This is a blog post of a personal nature.
It has been a couple years since I lost one of my best friends, my Golden Retriever, Panda. But, I still miss her every day. Family and friends have tried to talk me into getting another dog to take her place, but I haven’t convinced myself to make that step. For one, I don’t think another dog could take her place. Sure, I would be able to bond with another dog. I bond with all my friends’ dogs. But, Panda was so much more to me than I could ever have imagined a dog could be.
She wasn’t just a dog.
She was my friend (and yes, I talked to her).
She was a loyal companion.
When I was sad, she comforted me.
She cheered me up by her mere personality.
She gave unconditional love.
And, she was my bodyguard. Goldens are known for loving people, and Panda was no exception. Her tail wagged constantly when people approached. But, she wouldn’t hesitate to bark when trouble was near, or when incidents occurred that she needed to alert me to. One time, there was a gas smell in the basement that Panda alerted me to. When I caught on, I called the Fire Department. Sure enough, a gas leak occurred in the gas station up the street and was making its way down the street under the homes. Other homeowners called not long after.
The original purpose of wanting a dog was for security. My significant other is a firefighter who works twenty-four hour shifts, but he also works for the fire academy and travels the state instructing other fire departments. So, I am alone, a lot. Plus, I have one of those auras that seems to attract all kinds of characters (I could tell you stories). I’m known as the approachable one, but I couldn’t explain why. But these days, you can’t be too careful.
So anyway, from the moment I brought Panda home, at six weeks old, she was always at my side. From the start, that puppy was awesome. I crate-trained her which worked perfectly. No, I didn’t keep her in the crate all the time. But, I set it up like a little apartment, and let her sleep in there at night, right next to my bed, (until she was old enough to sleep with me). And I would put her in if I had to run to the store, or errands and such. She spent most of her time with me, roaming the house, or outside in the yard.
She only went to the bathroom on the floor – once – when I first brought her home. She didn’t chew my socks, or shoes. She only nibbled on the chewies and toys that were Vet-recommended. Even when she was a rambunctious puppy, running up and down the stairs daring me to play, she still didn’t vandalize the house the way puppies normally do. She was a terror-free puppy. I would have loved her just the same if she would have chewed on my favorite boots. She just didn’t do any of that. I expected to have her around for years – or at least until she was twelve or thirteen. I knew some Goldens had hip issues, etc, so I knew things could crop up. I just wasn’t prepared for it, when she was only six.
One of the things Panda did do; was eat grass. No matter where we were. I knew dogs would eat the grass if they had an upset tummy, but Panda did all the time. When we went for walks, she would stop to do her business. Sniff around, and without fail, take a few nibbles. When we went camping, and walking along the water, the same. If we walked through the woods, she would find some there. It seemed everywhere we went it was just the natural thing for her to do. I wish I could have stopped her.
When she was six-years-old, Panda came down with a tummy bug. She became lethargic after our walks. Then, she stopped eating as much and would only drink small amounts of water. She started to throw up. At first, most of what came up was the grass she had been eating. Then after two days, just yellow liquid. But, I could see it in her eyes. There was something wrong with my puppy – something seriously wrong. I just knew it. When my significant other asked me what was wrong with her, I said in a voice filled with emotion: “I think she’s dying”. He, of course, thought I was exaggerating because of my feelings for the dog.
We loaded Panda into the SUV and took her to the Vet. I answered all the questions. Did she eat anything unusal? Was she ever out of your eyesight, and got a hold of something? I told the Vet she was with me 24/7. I walked the dog three times a day, so I knew what went into her system. The Vet took a bunch of tests, checked her blood. The blood test would take several hours for the results. But then, he informed me that he could give her a shot which would stop the vomiting, and she would probably be back to normal within a couple hours. Of course, I agreed to the shot. I just wanted my dog’s pain to go away. I remember the Vet’s last words to me.
“Don’t worry. She should be okay within a couple hours.”
He was wrong.
When we got home, I put Panda’s bed next to my computer. Before I got back to my writing, I sat down on the floor next to her. I pet her behind the ears the way she loves. Then, I found myself lying down next to her – on the floor – almost as if I had a six sense of what was to come.
Sure enough, forty-five minutes later, I was sitting at the desk writing away (writing seems easier when I am emotional for some reason). Panda hadn’t moved for a few minutes, so I looked down at her. She was lying on her side, her paws out in front of her. But she wasn’t breathing. My Panda was gone.
After the blood test had returned, the Vet discovered there was a small amount of anti-freeze in her system. And, I immediately felt guilty, and responsible. I was with that dog around the clock. I walked her. I watched her nibble on the grass. We walked around the park, where cars were parked, where anti-freeze could have spilled. The Vet said it only takes a small amount to do the damage. Unfortunately, Panda’s love to chew on the grass was the reason she died.
Should I have stopped her from eating the grass? I know I wish I did. Then, maybe she’d still be here with me. Truthfully, I couldn’t have stopped it. All of my friends’ dogs eat grass. Heck, some of them eat the branches off the trees, and huge chunks of wood. All they wind up with is smelly gas. It was just an unfortunate thing. For whatever reason, my Panda was needed elsewhere, so she could bestow her unconditional love onto someone else.
She will always be missed.