1994 - 2011
I never wanted a "small dog," which I defined, back then, as anything under 40 pounds or so. I had had Great Danes and then Chelsea, an eighty-pound PooWoof, a "poodle in a Wolfhound" body. Then came Buster, weighing in at sixty pounds. This little white imp of a pup at 10 months old weighed in at only twenty some pounds.
Wow, did Sandy Mae teach me a lot. She taught me about joie de vivre, canine style. She helped me learn the craft of clicker training, always a willing volunteer in my education. And she worked with me, side by side, for 14 years, helping me teach unschooled dogs how to respect their elders and canine "cut-off signals." Of course, she was also raised by Buster, who was the master of that game.
She still loved to run agility courses at age 12. When she was a young whippersnapper, first competing in USDAA, she jumped 22". Later, she jumped 20" and then 16", and finally, she ran like the wind over 12" jumps still barking at Auntie Sharon on the start line. Gotta bark on the start line, Ma!
Her later years were filled with camping, exploring, hikes, begging, and slowing down. She had no health issues. She lost her hearing, she lost some of her sight, but she just got old gracefully. As long as she was confident and perky, I was happy.
December 12, 2011
Today I let Sandy go, happily munching warm Burger King French fries, loaded with fat and salt. The decision to let her go was a hard one, even with all the time I had to reconcile to the fact that she was declining in ways that affected her quality of life. But, I knew it was time. It was the right thing to do, but it still hurts like hell.
I'm okay, really. 18 years. Who could possibly ask for more? But, to share what Nikki wrote to me, it really changes it all: I, too, know the joy of 18 years. Thanks, Nikki, for reminding me to revel in what I had instead of what I thought I lost.
So when you see me next, don't be sad (I'll lose it!). Instead, pump your fist in the air, and say, "18!" Way to go, Sandy!!!"
P.S. Natalie, thank you SO much for contributing so much to Sandy's enjoyment of "the senior" life. You were so good at sharing Boxie's space and meatballs with her (during your class time) that I'll never forget when she starting *barking* at you. That's my Sandy, the bossy, demanding one.
Sandy Mae was rescued by my friend Diane from a neglectful home after she found Sandy chasing cars on the street just one too many times with one too many excuses about why she was loose — again. From a young age, Sandy would get out of the neighbor's back yard and come over to Diane's. Diane would let her come in and play with her dogs and then, regretfully, lower her in a bucket over the fence back into the neighbor's yard.
Sandy was what I understand is called a "failed foster." I said I would foster her, actually found her a home across the street with a very nice family, but asked for her back when Buster was inconsolable, sitting at the front door, whining at the house across the street, running to me, running back to the front door, and making it very clear that he wanted her back. Sandy, meanwhile, was barking and trying to dig out of their backyard to come back. Sigh. Really? A small dog, Buster?
There aren't many candid photos of Sandy Mae because she was convinced that cameras meant flashing light and she was certain that flashing lights meant thunder. And she HATED thunder.
Eighteen years later I still remember:
that sassy, sassy bark, eyes bright, demanding that she be the center of the universe
she the teacher and me the student: Wouldn't it be a tragedy to use a choke chain on such a free spirit so ready to be enjoyed for who she could be instead of who we could make her not be?
her will to recover after bilateral hip surgery at age 7
her love of Buster
with very little vision left, barking "at the blobs with pockets" (agility students) who surely had food to share (it worked!)
the smile on her face, especially at the beach, when she knew you were going to t-h-r-o-w "t-h-e "B-A-L-L.
200% engagement in teaching us both clicker training and what a gas it was!!!!
barking at me to click faster, and get a grip on criterion and rate of reinforcement for crying out loud!
choking back a bark because it meant a timeout and no click (it sounded like a huge gulp with a little squeak that got out)
her "snaggle tooth," one canine larger than the other and a bit of a puckish face
hanging her head out the little slider window in the back of my old El Camino, air snapping at white sedans going by (no flames, please, about not having her in a crate). Pickup trucks, no problem. Dark cars, no problems. White sedans, "get'em!"
getting her Master Agility Dog (MAD) title and following through on my pledge of French fries for a MAD
running agility in her senior years with Auntie Sharon ... she loved her Auntie Sharon
waiting outside the little fence for Saturday's agility class to finish so she could visit with Auntie Sharon ... she demanded her Auntie Sharon
her friend (rest in peace, Chris) going to MacDonalds, buying a bag of French fries, driving around the outskirts of The Field where we walked our dogs, and gleefully flinging French fries out the window, then driving over to my house, picking up Sandy, and taking her for a French fry hunt. Just because he knew she'd love it, no special occasion, just because he loved Sandy Mae, especially Sandy Mae, always Sandy Mae ... because she was "bossy and sassy and wouldn't let anyone "train" her otherwise." :)
running up on the berm at The Field to better keep an eye out for a little red station wagon and leading the charge with Buster to be the first one to get to Chris when he opened the car door.
Walking through every puddle in her path and even if they weren't
rolling in mud and being so happy with her new appearance
her smile, always her smile and the sparkle in her eyes
"Even after 18 years, it hurts like hell."
"I'm sorry, but I'm so glad you had such a glorious, wonderful life together."
"I'll miss little Miss Grabby Lips during agility class. Hugs."
"Well, when it's time, that's one heck of a nice way to go...and 18 is "quite" impressive...so way to go Sandy (and leveraging high value treats at the end...she had the last laugh, huh?! She was a lucky girl!""
"You had a wonderful full life with her and she is lucky to have had you as her human partner!""
"She will be missed but celebrated.I hope I am lucky enough to have some of my pet partners with me that long!!"
"18 years of love and joy is indeed something to celebrate! And thank YOU for allowing us to make Sandy a class participant and for helping to teach Boxie how to share."It was a positive experience for all.Hugs and love."
"18" is a helluva ride!!"
"We should all be as lucky as Sandy to have lived the long, active and love filled life that she did. When you have a moment when maybe you can handle a story that will touch you (and make you sad), check out:
Hearing about Sandy eating French fries made me think of this story. I'm glad she got to enjoy junk food. Sandy is now romping freely. Here's hoping that there is a Burger King at the Rainbow Bridge."
"I am so sorry about Sandy Mae, but 18!" Wow!" And she felt good enough to eat french fries when you let her go. Kristy Netzer once told me that she let one of her dogs go (I think it was Jubilee) while she was eating ice cream, and I always thought that was the most wonderful way for that to happen.
Just so you know, if you come to class tomorrow, I will not mention Sandy Mae to you."Know that you have my complete and utter sympathy, but I also know what it's like to be hanging on by a thread, and one word can start the floodgates.
I, too, someday hope to know the joy of 18 years.
You were very lucky." And so was Sandy Mae."