I walked down the rows and rows of cages at the pound, looking at the lost and abandoned dogs and wanted to take them all. As an animal lover, it upset me greatly that these poor animals may be put down because nobody wanted them. I was troubled...which one do I take? How does one make this decision? I was recently married and living in a one-bedroomed apartment. I had always had a dog in my life, and despite the fact that pets were not allowed in the apartment building we lived in, I had decided to get a small dog anyway.
My husband’s voice suddenly broke into my thoughts, “Joykes, come and look at this Fox Terrier. It is too cute!”. I started walking towards him, my thoughts far away, and as I walked, I saw a pair of white paws reaching through the bars of one of the cages. I had to see which dog belonged to those paws. Those paws were beckoning to me.
I stopped at the cage, peeped inside, and there she was! A scrawny white cross pom, with a pink nose and a sad look on her face. I looked into those brown eyes and I knew that I could never walk away from this dog. A bond had been formed in those first seconds that I saw her.
Gavin called again. I walked slowly towards him, but I knew that my mind had been made up.
The little fox terrier was sitting, smiling at us. He was cute, and I didn’t want to leave him, nor did I want to disappoint Gavin, but “white paws” had captured my heart. I suggested that we take both, but Gavin reminded me of the fact that we had very little space, no garden and that we were violating the terms of our lease by even taking one dog.
Although Gavin wasn’t happy to leave the little foxie that had wormed its way into his affections, he went along with me, and after completing all the paperwork, the little white dog was put into my arms. She was shy, but happy to be given some attention.
She was also a little timid, and sat quietly on my lap in the car, shaking and looking apprehensive.
When we got home, she walked warily around the apartment sniffing here and there and had this look of “Where am I now?” on her face. Just then the phone rang. She yelped and ran! We finally found her, hiding under our bed! We laughed, but we also realised that she had never been indoors, and that her two years of life, prior to landing up in the shelter could not have been filled with much love and security.
I had seen a few fleas and ticks on her body, so I ran a bath and dumped her in the water. She was not impressed! She looked at me as if to say “OK, kill me now, but make it quick” She looked like a pathetic little drowned rat, when her fur was wet, and my heart went out to this little furry creature that had come into my life.
Her white coat was speckled here and there with sandy brown patches, and we, therefore, decided to call her Sandy.
Over the 12 years that followed, Sandy became a special part of life, more than just a dog, almost a child, and definitely the best friend I have ever had.
Gavin and I both worked all day, so Sandy spent the day alone in the apartment. I didn’t feel too guilty about this, because I knew that she was better off in my apartment than in the pound, or worse still!
When we got home from work, she was so excited, and grabbed our feet, whimpering and barking, as we came through the door. She smiled and wagged her tail at me as if to say ”I LOVE YOU”.
After a few days, she became my shadow, following me everywhere and giving me this forlorn look when I went out without her. She loved Gavin too, but I was her favourite. If Gavin kissed me, she barked at him, which infuriated him, and made me laugh till I almost cried. The apartment was serviced once a week, and on the day that the maid came to our apartment, Sandy did her “vicious guard dog” thing! And, if the maid tried to talk to me, Sandy drowned her out, with loud barking and threatening growls. Eventually, I had to lock her in a room, so the maid could get a word in. She went everywhere with us, and when we ate at my mother-in-law, which was most evenings when we first got married, Sandy was served a dish of food too. When we ate at a roadhouse, she would run up and down the back seat, of the car, barking at the waiter, as he took the order. We would order half a chicken for her, and give it to her when we got home.
Sandy had been with us for about five years when I fell pregnant with my first child. All my family and friends were convinced that Sandy’s nose would be out of joint when the baby came along. And, indeed, she was less than impressed when my daughter, Dayle arrived! At first, she would sit in the corner at the other end of the room, and glare at me. If I called her, she would look at me as if to say “Don’t talk to me, you traitor”. But, when she realised that wasn’t going to work, she decided to change her tactics, and as soon as I sat down on the bed to feed the baby, she would come and sit almost on top of me, as if to say “Hey! I was here first!!!”
