Today my wife and I had to say goodbye to a very dear and loving friend, our dog Ashley. I’ve known her for just over 15 years when she came into my life at 3 weeks old. My wife met her when she was about 6 years old.
She was so small as a pup, she fit in the palm of my hand. When I first brought her home, I would lay on the floor as she’d climb all over me and lick my face. She took to me quickly and the bond grew. At nights she stayed in the bathroom since she hadn’t learned yet where to go potty! Those nights, she wanted to be with me and would scratch at the door wanting out. And when her teeth developed more, she found the things to chew on. First was the pipe to the toilet, then a section of a wooden desk chair. The final place was the edge of a drywall window sill. Training a dog to behave is difficult; you have to catch them in the act to be effective. I remember putting some peanut butter where she liked to chew on the sill to hopefully draw her in. Shortly later, she took the bait and I was able to start the teaching process.
She was an amazing dog. Her favorite game was to fetch a tennis ball. And she loved her walks! Early on when she was only a few weeks old, we’d walk and she’d want to be picked up; just went a little too long and was wore out. And learning to climb stairs was a challenge! Looking through the slats on the outdoor cement staircase as we climbed scared her terribly. Of course, she eventually got over it, but it took some time. We had a fairly regular route and she knew when we were on the final leg headed home. She’d try to take different turns to avoid the eventual end of that walk! On walks that we’d take, she could sniff a new tennis ball out every time. We ended up with so many tennis balls at home! She was the fastest dog I’ve seen run after a ball. And there were the times that she’d skin a pad as she was sliding to a stop to get the ball, yet it didn’t stop her from wanting to chase it again. Oh, and the bandaging up of the wounds to try and help them heal so we could go play again.
As a pup, she was scared of the bigger dogs when they first approached and practically jumped in my arms. Again, trusting that I’d be there for her, she became comfortable and began to play with them. She knew when I was coming home and was patiently waiting for my arrival. She was very protective of me and her home. She was not interested in anyone coming over; not that she attacked anyone but her bark was fierce! That was quite a challenge to work through but in time she became more comfortable with people visiting. There were times that I needed to be gone for the weekend and had to have someone watch her. They would come over and have to have a ball in one hand to toss just to get in the door. While she’d go fetch it, she’d be coming back growling but wanting to play more. When she found out that they were the ones to take care of them, she developed some reluctant trust, as long as she got to play ball! She didn’t like swimming at all. Probably because she accidentally walked onto a pool cover and fell in. You can imagine the surprise she felt! Of course I was right there to rescue her. We were like that. She knew when I wasn’t feeling good, and would come to me when she wasn’t feeling good. One time, she got a piece of a bone stuck between her teeth. It took a little bit to get it out, but we worked on it and eventually came free. She was so thankful and the bond continued to strengthen.
She tolerated a lot in her seemingly short life. Of course 15 years for a dog is actually a long life, it never is long enough when you grow so close. She tolerated multiple sets of cats over the years. The fewest in her life at any one time was two, the most was four. She learned early on, that it wasn’t going to be ok to be aggressive towards them and knew that I was there for her. Oh, the look she had when the cats got close, or ate her dry food. It was sort of the “Dad, aren’t you going to do something about this?” She also tolerated a cross country move and the Arizona heat. Of course that affected her favorite walks with the ground so hot! We adjusted and did what we could to enjoy them together when the nights cooled to a more tolerable 90 degrees.
As time wore on, her eyesight diminished, her hearing became less acute, she developed arthritis in the hips, showed early signs of kidney failure, and possibly some signs of nervous system failure. But in all of that, she had the spirit of a puppy wanting to play ball and go for those walks. While they weren’t as long, she still knew where her collar and leash were kept and wondered if we’d get to go out for a walk that night. To help her maintain her weight and slow the deteriorating health, we started feeding her wet food and a tablet to help with the arthritis. That helped her live another enjoyable two years. Eventually, she had a tumor grow on her left elbow that broke open and we knew it was time to say goodbye. The hardest day in one’s life is to say goodbye to someone that grows so close. She was faithful, gentle and loving to the very end. Some people may not believe that animals go to heaven; I choose not to be one of them. I may be wrong, but I believe that one day I will be reunited with my dear friend in heaven. She’ll probably be patiently waiting there for me to come home so that we can play ball again, take those seemingly endless walks, and just be together again. I thank God for blessing me with her. She brought so much joy and life into my life. You see, she was found in a dumpster before being dropped off at a local vet. She came into my life with a bit of reluctance on my part, but so quickly a mutual love for each other grew and forever changed our lives. I will always remember her to the end of my days here and look forward to the days we’ll have together again.