Friday, July 18, 2008

Dog on the Blog: Basha Made Lemonade

In Memoriam

You know that old saying: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade". That was Basha's motto, and the words she lived by.

We met this very special girl late in her life. She was 13 years old when she came to live with us. Ricky met her "family" at the Petsmart in San Diego, when we were living there. The woman said she could no longer keep Basha because -- I promise I am not making this up -- "We just built a new house, and Basha is a digger, and we just can't have that."

It gets worse. Turns out they took Basha home when she was only a pup, just 8 weeks old! Basha had lived with these people her entire life! This woman had a little girl, probably about 10 years old -- Basha had been a part of that child's life from birth...

And now the little girl's mom was going to provide a wonderful object lesson for the child: if you become inconvenient or bother us in any way, we will just dump you like an old bag of trash. I can only imagine how the child applied this object lesson to her own sad life in this dysfunctional "family".

Of course, Ricky agreed to take Basha home.

Basha was a beautiful golden lab with wonderfully expressive brown eyes. She was one of those rare dogs who only come along once in a great while -- she appreciated everything you ever did for her... and she got along with people, other dogs, cats, everyone whose path crossed hers. This exceptional girl was an untapped reservoir of unconditional love. How anyone could part with this noble dog is incomprehensible.

For Basha's part, she tried very hard to understand what was happening to her. But for her first month with us, she laid in front of our front door, waiting for her "family" to come back for her.

It is a sad and sorry thing when someone dumps a dog who has lived with them for 13 years. And let me just add right here, she NEVER ONCE dug in our yard!

Labs are pretty sensitive and intelligent dogs, and Basha was probably in the 95th percentile of labs when it came to intelligence and sensitivity. Once she realized that ours was her new home, she stopped pining for her old "family" and made lemonade.

She fit in with what we called "The Living Room Group" in the San Diego house. It was a large group of dogs who got along and all lived in the living room together. Basha became a popular member of her group. When it was their time outside in the yard, she would still race with the younger dogs up and down the yard.

She loved her toys and she loved her treats. Her only vice was that sometimes her exuberance for her treats superseded Miss Manners, and she snatched treats happily, if roughly, from your hands!

Her photo laying on her back shows her in one of her favorite poses. She loved to have her tummy rubbed. When it was her turn to sleep in the bed with us, she would nudge us with her nose if we quit rubbing her tummy too soon!

Her so-called "family"s loss was our gain. We had two amazing years with our sweet Basha.

I remember well the day that Ricky and I both sort of noticed at the same time that Basha seemed to have lost a little weight. It didn't seem serious. We figured she might not be getting her share of the kibble that was always out for them. But after a week or so of watching to be sure she was getting her dinner, and slipping her extra treats that should have helped put back some pounds, she was still getting thin.

We were concerned enough to take her to our vet. It was May, 2005. By then, we were living in Arizona, getting ready to visit Texas to shop for our Texas farm. The doctor did a number of tests, some of which we had to wait to get results.

When the results were all in, we were devastated. Basha had a virulent form of cancer. It had started in her lymph glands, and had spread to her liver and spleen. Because of her age, and the speed and spread of the disease, she was not a candidate for chemotherapy or any other treatment. The prognosis was the worst possible. There was nothing we could do to save her.

Part of Basha's weight loss was due to her lack of appetite. So I threw myself into a rigorous plan to entice her to eat by cooking special things for her. What I learned was that what would entice her to eat one day, might not the next. So I had to stay a step ahead, always planning something different the next day, hoping to pique her interest.

The time came for Ricky and I to leave for Texas. We planned to be gone for two weeks, and we knew Basha did not have two weeks. We got pain meds we could administer, if Basha started to hurt. (At that point, Basha was not hurting and showed no signs of her illness, except for her weight loss.) We put Basha on the back seat of the car and headed out across the desert for Texas.

Ricky and I will always remember that trip -- not because we ultimately purchased our farm, but because it was our farewell to our precious Basha. I remember her sitting up on the back seat so tall and proud, looking out at the changing scenery, as the desert slowly changed to green grass and trees. Basha loved to ride in the car.

At night, she slept in motel beds with us, and in the morning she rolled around in green grass, something she had not seen since we left San Diego! During that whole trip, as sick as she became, she never once had an accident in a motel room.

We looked at farms all over southeast Texas. Basha's smile was always present throughout our journey. When we got to Brazoria County, we stayed at a motel in Lake Jackson. Two nights in a row, we drove down to Freeport and the sandy Gulf beaches. By then, Basha could not walk very well, so we carried her down to the beach, and we sat in the sand together -- Ricky, Basha and me.

Basha was losing her vision. But she could hear the seagulls and the waves crashing, she could smell the surf. Her infectious, warm smile lit up the dusk as we sat by the water with our beautiful lab girl, drawn to the water by instinct and having the misfortune of spending the past year in the Arizona desert. She gave us a knowing look, her special smile, and told us how much she appreciated us carrying her down to the sea.

Basha's last day was a Sunday. We went to church in the morning, and headed out after lunch to look at more properties. Basha was riding in her spot on the back seat, but she was not sitting up. As she lay on the seat, we sensed that her time to leave us was very near. I stopped the car in someone's driveway, so that Ricky and I could both get in the back seat with our Basha and hold her until she finally had to leave us.

It was a bittersweet moment. I was grateful we could hold her, kiss her, tell her how much we loved her and how much she had given us in her short time as part of our family. But it was still hard to let her go.

We took Basha to a vet in Galveston who cremated her. The hand crafted wooden box that contains the earthly remains of our baby girl is still with us and always will be.

It has been three years since we lost Basha, but the pain of her loss never subsides. We were blessed to have had her gentle spirit with us, even if it was only for two short years. We will never forget our Basha.

Jay Hellerich, executive director
smiling dog farms
a 501(c)3 corporation
wharton, texas

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1 comment:

chetandkelly said...

This story touches my heart every time I read it. Bless you for doing what I wish I could do. I think my husband thinks that is what we are....taking in every dog I hear about! I sent you a little something, just to thank you for caring!