November has been a very difficult month for a multitude of reasons. One being the uncertain future our country faces after January 20, 2017. However, November got off to a somber start even before the election in my corner of the world when my beloved dog, Phoebe, passed away at the age of 15. Phoebe was a loyal and loving dog who was present in my life through all of the ups and downs one could have in 15 years time. Phoebe was the only constant presence in a sea of changes that occurred during that period in my life. Phoebe was at my side through graduations, boyfriends, college, graduate school, jobs, and all of the emotions that go along with those experiences.
Phoebe was an exuberant puppy who brought life into our home from the minute she walked through the door. Even though Phoebe was a tiny Bassett Hound, she had a bark that bellowed through our house and neighborhood. Phoebe was not what you’d call an action dog. Phoebe loved to just lie down and be fawned over by her family. She enjoyed walks through the neighborhood and the company of both other dogs and people. Phoebe’s trademark for any visitor entering our home was to bark uncontrollably until the visitor pet her and she would even roll over on her back and let them treat her to a belly rub.
Phoebe was an active dog who enjoyed running around the house at a gallop when she had sudden bursts of energy and she was always up to wrestle while stubbornly clutching onto a chew toy. However, nothing sums up Phoebe like her love of people food. Whether it was making a leap onto our kitchen table for a thick piece of London broil or bothering us for a McDonald’s cookie, Phoebe was relentless in her pursuit of people food and my family and I were all too happy to indulge her every now and then.
Some may ask why I would devote a column to my dog and the answer is simple: because Phoebe exemplified what it was to be strong and resilient under the worst of circumstances. Six years ago, Phoebe went blind and we worried about the quality of life that she would have given this new reality. However, Phoebe proved us all wrong and she adapted to her new reality better than any of us could have predicted. Being blind was just part of who she was and she dealt with it like a trooper. Phoebe enjoyed her life despite her reality as a blind pet and she continued to be loved and nurtured in our house even more.
Phoebe grew older in the six years that followed and fended off a series of health risks from an infected paw to major gastrointestinal problems. Our family always joked that Phoebe was invincible and that she would live forever. We always said that Phoebe would be what survives in a nuclear apocalypse, her and Keith Richards of course. Phoebe’s strength, courage, and resilience over the years inspired my family and I in ways we could never imagine. Even as she began to go through the motions that all aging pets go through, she was always strong and fiercely loyal to her family. She never liked being away from us for too long which would always lead us to make sure someone was around to watch her on long day trips or we would simply decide to bring her along.
Phoebe’s final days were met with much pain and anguish. She started to lose weight to the point where her spine became visible and protruding. Petting her was rough because our hands would glide across a skeletal frame with only a veneer of a tri-colored brown, black, and white fur coat protecting it. The pain had become so unbearable that Phoebe stopped eating her beloved people food. When we took her to the vet, they confirmed that she was in pain due to arthritis and old age and that it would be very difficult for her to live much longer without pain.
It was then that our family made the painful decision to relieve Phoebe of her pain. Regardless of the circumstances, in this situation, pet owners will always second-guess this decision and I was no different. But ultimately, I concluded that it was for the best and that Phoebe was out of pain now. We just recently picked up Phoebe’s ashes and it was a few nights later that I had a vivid dream of Phoebe running around on a front lawn. She was healthy and her vision was intact. I have taken that as a message that she is ok. My days are very different without Phoebe and my routines and habits have changed. It is always my first instinct to look for Phoebe when I walk in the door. I always listen for the sound of the pitter-patter that was her walk and I expect to feel her brush up against my leg every time I get up off the couch. The fact that those are now just memories and will never happen again has been a very difficult pill to swallow.
Phoebe lived a long and happy life with the love of her family around her at every turn. I am eternally grateful for that but I also know that there are many dogs who are seeking the same forever family experience that Phoebe had. Therefore, I urge anyone reading this column to donate to Louie’s Legacy Animal Rescue on Staten Island. This is a wonderful organization that gives many animals loving homes in the New York City area. To Phoebe, wherever you are, I say: thank you, friend. Until we meet again.