April 25, 2011 Abby died today. She was sad and unsettled all day, like she knew it was THE day and was ready to get on with it. Even as she was relaxing with the sedative, she tried to get up to go to the bathroom, ever the perfect dog until the end. She paced in and out of the open door, left open because she had gotten stuck in the doggie door twice the day before, her back legs failing her as she tried to lift them up and over the edge of the door. Each time she came in she looked at me, waiting, and like so many other times when she was trying to tell me something, she shrugged off my pat and went back out only to come back in again and look at me again. At 4:30, we gave her a cheeseburger and a sedative, and when she was more relaxed, we picked her up and put her into the car for the trip to the vet. The vet honored our request and came to the car to give Abby a shot that would put her to sleep, ending her life peacefully at 6:00pm. I am profoundly sad to lose my companion of more than 15 years. She was such a constant of my adult life, moving with me from Maine to Arizona to Charlotte. She mostly had her own business and chores, which she took very seriously, but she would stop in for a pat every hour and until the last few years would put her head on my knee when it was time for me to pat her. As always, she was dedicated to being outside, guarding our yard, so much so that she would stand at the door of our Maine house, get her biscuit and then take it outside and deposit it on the front step, next to her, as she looked out over the lawn. At this phase in her life, no squirrel was safe and she was surprisingly fast. Often, she just missed getting to a squirrel as it leapt on to a tree trunk and scurried upwards. Being a border collie and possessing that unique blend of tenacity, perseverance and stubbornness, she would post herself under the tree that had afforded the squirrel its rescue and stare up, daring the squirrel to come back down. On at least one occasion, she remained under the tree for 4 hours. She appeared in my life by accident really. We had one dog, a very good dog named Guthrie, but I was interested in getting a dog I could train, so one day I went to the Animal Refuge League to see who needed to be adopted. It had never occurred to me to buy a dog, but I was unprepared for the difference between cute puppies and the long row of chain link kennels holding adult dogs. Twenty or more dogs - abandoned, small scared dogs, aggressive big dogs and one black and tan dog, sitting at the end looking at me with her smile, like she had already picked me out, instead of the other way around. I asked about her and she was already spoken for, but they let me take her into the yard and she immediately gave me a kiss and stayed with me. When we were done, I told her I would be back for her and I guess that the staff liked that because the next day, I got a call that the other adopters hadn't picked her up and she was mine! When I got to the shelter, there she was again, sitting at the end of the row, waiting for me in the same place, just like she knew that I would be back. That began a great partnership, and she was just as smart and as good as she was on that first day in the yard (even when we moved to Arizona and made her get on a plane). She was great at obedience class, venturing a few steps and then coming back to me with a kiss and a look like "let's get started" excelling at walks, getting smiles because of her sunny face and spontaneously blocking hallways as she laid down and presented her belly for you to rub. Later, she learned to wait for her brother as he scaled the stairs with some difficulty as he got older. The two often played "steal the biscuit" from each other, since they both had a habit of hiding their biscuits for later under their dog beds or out under the forsythia bush in our side yard. Guthrie learned that Abby would hide her biscuit under the bed and would steal it when she was outside. Abby learned to look in the bed because Guthrie would leave it there for the taking. When they got chew treats they would attack their own, and then wait until the other tired of theirs and walked away, then the switch would be on, somehow the other guy's chewie always tasted better. Later, Abby greeted her new brothers Harry, Louie and Alfie with the same majestic beauty and Alpha dog status. Harry was a scruffy grey dog with a loud bark and personality, Louie, a scared, starved dog that needed a mentor and Alfie, a crazy, energetic, 13- lb. dog who demanded to be played with just as Abby had once chided her older brother Guthrie when she first came to live with us. In every case, Abby welcomed our adoptees into our house and she was often their backstop as they slept on her bed, providing some measure of pack security as they got used to their new home and got over the scars of being abandoned or mistreated. Abby herself was dropped out of car as a puppy, found half-starved by the Animal Refuge League. I think often about the incredible cruelty of that and how anyone could look into her beautiful brown eyes with the long cream lashes and cast her out. Even on her last day, when she was in pain, limping and barely able to get up, I barely had the strength to take care of her as I knew I should. I could not imagine my house without her quiet, calm presence and wondered if the folks that had consigned her to a painful death by starvation ever wondered about her. How we can be so cruel to those that love us as we are is unforgivable. Abby never held it against us, and in her way, did her job for other dogs with her background. She made each of our new rescue dogs feel safe and she taught them how to be dogs that are loved and fawned over, as well as bossing us around and keeping us on the right path for more than 15 years. For all of that, on this day, it was my turn to take care of her as she had taken care of me and all of her brothers over the years. Now she is without pain and probably stealing her brother Guthrie's biscuit and ignoring Harry's barking while chasing squirrels and guarding lush green meadows in heaven. There will never be a better dog and I am grateful for her time in my life.
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