When you reach a certain age, or, perhaps, a certain level of awareness, you realize that every day lived is a lesson. A week ago I sat down to write this column tearful and emotional as I began the story of my good dog Martha. It was, at the time, my way of coping, knowing that Martha might be gone before the column was even published.
Martha was found in the fall of 2001 roaming Sporthaven Beach in Brookings with a dislocated hip. She eluded her would-be captors for about two weeks. It was a wet November, fraught with thunderstorms. She apparently subsisted on offerings from tourists and scraps from garbage cans before a Humane Society volunteer baited her with treats and was able to catch her.
Martha was taken to a vet who suggested she be put down. Thankfully, she was taken to another vet who pulled her right hip back into place.
When I adopted Martha she was thin, but healthy. She gained weight
and thrived in the routine that we forged together: early morning walks
to Harris Beach followed by a work day that consisted of half a day in
Brookings and afternoons in Crescent City. On the drive south we'd stop
at the Smith River printing plant for a run (Martha) and a potty break
(both of us). As we passed the pastures near the river, I'd yell,
"Cows!" and Martha would sit up straight, lean her head out the window
and bark at them. It was a game we played for years until she lost her
Martha was a car dog. She took guarding our car very seriously. I've
read about Chows and Martha, although only part Chow, fits the
temperament description perfectly. She is protective of me, my family
and our home. She stays up nights worrying about prowlers. When we have
house guests, Martha "sleeps" right outside the guest room door. "It's
to make sure they don't leave with the silver," Rick jokes.
When I met Rick he had a Springer Spaniel whom he cherished. When
Josie became untreatably ill, I made her final arrangements. Rick could
only go as far as the parking lot of the vet's office. I understood and
took care of things for him.
We're not sure how old Martha is, maybe 14. The arthritis in her hip
has crippled her. She drags one paw and loses her balance easily. She is
deaf and occasionally behaves as though she has dementia. When she fell
last week and couldn't get up, I stayed awake most of the night trying
to decide what was best for her.
I gave Rick custody. I trust him to make the right decision at the
right time. The next morning we took Martha for what I thought would be
her last walk at her favorite spot on the jetty in Brookings. Martha had
a great time sniffing every weed and bush while I was overcome by fear
of my pending loss.
The walk did her a world of good. She seemed to regain some strength
last week. Sunday we went for another walk and she actually ran for a
bit and climbed some rocks. She looked back at me, smiling, as if to
say, "See, I'm really OK."
The lesson learned, of course, is to make the most of every single
day. Dog or human, friend or foe, we must show compassion for one
another because today is all we have.
Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at
email@example.com, 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.