It's been a year now since Cheyenne laid down on the deck at home and decided to die. She did it in such a natural and peaceful way it made it much easier for me to let her go and not assail myself with all the doubts that follow the decision to put a dog to sleep.
My relationship with Cheyenne was one that made me feel as though my dog was more mature than me. Taking her out for a walk frequently left me feeling as though I was accompanying my elderly grandmother as she chose the direction and the pace of our ambles. At home Cheyenne liked to lay down within sight of me but not too close, my shadow across the room.
One of the special pleasures of adopting dogs is the gratitude you get from them because they have known hardship and I find the relationship much more rewarding because there is the pleasure of offering a tired dog a haven. Cheyenne had been bred and had clearly been kept in her place, afraid to enter the kitchen, afraid of a rolled up newspaper etc...It didn't take long for her to end up closely observing my wife cooking or finding her own place on the furniture as a properly integrated dog should.
She was not the most willing traveler but she kept up, one year on a three week trip to California and back, once to Canada, and frequently to North Carolina and other jaunts that took my fancy. When we first got her she liked to sit all day in the car for fear of being left behind which had apparently been her lot in her previous life. I let her sit in the car with the door open for as long as she liked and pretty soon she figured out that whenever possible she was going to ride with me. Another of her demons put to rest.
She was a Labrador that never swam, a hunting dog that never chased a ball, a walking dog that preferred the city to the country, an expensive pedigree dog abandoned for the crime of being too old at age eight.She was a contradiction on four legs and I couldn't get enough of her.
She was a big lump imperturbable and not much given to sentiment or cloying gratitude. The time I knew she was happy with me was when we prepared to move houses and as we packed she got agitated and I had to spend a lot of time reassuring her that this time she wasn't getting left behind.
There are no regrets, every day was a gift and we both knew it and made the most of each and every one. She was the easiest dog in the world to live with always ready to give her all do her best and keep up. When she started to slow toward the inevitable end I asked her to spare me the needle problem and she did, her last gift, kindness itself to the very end.
I can still smell her, feel her fur around her thick Labrador neck, hear her deep sonorous snores and we only just recently vacuumed the last of her distinctive long white hairs from the car. So now she is gone as we all will be but she lives on in my memory, one of those lucky chances in life that make life with a dog so rewarding.
Rest in peace dear girl.