“Isabella “Bella” Wooskie, aka Snot-boogie, aka Floor Monster, Von Knucklbeak”
We lost our dear Bella this week. She was our first dog, and her passing has really knocked the wind out of us- she was so young, and it was so sudden and unexpected. She’d seemed a little off- low appetite, would take all day sometimes to finish her breakfast even if it was doctored with delicious nummies (organic canned food, raw eggs from our chickens, blackeyed peas, brown rice, and ham…) and seemed somewhat listless or depressed. I’d taken her to the vet two weeks ago for an eye infection but mentioned that mainly I was concerned that she wasn’t herself- nothing dramatic, but not right either. They gave me some eye drops and said to change her food and it was probably the heat or any number of things and to bring her back in if she got worse. She’d lost six pounds in six months from when I took her in for her rabies shot… she seemed tired lately but not terribly sick. I wish I’d been more insistent with the vet that something was wrong, but I wanted to believe that it was just the heat (she did hate the heat… she spent most of last summer hiding in the basement from it) and that she was fine… but I think she was really sick but didn’t want us to know. She was such a brave girl… my rock. This year has held some really tough times, and through it all I knew she was there, that she needed me, and that I could count on her love… I don’t know how I would have made it through some of it without her and now she’s gone.
We spent Saturday afternoon with her after the Garfield Park Neighborhood market, then left her at the house while we rode down to Bridgeport for our buddies 40th birthday party. We came home at 2 am and knew immediately when we saw her that something was really wrong- she was cold and drooling and could barely stand- the fella ran to get the car and we rushed her to the emergency vet, but there was nothing they could do. They said it probably wasn’t bloat but that they couldn’t know without doing more tests… but she was dying, possibly gone already, and we didn’t want to say goodbye to her at the vet’s. We traded the peace of mind of knowing what was wrong for the comfort of saying goodbye on our terms and time, bringing her home, and laying her to rest surrounded by those who loved her. We brought her home with us and laid her out next to our bed, and the son of her former owner and his girlfriend came over to sit up with us with her for awhile and pay respects. I couldn’t believe she left us so fast- I think she was just waiting for us to come home so she could go. We were in shock, numb, and both dreamed that she woke up and everything was fine. Oh, I wish.
The next morning we sent out a text to friends who’d known her and 20 or so hugging and crying people came by to help us bury her, and many more sent their condolences. They showed up with food and flowers and shovels and picks and tents for shade and trucks full of fill dirt (our sideyard was once a house, so there were more bricks and stone than soil in the hole we dug out, but lots of materials to build a beautiful garden bed with…). Some brought beer, champagne, hard cider, coffee, orange juice, and a 40 to pass and pour out for her in true west side fashion. Our friend D was shoveling as much as anyone, and I didn’t realize until I saw him limping later that his knee had been giving him trouble for days, but he didn’t say anything about it until after the job was done… the Fella’s father too as always was there to help as well, and everyone worked, well, like dogs, in spite of the heat. We dug a deep grave for her in the center of three apple trees at home and everyone pitched in to make it a beautiful garden in her memory. N., who lost her shepard Phoenix to bloat last year also suddenly, brought over a green organza pouch with a white ribbon, and a silver buffalo nickel “in case she has to pay the ferryman”, and a couple of her favorite rabbit treats that our friend makes and would always bring over to spoil her with- they were her last meal, in fact- even when she wouldn’t eat her food she’d always take a Hare of the Dog snack… our friend’s son picked a piece of sweet clover for her, another neighbor we just met put a rhinestone she found on the walk over, I put in a tiny pink plastic plane I found on a walk with her last week so she can fly away and come back to visit… we tucked her in a white sheet with her favorite giant bone (which she would pick up and parade around the house to show off whenever anyone came over) and another small one, and we placed her facing the house, so she can watch over our dreams and see the sun as soon as it rises, and set a green and black marble headstone for her in the center of the garden bed our friends built.
Once again we were blown away by the love and support of our community and friends, and by how many people’s lives this one sweet dog touched. She was gentle with children- neighborhood kids would follow us on walks to give her pets, which she would sit sweetly for, all while their parents were yelling out the window for them to get inside and were they crazy? But she loved kids as much as she hated crackheads, cats, and anyone with saggy pants. Even the neighbors were quiet and respectful as we said our goodbyes, though I suspect most of them thought we were a little nuts, having a full-blown funeral for “just a dog”. But she wasn’t just a dog, she was part of our family, my best friend, my guardian, and our number one employee, and we loved her so much. I knew how safe I felt with her, but couldn’t believe how vulnerable again I felt without her at my side. We come home, or walk into a room and forget for a moment that she’s not there… or reach down in the middle of the night to stroke her soft ears and there’s nothing there, just an empty rug by our bed. Urgh. We’re looking into getting another dog soon, maybe even two… but we need time and are waiting for the right one(s). Bella, we’re so grateful that we got to share our lives with you and give you a home, and for all that you taught us, about patience, humility, respect and unconditional love… we miss you so much. Keep an eye on my Granny and Poppy for me, and the fella’s too… I’ll see you again someday I hope, and every time I look at our apple trees I will thank you for your gifts and lessons.