Carmen, Steve the dog's mate and our other friend, companion and protector, has now joined him in spirit as of 2/2 at 3am.
When a human or animal dies, it's easy to get stuck at the point of illness and departure. We can think of them as they were when we took care of them in sickness. But we must always remember all of our time together, from when it began.
Carmen came to us in a similar but better way than Steve.
She was one of a litter of pups that my wife found through an online association. The pups were being offered for free to good homes.
I stayed home but Mom, the kids and Steve went to check out the litter.
The idea was to find a mate for Steve and have the girl dog be our daughter's pup, Of course, she was a family friend.
The only female in a large litter, she was blondish and had white paw tips, like Steve. Her mom was a Lab and her dad a Corgi!
She was scared at first leaving mom and bros behind. Steve sniffed her and didn't get upset. She shook all the way home, held by our daughter.
From the nervous lil girl who came home that night, Carmen quickly grew. Steve's irritation with a pup grew to interest as she came of age. They bonded as a couple and had incidentally been neutered and spayed.
She was a bright girl, learned quickly yet could be stubborn lol. Down and sit were my contribution to her discipline.
She was as protective as she was loving. A quiet girl, Carmen made it quite clear of her presence when people approached.
Like Steve she wandered the house, and would lie down just about anywhere, often keeping us company watching TV or on the computer. Often she slept at the foot of our daughter's bed.
Of course, she always greeted us joyously, whether we were gone for a few minutes, a day or longer.
When we finally sent the kids to school after years f homeschooling, I'd ask her where my son was. Wait for him? She'd go sit at the back door and wait til he got home. Or, and through the years, she parked herself at the front door, patiently napping til someone came back. Bounding down the stairs was her other route to saying hello.
Til she got ill, she always trotted and bounced, never walked. As she aged, her hips started becoming arthritic so she waddled. even then she would climb the stairs, albeit always more slowly.
Carmen was smaller than Steve, but where he was wiry, she was built like a tank. Not only that, she was brave and tenacious when it came to threats on her family or herself. She was steadfast and always held her ground.
Last summer, just before she took a turn for the worse, she backed down a neighbor's Pitbull. A fence between them, she stood and matched and excelled frenzy, and the Pit backed up!
A week or so later, one of the kids left the front door open next door. The male Pit charged out, just as we got back from a ride.
He attacked, and Carmen went at it with him, causing him again to back off enough for Ruthie to put the male in a hold. That was remarkable in itself! And Carmen stayed right at her side, while I watched, not needing to intervene with my Glock. Unforgettable!
As summer faded, so did Carmen. It was slow then faster. We took her to the vet and treated the arthritis, then diabetes. But she had a brain tumor and there was no choice.
Her heart stopped and she just quit. Quietly, literally gone to sleep.
Dog stories in these tumultuous times?
Strength comes from all our love. Carmen had been part of that for 10 and a half years.
Her courage and tenacity and personal strength could well be a lesson for humans.
We need all we can get.
She's free and reunited with Steve. We believe it. Love never dies.