Six years ago, when I was getting divorced and having a hard time finding an apartment because no one wanted to rent to someone with a dog like Frieda, the mediator suggested my ex-husband take Frieda and I take our other dog Skunk. As much as I loved Skunk, Frieda was my dog. She always had been from the moment I took her home from the SPCA. I didn’t know what I’d do about an apartment, but I knew I wouldn’t give up Frieda.
When I finally found a place that was too expensive, but I was desperate to have, I brought Frieda with me to meet the landlord. And Frieda, who didn’t like men and would bark at the slightest movement, sat next to me on the floor and didn’t move. In a way it seemed like a miracle to me but in another way, I always felt that she knew how important it was to me that she act like a calm and well trained dog.
I guess what I’m saying is that Frieda was always what I needed and wanted her to be.
I’d been thinking that life had gotten too hard for her for a long time. But recently when I opened myself up to her, tried to communicate with her about it, I got nothing back. I told myself we were too close, that I just couldn’t read her, but the truth was that Frieda hasn’t been all there for some time. I knew this for sure, sometime in the fall, I even wrote about it on my blog. But I didn’t really want to see it. I didn’t want it to be true.
And over the months, as she declined, I couldn’t see that either. I didn’t want to see it. It was too sad and I didn’t want to think of her dying. Jon and I talked about it, when she wouldn’t stop licking her painful joints or when she had more and more accidents in the house or couldn’t hear us when we were right next to her. Sometimes she would stumble and fall going up the stairs and suddenly she was having a hard time laying down. She would ease her back legs painfully under her. In the past few weeks, she’d become more restless, not able to stay in one place, constantly getting up and pacing. I could see her confusion when I would let her outside from my studio. She would always scratch on my door when she wanted to come back in, and now she would stand in the snow looking at the back door of the house, forgetting where I was.
When I thought about all of these things, somehow they didn’t add up. She’s just old, I kept telling myself. This is what happens when you get old. But in the past few days I had a feeling I wasn’t seeing what was right in front of me. That there was too much history and emotion in the way. If I saw what was really happening, how much pain and distress Frieda was really in, I’d have to do something about it. It was only when I didn’t think about it intellectually, when I went deep inside myself, in my heart and gut that I could “see” clearly.
And when I went there, I had no doubts. It was time. When I went deep inside, I knew that Frieda needed me to make this decision. Because Frieda, wasn’t really all there anymore. She had stopped “talking” to me months ago. She was going through the motions, but it was becoming more difficult and more painful for her everyday.
We euthanized Frieda this morning. And as sad as I am and as much as I cried, I knew, when I saw her laying on the floor after Dr. Fariello gave her the sedative, that it was the right decision. Because I hadn’t seen her look so comfortable and at ease in such a long time. Even when she was sleeping. And it reminded me of how she used to be.
And now, I don’t feel like she’s completely gone. I didn’t sense or see her spirit leaving like I did with Lenore. I didn’t feel her leave at all. What I felt, when I left the office, was that a part of Frieda came with me. I could feel it, right in my gut. That strength, that wild part of Frieda. The part that would take off and run though the woods. The Tiger part of her that was stealthy and silent as she moved through the trees, tapping into the ancient hunter, fearless in her pursuit.
As much as I said out loud that I didn’t want her to run off getting “lost” in the woods for hours, I always let her off the leash. Because I actually loved that part of Frieda. The wild part of me was squelched early in my childhood, fear moved in and pushed it out of the way. I guess that’s why I admired it in Frieda, and why I never wanted to take it away from her. She was the wild I couldn’t be.
I gave Frieda a good home and lots of love. She was my protector when I needed it and reminded me of the wild side I forgot I had. We spent almost every day together for over 12 year and we were faithful to each other to the end.