she looked around, then she laid her head next to rob’s leg, The vet then injected the shot into the catheter, and we just waited and cried. She listened to her heart and told us she was gone. It happened so fast.
She was laying out on that blanket, she didn’t look any different than usual, she could have been sleeping. She was on her side, I petted her ears, I kissed her face, I told her I was so sorry to have to let her go, that I’d miss her. I looked at her nose and her tongue, still sticking out of her mouth, still with a lick of Gerber beef mush on it. Honestly, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/P1120197.jpghttp://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/rebatoy.jpghttp://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/Rebapretty.jpghttp://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/Rebainahat3.jpghttp://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/rebasnow.jpghttp://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g173/babyreba/Rebaween.jpg
Every day since you've been gone I feel like everything is wrong. I don't know who will help me find my way. I know the other dogs mean well, and I love them, but they can't do it--they don't know me like you knew me and I don't know that they ever will.
God, Reba, I hope we do get to meet again someday.