Saying Goodbye to a Friend

“This dog is clearly crazy” I thought to myself when the volunteers brought her in to the meeting room. She greeted us all with a cursory sniff and glance then began to pace the room looking for something. She climbed up on the benches and looked out the windows nervously. She came back over to me and my family and sat down on my nieces feet and we all tried to pet her; she laid down for a split second then popped back up to search the room some more.

I watched her inspect every knook and cranny, eyes darting around the room. “I don’t know. she’s got issues I think.” I said to my mother. I was thinking of trying to replace my last dog, Ashley, whom we put down two years before and could only now get a new dog. I wanted an easy going dog, maybe one i could eventually farm with, definitely one to go camping and on road trips with. This one wasn’t that. I was suspecting PTSD.

“I think shes a good dog. No, I know shes a good dog.” We thumbed through her paperwork Given up to the Humane Society twice. Last home she wasn’t house broken, first home said she was. First time she went to the human society she was 3 years old, next time she was only two. Odd. We read the history: first home was a farm, kids, room to roam, goat herding….given up for “family problems.” Second home was a small house with a single woman and a black lab. Woman gave preference to the lab so this dog began to mark in the house. Ah, not that she wasn’t house broken but simply a dominance struggle. We decided we liked her and took her home. Tabitha got in the car with us excited to be leaving the kennel. I decided to take her on a walk as soon as we got home to show I am her new pack leader. We got out of the car and immediately started walking. She was fine, calm and happy as she could be (eyes were darting here and there) on the leash until a man walked by. She immediately lunged and tried to bite him.

Oh dear……

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Wednesday I sat in the exam room waiting for the vet. She popped her head in and asked me if i wanted to see the X Rays. Of course I did. “See those white dots? someones been shooting at your dog.” She had lead pellets, pellet gun pellets, lodged in her back, ribs and legs. They were old wounds. Wounds I presume from her life before me. No wonder she didn’t trust men when I got her!

I knew someone used to hurt her. When we first took her home she would roll over for a belly rub with her chest out, but would keep her legs closed. It took weeks for her to start trusting and exposing her belly to me. One day I noticed a big pussy wound on her back leg the size of a half dollar. I tried to grab her leg so to inspect it and she screamed in terror. I stopped and she looked me in the eye with fear. I tried to touch her back leg again and the same response: crying, pleading, begging for mercy. I began to work with her touching her shoulders and giving her treats. Eventually she let me touch her legs, though she was never comfortable with the prospect.

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But she trusted me and the family. Eventually she began to trust men, too. If I said they were okay, then that was good enough for her.

—-

PTSD is what I say she had. Her attention was either scattered or a lazer-like focus that was hard to break. I used to have to shake her to snap her out if she was going after something she shouldn’t have. Originally she’d lunge at men and other dogs on our walks thinking she was protecting me. I got her to break that habit, but she still hated other dogs. Especially black labs. i couldn’t let her off leash ever because i couldn’t trust her not to attack other dogs. In the city she loved to bark at squirrles, in the country she went after birds and rats. Her first few years with my family she was often on edge, but mellowed out. Not only PTSD  but abandonment issues made her fear car rides, after all, she could end up up for adoption again.

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Slowly she became okay with car rides. Slowly she became okay with other dogs. Slowly be learned to trust that she was with her pack. With that trust came her willingness to do silly things so long as it made me happy and laugh. Dressing her up was fun

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That led her to acting silly for my sake. Only two weeks ago I was feeling sorry for myself for being perma single and just feeling lonely like something was wrong with me. My dog crawled up on the couch and started rolling around for belly rubs, then started smiling to get me to giggle. every time i;d start pouting she’d wiggle at me and remind me “You’re not alone~! You’ve got me and I looove you!”

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When we moved from the suburbs to the farm Tabitha truely blossomed. Finally free to go off leash, but a good dog that didn’t harrass livestock. Infact, she loved and protected the baby animals.

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Watching over chicks.

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Watching over Blaze

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Loving the nieces bunnies. She wanted to visit the latest litter of piglets but Peppercorn got upset every time she’d approach. Eventually she snuck in and got to see the new babies while momma was eating.

Of course she got into trouble here and there.

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What farm dog doesn’t become a bear in the mud? And what farm dog doesn’t meet a skunk on a sunday evening when the stores are all closed and you have to scrounge for stuff to clean the smell off. I tried everything: hydrogen peroxide, tomato juice, baking soda, vinegar….I finally got desparate and tried urine. Yup, was in the show with her and I went “aw, what the hel! its worth a shot!” Poor dog probably felt more abused in the shower than by the direct skunk spray to her eyes. Catching rats and other small mammals became her past time. She attempted birds, but didn’t have much success. However she was the ratting queen in the barn and seemed to be having a contest with the cat. I remember her catching a rat one day and Rosie the pig got so excited she started chasing Tabitha to let go of the rat before it was successfully executed. Apparently she was vacuuming up Tabithas kills.

