A Eulogy For The Missy Dog
She burst on the scene on October 26, 1996, one daughter in a litter of puppies born to parents Littlest Rebel and Bonnie Abigail. She first entered my life a few weeks later, in early December of that year.
I remember sitting in the kitchen and my dad bringing her in. She was so little and so white. I had done a lot of research and basically convinced my parents that a West Highland White Terrier, or Westie for short, was the type of dog we should get. However, I wasn’t expecting them to get one so soon. But they did, and it was love at first sight.
We’d been a dog family for as long as I could remember. I loved all animals, but dogs in particular. At the time I was a senior in high school and worked part-time at a veterinary office, Ridgetowne Animal Hospital. I had unfortunately been involved in a terrible accident at the vet’s office that had resulted in the death of our most recent pet at that time. That experience had really torn me up. I carried around a lot of guilt about it (still do, actually). His loss had really wounded my heart. However, when she looked at me and I held her for the first time, I felt those wounds begin to heal.
I don’t remember the conversation exactly, but we had a round-table summit in our kitchen that resulted in granting our new dog the inconceivably ridiculous name of Www.mistletoe.com Kinsley. To most people, thankfully, she was known simply as Missy. To Liza and me she’ll always be THE Missy Dog.
Even though she was a family dog, I honestly always considered Missy mine. She and I just seemed to share some kind of special bond from the beginning. At times, this caused some trouble in the house. Missy got into this routine where she would get so excited whenever I walked in the house from being away somewhere that she would urinate wherever she was. Thankfully, this was normally on the kitchen tile and not the living room carpet.
I like to think that Missy cared just as much especially for me. I know that she was very protective of me. A few years after we got her, when Liza and I started dating, we would sometimes go hang out at my parents’ house. Somehow, Missy knew that Liza was really special to me, unlike any of the other girls I had brought home before. She wasn’t sure she cared very much for this new development. Anytime Liza and I sat on the couch, Missy would rush to get beside me before Liza could sit down, or she would wiggle herself down to squeeze in between us. She’d then look up at Liza and let out a low growl, just to let the newcomer know to whom I really belonged.
Missy was never much of a barker. That doesn’t mean she wouldn’t do it, but she didn’t do it much. Instead, she would talk. You may think I’m kidding, but I’m not. Of course, she didn’t really form words, but she would open her mouth and just make noises in this whiny, singsong voice. I learned to mimic her, and there were times where we’d sit around and just have a conversation, neither one really saying anything but both of us understanding the other completely.
While I was in college and my brother and sister were still in high school, they each acquired dogs of their own. My sister had a miniature pekepoo named Baby Dog and my brother a lab named Bailey. Everyone joked that the three dogs each took on the personality of their owners. I won’t describe here what how that played out for Baby or Bailey, but for Missy, it mostly meant that she got annoyed with the other two and often wandered off to find a place where she could be by herself in peace.
Missy didn’t initially come with me when I moved to Birmingham. After all, she was technically a family dog, plus Liza really didn’t consider herself that much of a dog person. However, when my parents decided to move to Africa, I knew that there was no place else she should be than with Liza and me.
While we were making plans for Missy to move to the ‘Ham, Liza made it very clear that she had no intention of taking care of a dog. She would say, “Missy is your dog, Chris. You’re going to have to take care of her. You’re going to feed her. You’re going to walk her. You’re going to clean up her messes. You’re going to bathe her. She’s yours, not mine.” Of course it wasn’t two weeks after Missy got here that she had won over Liza (as she did everyone), and the two of them had formed a little alliance. I quickly realized that I had unknowingly become outmatched in my own house.
Those of you who haven’t had pets and aren’t really that into dogs probably can’t comprehend how greatly a person can care for an animal. But let me tell you, it’s a lot. Many of you know the difficulty Liza and I experienced in trying to have a child. As absurd as it sounds, Missy really filled that void in our lives in a lot of ways. I think especially for Liza. Whenever she calls Missy her “baby,” on some level, she’s not kidding.
Of course, Liza did eventually get pregnant. While we were eagerly anticipating Story’s arrival, we were also trying to assuage our fears, ease our worries and find out as much as we could to prepare ourselves. One of our chief concerns was for Missy. We knew that she had been the “princess” in the household and had long received all of our affection and attention, and now she was about to have to face some major challenges. Once Story was born we would send blankets that she had been wrapped in home with people to place in Missy’s kennel so that Story’s smell would be familiar to her. Then the day we got to come home from the hospital, we made a big deal about getting to introduce them to each other for the first time. Story was asleep in her carrier. So we brought her inside, set her in the middle of the living room floor and then brought Missy over to her. Missy just sniffed at Story once, turned away, walked off, jumped up on her spot on the couch, and laid down. She wasn’t interested.
However, Story eventually won Missy over and vice versa. From the moment we knew about Story, I kept telling Liza that one of the things that pained me the most was thinking that she would probably never remember Missy. I can’t describe to you how much I hate knowing that has come true.
Missy has been slowly fading for a while. She started sleeping a lot more than she used to. She couldn’t quite make it around the block an entire time when we went for walks together. Her hearing had started to go, and she sometimes didn’t eat very much. I haven’t heard her “talk” in months.
She stopped eating sometime last week. She started being sick to her stomach a lot and lost four pounds in about as many days (which is a lot for a dog her size). We took her to the vet to get checked out on Tuesday and the news wasn’t good. Her blood work showed that her kidneys were not working the way that they should be and that toxins were building up in her blood stream as a result. So, we’ve been taking her in for treatment every day this week where she’s received fluids, medicine and special food, all in an effort to cleanse her system and see if we couldn’t jump start her kidneys to start working at least a little better. Today the Dr. ran the same tests he did Tuesday and the results weren’t any better. In fact, they were worse. Knowing that her kidneys weren’t improving and were actually continuing to decline after four days of treatments specifically for them meant that there was not any hope left, especially with her age. And we didn’t want her to suffer as her systems just continued to shut down.
So, Liza, Story and I went by the vet this afternoon to say, “goodbye,” and let her know how much we loved her. At about 4:07 I held her while they gave her a shot through her IV. She went to sleep in my arms as I stroked her fur, and after just a moment, her heart stopped and mine broke.
She was a dog, but she wasn’t just a dog.
I loved her and miss her and will always.
Many of you did, do and will too.