My little Guadalupe Suzette Russell (Lupe) was 14 years old. She was warm, well fed, and well loved from the day she picked us out of a crowd. I will always remember that day. We had been helping in laws with a yard sale. The yard was filled with people shopping, when out of a hedge row burst this tiny fawn colored ball of energy. She bounced right to me and clawed at my pants leg (something she continued to do), begging me to pick her up. I picked her up. My wife came over and we looked her over for a name tag, but what we found made us feel sick. This beautiful little puppy was filthy, covered in fleas and grease, and her collar was so tight that it was cutting into her neck. The skin was raw and bleeding in places. Any idea we had of trying to find her home evaporated. She had asked for our help. So we took her home with us.
We bathed her, treated her wounds, and made her welcome. She kinda took over. She was a bossy, protective, little momma dog even as young as she was. No hitting, no shouting, no touching her toys; but she was always right there with a hug, or a kiss, or a grin (something I didn’t teach her) whenever I needed it, and I really needed it. Coming home to find her wagging, not just her tail but her whole back half, just brushed the rest of the day away.
Not long after she came home with us, she developed a condition called patellar luxation, first in her right hind leg, and then her left. We took her to a nice vet, who explained everything, and into surgery she went. She hated me at first. She blamed me for her hurt leg because it first manifested while we were playing fetch. She loved playing fetch those first few weeks. It was like she had just been dying to play her whole little life. So, in the weeks she was recovering, I carried her everywhere she needed to go. She always told me when she needed to go out, and when she was ready to go back in. I promised her I would always be there to carry her, and she took me up on it. We called it riding the daddyvator.
As the years wore on, she needed us more and more. She was no little pup when her left hind leg developed the same condition. But since the initial surgery wasn’t really successful, and after talking to the vet, we decided not to put her through it again.
She has been all over the country, from alabama to New Mexico, and raised four litters of healthy puppies, all of whom have good homes with families who love them and have stayed in contact. She has pups scattered all over the U. S. from New York to Colorado, from Texas to Georgia.
We had a few scary times when we thought we might lose her, but she was a tough little old lady. She was about ten or eleven when we noticed the first lump. She’s too old for surgery. The best we can do is steroids, antibiotics, and pain pills. I knew that at some point we might have to decide to, well I can’t even say it. But when it came down to it, I just couldn’t do it. I knew it would be hard on my baby, and I knew she might be in pain, but the vet said as long as she was eating, drinking, going to the bathroom, and wagging her tail, that she was fine. And she did plenty of all, especially wagging her tail. It looked more like dancing. She was always happy to see us, and as bossy as ever.
She had slowed down over the years. But she still welcomed me home with kisses and a grin no matter how long I had been gone or what time I got home.
February 15, 2014, my wife had gone to visit relatives, and I had to go to work. She had been going down hill very rapidly over the previous few days. She knew I was about to leave and asked me to take her for a walk. So I put on my jacket, and picked her up for what I knew would be our last walk. Lupe never liked to walk on grass. She always walked on pavement. I think because the grass was hard on her knees. But as I sat her down on a cart path that loops around the golf course near where we live, she slowly waddled of the path into the grass and plopped down on a clump of pine needles. I told her to take her time and enjoy the sun. I was smoking my pipe. While she sat there with her nose in the wind, and her ears darting from sound to sound. As the sun slid down behind the trees, she got tired after a while, and tapped my pant leg. It was time to go home. Time for one last ride on the daddyvator. I made her as comfortable as I could in a warm spot surrounded by her toys. I patted her head and tickled her chin. Tried to coax a grin out of her. As I stood, she licked my hand. She had stopped eating, and drinking earlier in the day. She looked so small. I didn’t want to go, but I thought I had more time with her. One more day. One more walk.
My shift ended and I rushed home. Called my wife, and sat down beside my baby. She was too weak to lift her head, but wagged her tail when I touched her ears. I think she waited for me. I don’t think she wanted to be alone. She howled once, and then she was gone.
My chest feels so heavy, and I am finding it impossible to keep it together. I miss her.