Sandy and Dayle became firm friends, and Dayle followed in her mom’s shoes, becoming an animal lover, at an early age.
Six years later I fell pregnant with my second child. We found a house to rent, and we moved about 6 weeks before the baby was due. Sandy was getting old. She was almost deaf and blind and a bit frail, but still healthy. She slept in a basket next to my bed and I often lay awake at night, listening to her breathing and feeling the baby kick.
The move was traumatic for Sandy. At the age of 14, she was not happy to be taken out of her comfort zone. She clearly missed her old surroundings. The house was a double-story, and she found the stairs very difficult to manage. I thought she would love having her own garden, since going for walks had always been her favourite pastime, but she was really too old to enjoy the little garden, and instead of walking around sniffing every tuft of grass, as she usually did, she just did her ablutions and then looked at me as if to say “Please take me in”.
I was saddened by this and the horrible truth that I may not have Sandy for much longer was beginning to dawn on me. It caused me to panic and feel sick inside.
It was a cold winter’s evening, about two weeks after we had moved into the house, when the beginning of the end came. Sandy refused to eat, started vomiting and really didn’t look well at all. The next morning I took her to the vet, who said that she might have a kidney problem, put her on a drip and kept her over night. With her age against her, it didn’t look good. I was hysterical. How would I live without Sandy?
Miraculously, she responded to the treatment, and after about a week, she was well enough to go home. I was elated.
For a few days she was fine, eating nicely, and generally looking a lot perkier. But, alas, the improvement was short-lived, and she soon ended up back in hospital.
I visited her twice a day, every day, but her kidneys were slowly shutting down, and she just got weaker and weaker. The vet recommended that we consider putting her down, but I don’t believe in euthanasia, and clung to the belief that where there is life, there is hope.
I was heavily pregnant, by this time, and on my last legs. My doctor decided to do a caesarean section earlier than I had anticipated. It was July 3, the surgery was scheduled for July 4, and I went to see Sandy for the last time that evening, just before I was admitted to the clinic. She was so frail. I sat next to her and wept, and when I said goodbye, I pleaded with her not to die while I was gone. But, I knew in my heart that I was saying good bye to her for the last time.
The baby was born at 8-45am, and no sooner was I in the recovery room, then I asked Gavin to call the vet and find out how Sandy was doing. The news was not good. Gavin asked if I would reconsider putting her down, as the vet felt that she was now suffering, and would be better off out of her misery. I refused, saying that G-d would take her when he was ready.
The next day Gavin was due to come and visit me in the morning, and he was late. I kept looking out of the window of the ward, which overlooked the parking lot, and eventually, I saw him approaching the entrance. Dayle and his mother were with him, and they looked sombre.
I knew that my special friend had gone to heaven.
They came into the ward, and Gavin put his arms around me. I asked softly if she was gone, and he said “Yes, she passed away during the night” My heart stopped. Although I knew that she was gone, actually hearing the words cut through me like a knife. I cried softly, mourning the end of a beautiful and special part of my life.
Even as I write this, nine years later, the tears are spilling over my keyboard. I remember that day so very well. After Gavin had left, they brought me my baby. I had wanted another baby so badly. I looked at the little scrap of humanity in my arms and knew I had to be strong for his sake, but dealing with the elation of having a baby on the one hand, and the terrible sense of loss that I was feeling, on the other, proved to be very difficult.
It took me a long time to get over her, and I definitely didn’t want to replace her. I put the last photograph ever taken of her on top of the TV in my bedroom, and on the wall unit in my lounge, and would run my fingers over the frame, weeping quietly.
After a couple of months, my parents and Gavin twisted my arm to get another “little Sandy”. She is still with us, much smaller, but with the same white and sandy fur. Her name is Samantha. I love her dearly, but nothing could ever take that special place that I have in my heart for that little forlorn creature that crept into my affections, all those years ago, at the pound.