I have so few photos of her. Remember that she was afraid of cameras? That was probably rooted in the fact that they flash – like lightning – and she hated storms … probably, at least in part, because she spent at least a week (maybe two?) outside, on a plantation with a pack of wild dogs that took her in after she was abandoned.
It was Fire Prevention week – the first week of October – in 2003 that she moved into our lives. We were on our way to a horse show when I got lost on a country road … that turned into a dirt road … that turned into a dirt path. As we turned around to find another route to the show, she was there on the side of the road.
As we approached, she was encouraged. She got up and began to wag her tail. I wonder if her previous owner drove a van. She was certainly patiently waiting for their return … there in the wide open world, dirty, hungry and forlorn.
When I rolled down my window,
she heard my voice,
Mine was not the voice she had hoped to hear.
We decided that we would return with food after the horse show. If she was still there, we would try to rescue her.
We found the house nearest her stalwart spot and asked the gentleman in the yard if he knew anything about her. He told us that she had been in the area for over a week. She had taken up with a pack of wild dogs for a bit, but had been back out on the road … patiently waiting … for several days. She had been abandoned.
It took us a while to earn her trust, but canned dog food and a make-shift noose-leash helped us grab her. She reluctantly got into the rear of the van.
We were as afraid of her as she was of us. She certainly wasn’t trained. She didn’t know the word “sit” at all and she was under the mistaken idea that the couch was for her comfort. But, she was a mild-tempered sweet dog.
And she did.not like to be left alone … at home … outside …. or even in a room. She shadowed us – especially me – for ages.
I searched high and low for her owners. I put out flyers and placed ads in the papers. I called the pound to leave her information. Then I began the arduous task of calling the local vets. One at a time, I called hoping to find that there was a family in search of her.
Surely … they were looking …. right?
It was around the tenth to fifteenth call that struck me a blow. The merciful woman at the vet’s office said,
“If you keep looking, you will probably eventually find her owner. But, you will be returning her to someone who does not want her and was not kind to her. You will be handing her back over to harm. If you have had her for three weeks, you need to consider her your own and drop the search. It is obvious that you care more about her than her previous owners did.”
We couldn’t call her Spot or Domino. She wasn’t an Oreo.
Who was she? She was so pleasant … so sweet.
We named her Dulcie, which comes from the latin root word dulcet …
which means “sweet” … because she was.
When we found her, she was thin and tattered. She looked like she had the mange. A vet visit explained that she chewed off her hair in multiple places because she was overcome with irritation from fleas. She had a terrible cold and was frightfully fearful of us. She had wounds on the back of her neck where she’d been bitten by the other dogs. She had a rear leg scar that proved that she was once hit by a car. And she had heart worms. And she was probably around three or four years old when we found her.
It took a lot of work to help her become healthy and happy. It took months and months to keep her off the couch. And I still remember her following me upstairs or to the back of the house for a year or more after we rescued her. She couldn’t stand the thought of … being left.
She was gentle and calm. She was expressive and protective.
And she was incredibly grateful that she was ours.
Off and on for years, before going to bed, I would stop at her bed
and place my head on her neck and tell her how much I loved her.
And she responded so sweetly … with little agreeable moans
as if to say, “I love you, too, Mom.”
She fretted when we packed the vehicle for a trip. She knew SOME.one was preparing to leave. She hated to be left behind. She often went on trips with us. But, not always. When I would load the van in preparation to leave, she would take it upon herself to find a travel spot …
in hopes that she would be included.
It always broke my heart if I knew I would have to ask her to step out before closing the doors.
The last trip that she went on was this past year during spring break. Stone and Jet adored Dulcie and were happy for us to bring her along to Atlanta. We spent a few days on Lake Lanier with my sweet friends, the Baskins, as well. This is the last trip photo that I have of her. She had followed me out onto a tiny portion of a deck and found a sunny spot to wait for me while I snapped photos of the lake from that wonderful vantage point. She was right under my feet … where she was most content.
This past year, she had a few accidents on the floor. Sometimes, her joints would lock up when she got off her bed and she would fall. I watched her think herself youthful and jump with enthusiasm from a few steps too high on the deck down to the ground. A few times, her legs splayed out from under her. I was fearful that she might injure herself. And that she did.
Several months ago, she began to wince and cry out in pain while standing beside me at the dining table. Within a day, I realized that this was not something that would quickly heal away. A vet visit with x-rays pointed to a slipped disc between the shoulder blades. That made sense. That would be the point that would take the impact when she did those adventurous jumps to the ground. Surgery for a dog of unknown age that was already having joint trouble was out of the question. Drugs and rest would be the best route.
She seemed to be improving for several days, but took a downward turn the following weekend. I was out-of-town at a weekend bike ride so the big kids were in charge of her care. I truly see this as God’s merciful intervention.
During the week while I was home, I had this gut feeling that things weren’t going to get back to a “healthy normal.” I told all three of the children that they should love on Dulcie. I told them that she was not young and that she might not fully recover.
I don’t think they believed me.
But, while I was gone, they had to call the vet again. Her pain was escalating to a fearful level. Glory and James were both in tears. But, I had to let them handle things. They called the vet. They got a new medication. Through their having to be responsible for her, they were so much more sympathetic to her … and in the end knew that this was much more serious than it had originally appeared to them.
But, on Friday night, I had to travel home. She couldn’t find comfort. She was crying out in pain while lying still on the floor. The pain had even made her vomit. She hadn’t eaten her food. She hadn’t had a drink most of the day. She wouldn’t go outside to pee. She couldn’t get comfortable. All she could do was lie there and cry in pain.
I made the hour and a half long trip home. When I got there, she was trembling and panting on my bedroom floor. She wanted to get up and greet me .. but couldn’t. I stretched out on the floor and laid her head across my thigh. We covered her with her blanket and just sat there still, petting her and telling her we loved her. I called Joy so that she could come home from her daddy’s to tell Dulcie good-bye. Glory came over from her apartment, as well. James was already there.
I didn’t think I could lift her without hurting her
to take her to the vet.
Our incredible vet
actually made a house call
at 11:30 pm on a Friday night .. to put her to sleep.
And in that still, quiet night
in the comfort of my bedroom,
without even a whimper
she took her last deep breath.
She didn’t flinch.
She didn’t gasp.
She just laid there sweet and pleasant
and left us
and her pain.
I miss her so.