When I got a kitten I was afraid how the two would do. Apperently he thought she was his big sister. She would play bite him and when she wasn’t looking he’d jump and attack her. no one ever got hurt, but they just wrestled. Outside he’d tease her and she’d chase him up a tree. She always let him win. Just fun and games. My neighbor always told me how he loved watching the two of them play. Sometimes when no one was looking they’d curl up together and sleep next to each other. In the house I’d tell Tabitha to “get the kitty! get the kitty!” and she’d pounce on him in play. She knew who the kitty was.

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She was smart and quick to learn. She knew the names of many toys and when the toys broke i’d replace them with similar items. She was able to transfer the idea of “ball” to spheres, “dumbbell” to dumbbell shaped items including a rope toy shaped like one. she understood football was different from the other footballs. She knew a bone was a bone. Learning tricks didn’t take much time, but if you didn’t go fast enough she’d get bored and stop listening. She’d beg, dance, sit pretty, different hand shakes, learned to play dead and roll over. So smart. But the only thing she couldn’t do was herd.

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She was fast enough. But her focus was too strong and she’d block out my commands. Often she would herd the animals the wrong way. I attempted to herd when she wasn’t around. On occasion she would suddenly appear just as i was getting the animals in the pen usually scaring them out of that same space. It became a running gag. If I ever lost my temper with the sheep she’d assume it was the ram and bit his nuts. Yes, many of our sheep problems did originate there, but it didn’t matter to her if i was yelling as a ewe, ram or lamb. She’d bite the rams balls with joy. Did i mention she hated men at one time in her life?

She was gentle. People who didn’t like dogs liked her. A friends child was afraid of dogs, but trusted Tabitha. She welcomed everyone to my farm except predators. A matter of two weeks ago she alerted me a strange dog had gotten in with my sheep. I could have lost the flock but she got me up and out the door when danger was near. She chased off hawks and eagles for fun. And the cat who liked to eye the chicks.

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Last Saturday I came home from work. She didn’t greet me by dancing around my car, she just looked at me from the porch. I asked my mother why the dog was acting sick. She hadn’t noticed, but felt her guts and diagnosed constipation. I treated her with home remedies for a few days but it didn’t seem to do the job. I took her into the vet Wednesday for x rays to see if she had an obstruction. We couldn’t see anything other than lots of poop and some inflammation. We went home and she was happy and energetic all night playing in the barn for half an hour. In the morning we did chores together and she checked all the grain bins for rats. She smiled at me as i left for work. After I left, though, she retired instead of her usual spot on the couch to my room for the remainder of the day. When I got home I took her on a walk hoping to help her bowls. Towards the end of the walk she slowed down. Alot. That evening the pain became accute. I carried her to my to hoping she could sleep it off, but i eventually relented and took her to an emergency room.

There they preformed test after test to figure out the problem. We decided we needed to do surgery to get the final say. As she was prepared for the surgery I went in to see her. She was feeling good with the fluids and morphine. She jumped out of the cage to me wagging her tail. She looked me in the eyes and said she’d be okay. Yup, you will be. “See you in a few hours” we agreed.

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I never guessed the prognosis was going to me cancer. Mastitic cancer originating in her left kidney already infecting the right. There was nothing we could do. nothing. I had to let her go. We euthanized her under anethsia. I didn’t really get to say goodbye…just, “see ya later.”

Tabitha was a dear, sweet, gentle and kind dog. She came into my life so full of fear and anxiety and left as a dog with confidence and many friends. She cared about other animals. She was polite and wouldn’t take food that wasn’t hers, if she did she’d leave some as she did for the cats taking an exact half a bowl. Making a perfect straight line down the middle of her food and their food. She cared about people and made sure to make me happy when i was feeling down. She made everyone happy. She was one of a kind and will be forever missed.

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5 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to a Friend

  1. sally

    So sad to hear you lost your lovely girl. Thank you for sharing Tabitha’s story, you were lucky to have found each other.

    Reply
  2. onedogrunning

    So sorry for your loss. But, it sounds like you were great friends to each other and that can never be lost.

    Reply
  3. Brenda Sandstrom

    She will be missed greatly by all the neighbors here in Icebox Canyon. Best dog I ever met! And she really did create a perfect line in the food bowl. Not one stray kibble. Incredible!

    Reply

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