Yesterday I had to say goodbye to a friend. I had been saying farewell for a few months now since she had been first diagnosed with bone cancer. Nevertheless, when the day came it was as difficult as the day I was first told.
I guess, we people, even knowing the inevitably, always have a secret hope of a different outcome. Isn’t that silly and strange? Attachment is a b*tch!
Fourteen years ago, a dog with a broken leg asked for help. She was scared. We took her to the vet clinic and after a brilliant surgery, I took her home.
Over so many years there are many stories with Rita, but there are two that show how special she was.
You see, when I adopted Rita I already had another dog. A little black senior dog who had been suffering from hernia problems and heart disease for a while ( he was eleven years old when Rita came to our lives and he died eight years later with nineteen years old).
Pirucas was his name. Now this dog was a little crazy, specially during those days. Probably the pain that he was going through made him want to bite for no reason. I would be walking in front of him and if, unluckily, he had a pain at that moment, my ankles or legs would be targeted. I have to admit sometimes I got scared of him even though he had been my dog since I was 13 years old.
Of course, when this beautiful blonde tigress came to our house, Pirucas got rejuvenated as if he had drunk a miraculous youthful love potion and ,oh the things he would do to Rita.
In the beginning we would separate them both. Rita would stay in the kitchen with one of those baby safety gates, but that never stopped Pirucas. He would go under the gate, and with his back , lift the door until the lock opened. Once inside, spring would take over Pirucas and Rita would patiently suffer the harassment even though she was triple his size. No, no babies came out of that platonic relationship but not because lack of trying from his side.
Anyway, one day I was laying down in the bedroom carpet while reading a book, and suddenly Pirucas jumped on top of me while having a rage fit. One moment I was reading, the other moment I had a dog with a lunatic look showing his teeth millimetres away from my face. I was aware at that moment that whatever move I made he would attack and bite my face off. Pirucas was out of control. But Rita was there. At the moment I thought he was going to attack, Rita jumped on top of me as well and gave an inward growl to Pirucas with her mouth close to his neck.
I was paralysed. I had a dog showing his teeth at me and another one with 30 kg threatening the first dog. I thought “That is it, I’m screwed and I’ll be lucky if I’m not bitten and Pirucas dies“. But somehow, after listening Rita’s soft inward growl and her breath near his ears, he started to relax and started to be his usual self. His eyes relaxed and both got off me.
This was the first time Rita protected me.
A few weeks after and quite early in a winter morning, I was walking the dogs before going to work. The roads were silent and the only light was the early morning dew. Rita being so young and full strength would go running to the park, while Pirucas and I would slowly walk. As we were climbing the stairs onto the park, a man was coming down. Because I was alone with Pirucas with no one at sight and no lights, I immediately felt unsafe. Worst was when the man thought it was a good idea to corner and harass me. Rita who was nowhere to be seen, must have felt something because she came back to the top of the stairs and seeing the man around me, flew over eighty steps straight to him and while barking cornered him away from me against the wall. As I noticed he was reaching for a pocket-knife, I called Rita who followed me, this time always behind and still barking at the man who had to decided to run away.
And for the second time Rita saved me.
She would die first before allowing anybody hurt me and I knew that.
She travelled with me for ten years all over the world. Because of her I travelled inside a dog’s kennel for six hours, because of her we had a wild moose running towards us, and because of her every time there was a thunder I slept in the floor next to her. She loved snow and she loved the beaches. She was there when my first was born, and she used to ask to go to the garage during the toddler years so she could escape the crazy horse plays.
She loved to run after iguanas but what gave her the thrill was to chase after cats. She used to cry every time I left the house and suffered from separation anxiety. She was my alarm clock long before I had children.
In the last months, when she had no strength left to go the second floor, she would gently cry if there were thunders or if she wanted me to take her walking. Somehow I would hear her, and half-sleeping, I would bring my pillow down and tuck near her in the floor.
The days that there were no thunders, and before coming down I would start listening to her tail banging excitedly, and I knew she was there waiting for me.
Few people will understand this, but what can I say she was my dog and she never left me down.
I hope I didn’t let her down as well.
Rita was a special dog, a one of a kind to me. She was loved and she is missed dearly. She was born is Portugal in 2003, she travelled to Canada, Mexico, Russia, and Norway. She died in March 2017 in Congo not before giving us funny stories to write about.
To all the people who have lost a friend like Rita : hang on there! Even though our hearts hurt and we miss them to the aching point, we are better people because they loved us so much.
Better to have a heart tendered with pain than never having felt at all.