This week we welcome back guest blogger Amber Kizer—the eloquent chronicler of the adventures of Sweetie. You’ll especially love what Amber has to say because she speaks so beautifully about the lessons taught by an old dog that experienced love and happiness with a woman who was eager to learn what Sweetie had to teach her. Thank you, Amber and Sweetie.
A Tribute to Sweetie
by Amber Kizer
Sweetie came to us on July 3, 2018 with an advanced mammary tumor. She resembled a dairy cow with a full udder. Given how sick she was, we thought she was a short-time hospice case, so we set out to give her a few days of love and peace. Little did we know she brought joy with her like a marching band and the next year and half would be priceless. To say Sweetie amplified happiness with her very being does not do justice to the light she made tangible. I’ve written about her before in other blog posts, but this will be the last time. We said goodbye to her mid-March, but the lessons she embodied seem timely.
Ride the Waves
The first time we took Sweetie to the beach our expectation was that she’d be excited by the rocks, or dip her toes into the water. Maybe wade or swim a bit. Instead, she dove for the water as if they were old friends. Living out a life-guard fantasy she tried to rescue every piece of flotsam and jetsam bobbing in the water. A long-line held her from swimming into the middle of Strait of Juan de Fuca’s shipping lane, but barely….
While driftwood on the beach was totally safe from her adoration, any that might soon drown was spotted, brought to shore, and deposited. Then off she’d go diving back into the waves for the next piece. Sweetie’s dedication meant I quickly ended up waist deep in very cold water trying to hang on….
When cruise ships passed and their wake made it to shore, Sweetie rode the waves as if she’d been born for water. What was dark, cold, and unknown to some, was simply the next adventure for Sweetie. She dove into life. Looked at every wave as an opportunity to swim higher, farther, and faster. And she did what she could to help…even if the driftwood was silent with its gratitude.
Enjoy the Sun Wherever You Find It
There may be nothing better in the world to an old dog than a clear sunny day, warm enough to lay about, soaking up the warmth. But in a pinch the woodstove works too. Sweetie spent the winter moving from room to room, door to door looking for a patch of sun. If it’s raining, it must be warm enough to go outside and sleep, right?It wasn’t, but that didn’t stop her from trying. When she was satisfied there was no warmth to be had outside, she’d face the woodstove and begin a pleading serenade. Coaxing the sun that lives inside that box to rise and shine. With a fire roaring, Sweetie would lay her head on the bricks and watch the flames, sure she’d found the sun’s second best cousin. Be flexible. Find the sun that is available and wallow in the warmth.
Announce and Greet All Entrants with Gusto
Sweetie thought one of her duties in the household was to serve as the feline butler—she announced (in her best English accent) the arrival of Elijah at the backdoor, every-single-time-without-fail. To the untrained she sounded as though a significant security breach was in progress. To us it translated to, “Oh, your brother wants in?” She was on call whenever Eli decided he wanted to come back inside for a quick snack, to sleep for the night, when he simply wanted Sweetie to bark purposefully at the backdoor for his amusement. A solid black cat, often he would be quite camouflaged in the dark of winter nights—our only clue he wanted in was Sweetie’s vocal exercises. We’d crack the back door and she’d slobber on his head, he’d rub around her legs, and in ten seconds both would go back to whatever.
Perhaps our time at home could be improved if we all take turns, at random times throughout the day, going out the door, turning around and coming in to a John Williams-esque fanfare. Make it a Facetime event. Make “Gosh I’m so super excited to see you!” the routine. You’re here. I’m here. Life is right here.
Join in Laughter, Even When You Don’t Know Why
Joy can be found anywhere, can be kindled from any moment, as tears and laughter live on the same continuum. Sweetie was not one to pass up an opportunity for laughter—creating, curating, or appreciating it. When the humans chortled, guffawed, or the television giggled a laugh track, Sweetie looked around, (even leapt to her feet) and chimed in. To the untrained ear, her laughter, giggles, and chuckles were merely barks of varying lengths. Belly laughs included a howl or two. Laughter itself became the reason to laugh. Quite honestly we humans often ended up laughing harder because of the unbridled enthusiasm she served up with a wagging tail, wiggling butt, and voice raised in unwavering unity. Laugh for the sake of laughing. It is soul soothing medicine.
Eat That Chocolate
Within a week or so of Sweetie joining our household she threw herself into a recliner and the human lap occupying it…she was a projectile, intent on seeking out her prey, god help the soul in the way…What was the goal? Two M&Ms and the lingering scent they left in the bowl. The bellows of her nose-works huffed. Her tongue careened into every nook and cranny. With Sweetie no chocolate was safe and no consumption happened without worry of a very determined, very agile tongue. Chocolate in a human mouth? No problem, please open up for inspection. Chocolate in a human throat and stomach? Advanced ninja skills, but again more than happy to lick that up for you.
We never fed her chocolate while she was with us, we didn’t dare (beyond the health risk) as her relentlessness could not be rewarded. That said I promised her that on her last day she could have all the chocolate she wanted and I hoped that I’d be able to keep that promise. A giant Hershey bar accompanied her to the vet and she had chocolate on her lips (and on the day’s favorite rock) when she passed. Need a treat to get you through quarantine? Sweetie would tell you to eat the chocolate, but we add, please don’t assault anyone on your way to get it.
Build Your Own Monuments
Sweetie hunted…rocks. She hunted rocks. The bigger the better though none bigger than a basketball made the ultimate cut. With military precision she listened for the welcoming call of a rock needing rescue (much like driftwood this sound is on a non-human frequency). The siren song from a hunk of granite sang for her ears alone. If it fit in her mouth, or she could put her tongue on it the rock was one of hers. She mothered them. She nursed on them as if a puppy herself. She warmed them in her bed and by the fire. She’d check on them and move them from television viewing to bedtime and back on an unpublished schedule.
We learned to watch our step in the darkness of night because rocks were left in hallways, doorways, by human beds too. Once or twice a week, I’d try to move the houseguests back outside to their natural habitat. Not far mind you, just into a pile outside the backdoor. Within view and within easy reach. As if each rock cried out pleading for mercy (because apparently rocks prefer the inside warmth to outside chill) Sweetie would dash from wherever she lay to usher each back inside as quickly as possible. The only way to manage migration and keep some of the rocks outside required sneaking them out when she was otherwise occupied. This pile grew, a cornucopia of shapes and sizes, under her watchful gaze. She carried a rock into the vet that last morning and died with it near her mouth. I’ll move the pile left behind down into the gardens. She loved gathering rocks. She did what she loved. Together these rocks become her cairn. Sweetie was here. She mattered. Do something you love—it, and you, matter more than you can imagine.