I couldn't figure out why it was bothering me so much.
Last week, my oldest dog, Kate, started having seizures. At first, it was just a couple of times a day, but then they started coming at quicker intervals. It was heartbreaking to watch, but in between them, Kate was her normal self. She was eating and jumping on my bed and just generally being Kate.
Then one morning, when it was time for her to go outside, she wouldn't get off the bed. I helped her down, but she didn't want to move. Because she was having such a hard time, I fixed a place for her in my room, and gave her food and water. She was content to lie down, but she wouldn't budge an inch, no matter how much I coaxed her.
When I came home early that afternoon, I realized that Kate couldn't see. Whatever was giving her seizures had now stolen her sight. She could hear me talking to her, but she couldn't find me.
It broke my heart. Kate just celebrated her 13th birthday, and she was the last of her litter to still be alive. Her brothers Wish, Ted and Ox had all passed earlier, and now I only had Kate.
From the day she was born, Kate was mean. She didn't like anyone except me and my business partner. She wasn't what most people would call a good dog; she was snarly and growly and didn't like to ride in a car.
But I liked her. My friend used to tell me that Kate and I had the same personality. I think that she was right, at least partly.
Kate was my snuggle buddy, she would jump in my lap, turn her belly up and fit herself into the crook of my arm.
I was affected by the loss of my other dogs in the past couple of years, and it seems like everty time I turned around, I had lost another old dog.
But for some reason, the thought of losing Kate was killing me. I felt bad when her brothers died, but nothing like this.
I e-mailed my friend about Kate, and she offered to take her to the vet for the final visit. Because my work hours are later than the vet clinic's hours, my friend knew I would have to wait a couple of days before I could take her.
In my e-mail, I told my friend that I just couldn't understand it, why I was having such a hard time with losing Kate.
She e-mailed me back, and she hit the nail on the nose. Here is what she wrote:
"You feel so close to her because she has been there with you every night and every time you cried when you were in the dumps. She was there for you no matter what you were feeling or needing. Not like the other selfish dogs who only wanted you to let them outside and feed them. She laid in bed with you when you were sick and had to be in bed for days. Never caring about anything but being by you. I know it's going to be very hard. But you have to do right by her. She was there for you, now it's time for you to be there for her."
Man, was she right. When I was sick, Kate was willing to lie next to me, her warm body a comfort when I was shaking with chills. She would go outside to eat and drink and do her business, but, unlike the other dogs, who wanted to run and hassle everything, Kate couldn't wait to come back in the house and snuggle down next to me.
I guess I took Kate for granted during that time. But she is one of the biggest reasons that I got through tough times. My friend was right. Kate was there for me when I needed her, and now I had to be there for her.
So my friend came that afternoon and took Kate for her last visit to the vet. The staff at the clinic were more than kind; they understood when my friend cried, and they helped Kate pass from this life into the next.
And now I am down to only three dogs. Three dogs that drive me crazy, and half the time make me wonder what in the world I'm doing owning dogs. Len and Peg and Jan can be destructive, evil dogs, and they make me realize how much I appreciated Kate.
But on the first night without Kate, when I saw Kate's fleece throw on the bed and I started crying, Jan jumped up on the bed and laid down next to me. She was quiet but alert, watching me as I cried.
For a while, I ignored her. But she didn't move, so I finally started petting her. She closed her eyes, and that's how I fell asleep -- my hand on Jan's head and my head next to Kate's fleecy throw.
I know that Kate is in a better place, a place where there are no seizures and there is a soft, comfy bed for her to lay on. Her brothers are there, and she is having fun working sheep with Ty, her dad. The knowledge of that is what has kept me going for the past week, and will comfort me in the future. I miss her, but like my friend said, it was her time and we helped ease her out of this world and into the next.
Losing a dog is never easy, especially the old ones. But I know that Kate had a good life, and she made my life fuller. I hate this part of owning a dog, it hurts so much when they die. Their lives are much shorter than ours, and that pretty much means we will outlive them.
So Jan and Lenny and Peg and I go on. I know that someday those three will be old, Len is already well on his way. He's approaching his ninth birthday, and he has slowed down a lot.
And as much as I miss Kate, those three dogs have helped me make it through the past week. No matter how bad they are, they are always, always glad to see me. And although I'm hurting, they make me feel better when I get home. Thanks guys, I owe you one.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.