Saturday, April 10, 2010

Of Pigs and Dogs and Undying Love

We weren’t supposed to get her. The breeder handed us a boy, a black and brown Australian shepherd puppy that we immediately named Pippin. Pippin seemed to be a playful pup at the breeder’s house, frolicking with his siblings, but when Ed and I took him home, he was withdrawn and seemed sad. Pippin was not interested in toys or other games. He wanted to lie silently in the foyer. His eyes were cloudy. His walk was slow. The ride to our house even made him carsick. After a few days, we thought Pippin must be ill, and we sadly took him back. The minute he returned to his brothers and sisters, his whole personality changed and he was happy, running around and playing. We then realized Pippin was not sick; he was just not content to be by himself, and was meant to live in a house where there were other dogs to play with.

At this point, we saw another Aussie puppy in the room - a dog with blue merle coloring, with patches of black, gray, white, and touches of tan. The first thing that stood out was her nose, which was almost totally pink with a few tiny black spots. The second thing was her one blue eye and one brown eye. We fell in love at first sight and took her home. The car ride did not bother her at all. We called her Pinky.

She didn’t bark for a few weeks. She just grunted. We even thought maybe she had a physical inability to bark. One day on the porch, Ed, who was outside trying to housetrain her and trying to hurry her up, said quickly, “C’mon, Babe.” The puppy’s ears perked right up and she stopped in her tracks and looked up at Ed. Ed thought, “She likes the name Babe.” Her breed of dog was bred to herd sheep, and we remembered that wonderful movie, Babe, about a pig who thought she was a dog, who became a champion shepherd. This puppy would be our Babe, our pig-dog with a pink nose who only grunted for the first few weeks. She would be our constant companion for 7 years. She was Ed’s special friend, keeping him company while I was at work. I can’t tell you how many times I came home from work, and he’d say, “Babe and I were talking and we came to a decision. I need to cut down on my pipe smoking/I don’t really need to buy a new pair of jeans/I need to drink more tea and less coffee....” When she’d come in with mud and gravel attached to her fur, Ed would smile and say, “We need to clean you up, you dirty little pig!”

I am so sorry to say that Babe developed epilepsy about 4 years ago. At first it was mild, then it progressed into cluster seizures, 9 in 24 hours, 15 in 24 hours. The electrical storms in her brain was starting to do damage. After this last round of 15 seizures, finally, it affected her ability to walk without stumbling, her ability to recognize us. She forgot how to move her back legs to stand up from a sitting position. She forgot how to tell us she needed to go out. She would get into a tight spot and forget how to back up to get free. She even forgot how to climb into the car. The seizures had done their work and taken our beloved Babe to another dimension. We made the agonizing decision to have her put down on Friday.

It was not an easy decision, and we will never be totally assured that it was the right one. But she had suffered so much. We had all suffered so much, because love will do that to you.

We were in line at the grocery store shortly thereafter, trying to hold the tears inside, when I heard the customer in front of me tell the cashier she had just had surgery and had beaten breast cancer. She was understandably overjoyed. There we were - the happiness of life and health, and the overwhelming sadness of grief and loss - side by side in line. I realized I was in the midst of the very cycle of life. Our third grandchild, a boy, will be born this summer, a few months after Babe will have been gone. Death and birth, within months of each other. Losing and gaining, and experiencing life, as they say, “In sickness and in health, to love and to cherish ‘til death us do part,” - and life goes on.

We weren't supposed to get her. But it turned out we were supposed to get her. The hole she has left never gets completely healed. The memories will stay forever in our minds and hearts. But in the ebb and flow of this earthly existence, we pray to experience acceptance, reassurance, gratitude, and grace, thankful that we were blessed with such a dog as Babe.


Pamela said...


Babe played such an important role in your family. Im so sorry for your lose-what a great pup she was!


Sarah said...

We will all miss her. This was a beautiful blog entry.

Cuidado said...

Oh, Carol, I'm so sorry for the loss of your beloved pet. Her behaviors sound like our dog who succumbed to brain tumors a few years ago. She will live on in your hearts forever in a special part reserved for those animals we have loved. I feel your great loss.

Carol Tiffin James said...

Thanks, everyone. She was one special lady.