I was holding her close, cradling her head in my arms when she died. As I write this, it was 30 days, three hours and 36 minutes ago. April 23, we would have celebrated 53 years of marriage. I’m coping, sort of.
“Well,” she said, pulling the nasal tube flowing oxygen out of her nostrils, “pretty soon you’ll be able to get a dog.” That happened the week before she passed.
Bear, our last German shepherd, died six years ago; we didn’t get another dog. That is the only period in my life that I can remember, being dogless. Rosalie developed balance problems and we were worried that she would trip or fall over a dog, thus no dog. She knew I missed having a dog and her statement out of the blue was an example of her dark sense of humor. I told her to stop talking nonsense.
The last six months, all my prayers were that the end would be fast and with as little pain and discomfort as possible. The diagnosis was stage four lung cancer. It came on Jan. 4, 2012. The oncologist told us the average statistics were survival for three to six months. We practiced positive thinking and prayer and with her typical quiet determination, Rosalie made it to six months, then eight, then 10 and counting. She tired easily but appeared normal to all but me, and our two sons. She needed supplemental oxygen in mid-December and on Dec. 27, the oncologist suggested home hospice care. The hospice people showed up and enrolled her on Jan. 2. She died two days later.
Charlize, pronounced Charley, is a rescue dog, another German shepherd, about three years old. She’s been with me since Jan. 15. We are two injured beings who need each other. The first two days she was apprehensive and distraught but every day since we have bonded more and she is calming. I keep her with me all the time. She is housebroken and vehicle broken (yeah), and fetches a tennis ball like a retriever, good exercise for her and saves my gimpy ankle.
On Feb. 1 Charlize and I will embark on an extended road trip. We will meet new friends, both people and dogs, and should have some interesting tales to tell. You can follow our adventures here.
Dr. David Gross of Edmonds graduated from Colorado State University’s veterinary school in 1960 and was in private practice for 10 years. He retired in 2006 as Professor and Head of Veterinary Biosciences, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. This story is excerpted from his book, “Animals Don’t Blush,” which describes the unique patients and even more unique clients of a veterinary practice in Sidney, Montana in the early 1960s.