Friday, October 17, 2014

Christmas Came Early

About a year and half ago, our Bichon, Stella, died suddenly.  She was 10 years old and hadn't shown any signs of sickness or poor health.  I'm sure the shock of her sudden death made our grief that much more difficult because we had no time to prepare ourselves for that moment.  Owen and I just came home from work one day to find her on our bedroom floor.  I could tell she had died within the past hour but was afraid to touch her - so Owen and I sat together in the living room until Brent could get home.  Every few minutes, I would go back into our room to check on her, hoping she would hear me coming and pop up to greet me as she usually would.  But every time I went to see her, my heart sunk deeper and deeper.  Brent arrived shortly thereafter and ran to her.  When he got there and scooped his big strong hands under her, his tears confirmed what I already knew.
She was almost always in need of a haircut!
After sitting with her for awhile, attempting to absorb what had happened, we wrapped her in blankets and brought her to my parents' acreage.  It began to rain as Brent dug her a grave between two pine trees.  Owen and I sat silently on the covered patio, he was busy wiping the tears from my cheeks, while my heart broke for Brent, who had the solemn duty of burying our first pet.  He came and got Owen and I when he was ready and we watched as Brent laid Stella to rest.  Owen was only 4 at the time, but it was important to us that he see that Stella didn't simply disappear from our lives, and that her body would lay here while her spirit would remain in our hearts.

We returned home and opened the door, only to be knocked in the face with the reality of a household with no dog.  No tail thumping from her crate, no bursting out of her crate to snuggle you.  Empty food and water bowls, and her leash hanging on the hook - that we knew we wouldn't use with her again.  The next few days were spent trudging through our feelings of grief, snuggling with the kids and looking at Stella's baby pictures, talking about the funny things she did and the long walks we used to go on.

Weeks, maybe months, passed until we could begin to discard of Stella's things.  But once we did, we felt like we could really start to move on - especially since we weren't saddened by seeing her belongings all the time.  About a year after her death, we started to have "the new dog" discussion.  As many of you know, life with a dog is very different from life without a dog.  Your schedule is different, arrangements don't need to be made when you travel out of town.  No vet visits or extra haircuts.  So we had slid into a nice, relaxed life without having a pet to be responsible for.  But it felt like something was missing.  Brent and I started reading Cesar Millan's books - he's considered the dog whisperer because of his ability to rehab troubled dogs and owners.  His books were so interesting that we were delighted to find episodes of his TV show, The Dog Whisperer, on our instant Netflix.  The kids, Brent and I plowed through all of the available episodes, learning all about dog behavior and how to understand and train dogs.

Watching and reading all about dogs prepared our hearts and minds for a new puppy.  But dogs are expensive.  Along with adoption fees, there are the supplies needed, like a crate, food and toys.  Plus, a puppy would need to be spayed.  So we had a serious discussion with the kids.  If we were all indeed ready for a dog, it would mean using our Christmas gift savings to do it.  Santa would still come, of course, but we told Emma and Owen that the puppy would be our family gift, so that they shouldn't expect presents from mom and dad.  Surprisingly, they were 100% on board with that plan...especially when we asked them if they could even remember one gift we got them for Christmas last year.
As luck would have it, we found a four month old cockapoo (cocker spaniel/poodle mix) about an hour from our home, so we went to visit her and fell in love!  Never the type to make a rash decision, we all went home to talk about her and weigh the pros and cons before we made a decision.  One week later, Owen and I went to pick up our new little family member, Lily.
 I was trying to get a good photo of her eyes, they are sort of greenish and look like human eyes.
She has been home for a week and is doing great!  I think it has been a bigger adjustment for us than it has for her!  My lunch breaks used to be spent reading at work or visiting with Brent but now I go home each day to spend an hour with her in the backyard, playing fetch, working on the leash and just watching all the funny things that rambunctious little puppies like to do.

Emma and Owen have been getting ready as quickly as they can each morning, so as soon as the sun comes up at 7:15am, they hurry outside in their coats, gloves and hats to play fetch with Lily.  They understand how important it is for her to get some exercise before she has to be in her crate for a few hours.
And how strange is it that we happened to get a dog with the same color hair as our children?!


  1. I totally teared up as I read the beginning of your post. I have a sweet bichon that is getting up there in age, and that is my greatest fear..... and then I teared up again at the end at your sweet Lily's happy puppy face. congrats on the new addition

    1. Thanks for the comment, Sarah. Bichon's are just the sweetest dogs!! As sudden as her death was, we were so relieved that she didn't have to endure years of age related illnesses. It looked like she just fell asleep and didn't wake up. Hopefully you will still enjoy plenty of time with your little Bichon, give her a little hug from me :)

  2. Oh, I'm sitting here crying! I'm so sorry to hear about Stella. We are absolutely enamored with our Pembroke Welsh corgi, Brady. He will be 11 years old in December, and since we don't have kids yet, he is our spoiled little baby. We can't bring ourselves to think about life without him--it will be a terrible grieving process for us when he passes. We squeeze him that much tighter each day we have with him. I hope to one day have a cockapoo, goldendoodle, or labradoodle. Not sure if we could have another corgi after Brady...the grief might still be too raw. Lily is so beautiful! She is the rainbow after the storm. How wonderful it is to have dogs part of our life journey. :)

    1. Oh Ashley, I can completely relate to how you feel about Brady! When your pet starts to get up there in age, you know their time is limited. We were honestly quite shocked at just how hard Stella's death affected us. We knew there would be sadness...but not to the degree that we experienced it. Even a year after her death, I remember crying as I tried to sleep one night. Her name still comes up in regular conversation but now we smile when we hear her name...instead of bursting into tears. Dogs are a wonderful gift!!