Fair warning—this post turned out to be more of a tear jerker than I expected. I needed at least three tissues to finish writing it. Don’t worry; Rosie’s fine!
Rosie is not an uncommon dog. After we adopted her, I was astounded by the number of lookalike, Chow-mix dogs I ran across all over the place. There were at least two others in our small neighborhood alone. Sometimes this would lead to confusion: one neighbor drove by me slowly in his pickup truck one night when I was walking Rosie, then came back around and asked, “Where did you get that dog?” Turned out he was out looking for his own fuzzy black dog, which had slipped through a gate, and thought I’d grabbed him.
Rosie is an uncommon dog. I like to tell the story of how I chose her from among the hundreds that went through the Humane Society while I was volunteering there. I was aiming for a mid-size dog (larger than a beagle, smaller than a golden retriever), and I had three criteria: the dog must be excited about the human approaching its run, but must not be a jumper or a barker. Rosie nailed her audition, and was the only dog I looked at. And she’s proven to be a quiet, affectionate dog whose first instinct on meeting new people is to run up to them and sit down for petting.
She is so laid-back, very little fazes her. Aside from becoming mostly deaf and blind to me in the presence of other dogs, she passes by most anything else with barely a ruffle. We’ve been by backfiring cars, sirens, power equipment of all sorts, and the most she’s done is startle briefly then go in for an investigatory sniff.
When I saw her calm nature and friendly manner, I immediately thought of using her as a therapy dog. I got hooked up with a therapy group through my vet, did some basic obedience training with her on my own, and eventually we were certified through Therapy Dogs International.
We visited local nursing homes and hospitals for about a year and a half. I enjoyed reaching out to the older folks stuck in a hospital environment, and it was a good, tiring afternoon for Rosie. I especially enjoyed the visits arranged once a year at a local camp for kids with cerebral palsy; Rosie seems to really enjoy children. But I never did get her to stop pulling and pulling at the leash, and it became less and less fun for me and her, so eventually I let our certification expire.
Rosie still gets to keep in practice, though. One friend in particular—a big-dog lover currently living with two small dogs—can’t get enough full-body hugs when she comes to visit. I need my share of good big Rosie hugs, too, on those long weeks when I hardly see Miss Chef. But my favorite is when a young child no taller than Rosie herself runs over and wraps his arms around her with a big grin.
Today, however Rosie came fully out of therapy retirement for brief time. We were out for our usual walk and passed by a house I know well. It’s where one of her twins lives, a slightly smaller dog named Tia. I’ve not been a big fan of Tia—she's always been a nervous dog, prone to growl and snap when she's not comfortable. Her owners also let her run free for several years (I’ve had more than one person tell me Rosie had been loose or bit their dog, when I knew she was safely home or with me). But the resemblance was so strong between our pets that I remained friendly with the family. Their two children always run up to pet Rosie when they see us in the park, telling me each time, “She looks just like my dog!”
As we walked by their house today, I saw them all outside, working in the yard. Their daughter, who’s probably about 12 or 13, met my eye and we said hello. I could tell she wanted to pet Rosie, so I stopped to chat.
“She looks like Tia,” Emma said. “We just had to have Tia put to sleep.”
I learned Tia was older than I realized; 11 years. She’d always had hip problems, which I’d never noticed. Recently she started drinking heavily and having accidents. When they took her to the vet, they found a large growth, probably bone cancer. Tia was put down about a week ago.
Before I knew it, the entire family was gathered around my dog, telling me about Tia. They hugged Rosie and talked to her; showed me the places where they used to kiss Tia on the face, and how Rosie has the same forehead bump. They told me how Tia used to sleep under the cypress tree by the front door, and how she held off a man who was coming up the driveway in the dark, supposedly to sell something. They also offered—repeatedly—to dog-sit any time we needed it.
By the time we parted ways, they had stepped away from Rosie and we were talking about what kind of dog they might get next. I wondered if clinging so heavily to this reminder of their lost dog wasn’t a bad way to get through the grieving process, but their loss was so sudden I was very glad we could offer some comfort.
Someday, I know, I will be in their shoes, and will wish I could reach out and pet my dog one more time. But days like today will make it all worthwhile, in the end.