Ode to Sassy

In a moment, my arms were empty and I would never, again, see her happy smile. Our life changed the moment Sassy died. Diabetes killed her. Her doctors had tried valiantly to save her, but her pancreas, smaller than a thumb, gave out…this time we would not bring her home. We made the only decision a caring parent of a pet-child can make.

Her small fox-like face and black fur were particularly pretty against the soft blue blanket I had wrapped around her. I held her like a swaddled infant and sang softly to her as I had done so many times in our years together. Then, in a moment, she closed her eyes and left. In a moment, everything changed. She will no longer scratch at my leg when I have been writing too long. My arms will always be empty of her black fur, nor will I again, see her mischievous, happy smile. In a moment, our hearts broke. Our world changed.

For the past three years, we had adjusted our life to caring for Sassy. We fed her on a strict schedule and prepared her meals in our kitchen. Our weekend activities began or ended only before or after Sassy had been fed and given her last insulin shot for the day. We never gave a moment’s thought to any other choices.

Sassy must have known that her time on earth would be limited to almost six, short years. Sassy was a black toy Pomeranian I rescued from a puppy mill. The cages behind the double-wide were guarded by large, high strung dogs. We followed instructions and stayed in the car.

After a short wait, a woman appeared out of the trailer carrying a puppy wrapped in a towel. I stepped out of the car, took the wet puppy placed it underneath my winter coat and held her under my heart.

You were so tiny and shivering, all black fur and small enough to fit into a ladies glove, you became mine the moment our hearts met. Lee paid the agreed upon bail and we drove away. Leaving what would have been a short, unhappy life of a puppy-mill bitch-dog. Lee named her. I sang to her. And Jipper, her three year old brother, also a Pomeranian, licked her face. You were six weeks old and not as long as the television remote. As you know, we spent most of that first night watching you. We were family.

As she grew, Sassy became, not the seven-pound toy Pomeranian, instead, Sassy was a dog. Sassy grew to fourteen pounds and was sassy. She trained her father to take her out at 2 a.m. two or three nights a week. She convinced him to rise and walk her by licking his bald head until he relented. Their nightly sojourns continued until she left us.

Once, when the four of us, Lee, me, Jipper, and Sassy, were visiting our home in North Carolina, we had a picnic. During the evening someone gave Sassy a spear of cooked broccoli. Since, she was probably already full, she buried the broccoli. We left for Los Angeles the next day, not to return to our home in NC for three months. The morning we arrived we were all out checking the garden on the back patio. Sassy dug up her broccoli and ate it.

In Los Angeles, there are claw marks on the Palm tree on the corner, where the squirrel waited for Sassy on morning walks. It was a game of seek and catch, the squirrel never lost because between the two of them; only the squirrel could climb trees. A fact which had not gone unnoticed by Sassy who during her lifetime made several attempts and did learn to climb the palm tree until gravity won. Sassy loved to run, she would run in circles until she tired and then she would fall asleep. like an innocent in summer grass. Each day we fell more and more in love with our little angel clown. Sassy and Jipper adored each other. Like all sisters and brothers, they picked on the other and kept each other company at the vet’s office, and when we were absent.

Life with Sassy was never boring and Sassy seemed happy even when she was sick. But I would say that the happiest day of Sassy’s life was a December day on a small farm outside Los Angeles. It was a curious and handsome house and you explored every nook and cranny. We spent the day with friends who raised twenty or so chickens. If we were outside, Sassy was chasing a chicken or chickens. They were running and trying for take-off’s that would land them safely on the lower limbs.

The squawking was louder than a Lady GaGa concert. Once, the chickens tried a strategy; they all gathered in the henhouse waiting for Sassy to run into their domain where they would peck the little aggravation in the head. Sassy trotted over to the hen house…stuck her head inside, and decided her job was done. She cut and ran for the porch. No one, there was no distraction that could stop Sassy from chasing the chickens. It lasted all day tiring all.

We left as the sun was beginning to spread across the horizon. By this time, the chickens were exhausted and so was Sassy. Both were too tired to run. As we walked to the car, a chicken would step from the crowd and take their turn walking in circles and letting Sassy sniff her feathers.

Sassy’s last trip was to the Atlantic Ocean. It is a natural…a beach and a dog. She ran straight into the sea. She chased every bird that had the audacity to land on her beach. She followed them into the water. I saw her jump over sea foam and seemed startled when the water was deeper on the other side. We walked up and down the beach and when Sassy tired; we carried her home. Sassy, you were my perfect angel and the only dog I ever raised from a puppy.

We knew she was not feeling well, and when we got home; we took her to the vet. We did not know that seven days later; she would be worse not better, ready to come home. It had been a week of tubes and shots, but she lay in her cage and smiled at everyone who passed. We visited her twice a day and she brightened with each visit. But, she was far too sick to recover. Her pancreas was destroyed.

Before noon, on Friday, January 22, 2010, I kissed her goodbye and together her parents grieved for our dog-child. She gave us laughter and unconditional love, I read once that God created dogs to show us unconditional love; hoping maybe we would learn from them. We said goodbye to our wonderful companion. Sassy was of another time. A time when there was a land called Pomerania where a proud breed of dogs known as Pomeranians herded sheep…and chickens. Some say pomeranians could climb trees.

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