Monday, November 10, 2014

For Sadie Pants

Sadie Pants Marty. 2001-2014
I had always thought that animals come into our lives somewhat randomly. We go to the pound or look at pictures on a website and choose them almost arbitrarily. Someone once told me that they thought animals chose us, and the animals that I've had the good fortune to share my life with have made me a believer. 

Sadie, aka Hope, 2001
Sadie was named Hope when I first found her on the internet in 2001. I think these were the days of the cable modem, so it took a concerted effort on my part to hunt her down. She was from a bad part of Modesto and part of a large litter. Her SPCA picture captivated me, but it was the actual meeting of this little butterball that convinced me she was the one for me, even as her brothers and sisters tried very hard to convince me they were the better choice. The name Hope didn't seem to fit, though I now see the beauty in it. I named her after lyrics in a Dr. Dre song I was listening to on the drive home: "...and get to mackin with this bitch named Sadie, she used to be the homeboy's lady." It stuck.
Sadie enjoyed a long life of adventure. I lived in Knights Landing, CA when I first got her and she had a large yard and acres and acres of farmland to cruise around on our daily walks. She developed a hatred for chickens after she was terrorized by the mean-as-shit roosters that the previous tenants had left behind at the house I was renting. Many chickens would be sacrificed for those roosters' hijinx. I hope never again in my life to ask someone, "how can I reimburse you for your chicken?"         

Sadie had many companions over the years. She loved kitties. Well, she ate a few too, but she loved
Sadie and Astro, 2001
the ones that I loved. She also had her doggie companions. Astro, a world-renowned, pig-hunting Catahoula, was unfortunately a short-lived partner. He died when she was about 6 months old but no doubt taught her quite a few important details about being a dog.  

The love of her life was a coonhound named Buddy. He was the most loving dog I have ever had the pleasure to meet and a perfect, low key, companion for her. Sadie liked very few dogs, but Buddy was love at first sight. They shared the better part of nine years together and were only separated when Buddy became suddenly ill with a sickness that took his life in 2011.
Sadie and Buddy, 2002. The day I brought Buddy home for Sadie.
Logan and Sadie, 2011.
After Buddy went, I knew that I needed another companion for Sadie. I wanted another Coonhound and found Logan on the internet (how I find all of my dogs). The Genius and I drove all the way to Yreka to meet him and adopted him on the spot. I was terribly nervous about whether this little guy would be welcomed by Sadie, given that she really didn't get along with many other dogs. Maybe this wasn't love at first sight, but they got along very well. Logan added years to her life, I am sure. Because I have a thing for hounds, I adopted a third dog in 2012 to bring me very close to the edge of "crazy dog lady". This one has been a handful, but I am glad that she chose me when she did so she had a chance to learn from Sadie and bring some puppy energy into Sadie's last years. One of my favorite pass times was watching Sadie and Bella spar in that fun dog way that they do--full of pomp and circumstance and lots of great puppy noises.   

Logan, Sadie, and Bella. 2012. Where do the people sleep?

Sadie has been a part of my life for so long, it is hard to imagine it without her. In fact, as I was watching her sleep in the sun yesterday, I realized that she has been the basis for numerous major life decisions during the last 13 years. 

I chose the house I currently live in for its proximity to the American River and the opportunity to take daily walks with Sadie and Buddy. I wasn't a runner back then, and am now incredibly grateful for them guiding me to this gorgeous spot so I can now run along the river too.

The dog van. 2004.

I bought Sadie and Buddy a Vanagon for Christmas one year so we could travel around California camping in style. Of course, she was my litmus test for people too. If Sadie didn't like someone, I knew something was wrong. Then there were the numerous small decisions I made every day, always with her best interest in mind.

Unlike my two hound dogs, Sadie never ran much with me. I didn't become a runner until later in her life, and we had a routine of walking, not running, twice a day down by the river. Ironically, as she got older, she ran more with me. I didn't want her to feel left out after I would run the youngins, so I would take her on a leisurely 1-2 mile dog jog afterward. We were able to run together up until about a year ago when arthritis in her back made it uncomfortable.

Coach T
Some of you may recall a few years back when Sadie became my coach for a while. It was in response to Ryan Hall's announcement that he was being coached by God. I figured I could then be coached by Dog. She wanted to be called Coach T, for Tuner Pants, because that's the name she liked best.  She was a hard ass and ultimately, we had to end the coach-athlete relationship. Her training methods were unorthodox, always about running for treats and chasing after things. She didn't really understand the concept of intervals. Run them into the ground was her method.

I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to work from home these last two years, especially in these last couple of months. To be able to spend so much time with her in her final months was priceless. She was my office companion. She would hobble into the office at around 9 or so and flop down in the middle of the floor, sprawled out like a rug. There she remained all day long unless something outside needed her attention.

I struggled mightily with the question of when/if to put her down. I believe that death is a natural part of life and was so worried about robbing her of a natural process that she needed to go through to pass from this world. I absolutely did not want to do it out of convenience for me. I tried the best I could to respect her needs. Deep in my soul, I knew that I could not let her suffer unnecessarily and would choose the option to have her put to sleep to spare her hurting.

That day came today. Saturday night was a horrible night for her. She woke in the middle of the night and was clearly in pain. I upped her pain meds until she finally quieted. I had a race to run on Sunday and really, really, really did not want to leave her. I had made a commitment to my team that I would run the race and did not want to leave them short a runner, so I went. I ran thinking about her every step and cried the whole way. I ran past the finish line straight to my car and drove back to her. Though she was doing much better all day, and ate lots and lots of doggie treats, she had another horrible night last night and I knew it was time.

We enjoyed a few more hours this morning, sitting in the sun in the back yard, with me staring at all those spots, trying to memorize every last one of them before never seeing them again and her nose actively sniffing the scents of her domain for the last time. The Genius and I were holding and petting her when she went very peacefully. I plan to take her cremated remains, along with Buddy's, up to Fiske Peak and let them be carried by the wind into the wonderful canyon below where we spent so many Thanksgivings.

And so I go back to a favorite book of mine by Pam Houston called Sight Hound when mourning my loss. It's about the intersection of dog and people love, and I always draw comfort from this quote of hers about her dog, Dante:    
"What I didn’t understand then, what I couldn’t have understood until I watched him breathe his last breath, is that nothing could take him away from me, not cancer, not an amputation, and not even sodium phenobarbital; that only in his dying could I truly understand the way I would have him forever, the way I’d had him forever all along, the way I will see him, whenever I need him, running across that big green pasture into my arms."

I love you Sadie Pants.