It has taken me a week to get myself together to write this post. I never imagined how strong my emotions would be after losing our beautiful Maltese, Roxy.
We got Roxy as a Christmas gift for our kids in 2000. My husband picked her out from a litter of Maltese puppies at a kennel in Utah. When she came to us at 8 weeks, she could fit in our hands. So tiny and so fragile with a lot of spunk.
It was my first time having an indoor dog so I had to get used to having an animal under foot. And because she was so little, we all had to be careful not to step on her. There were a lot of anxious moments the first couple of months, with a lot of near misses. It was a real miracle that she survived her first year!
I don’t know exactly how they do it, but dogs always choose their “alpha” dog – that person in the family that is their number one, go to, keeper of their utmost loyalty. Much to my delight, Roxy chose me to be her alpha dog. I loved being the one she preferred however I soon learned that that role carried with it a big responsibility. Many times through the years she would only “perform” for me which was exasperating at times. But all in all, I loved being her “one and only.”
It didn’t take long for her personality to take root. She was very curious and had to be in on everything going on in the household. Whenever anyone came to our house, she thought that person came to see her so she would never leave the room where our guests were because she didn’t want to miss out on anything. And man, was she ever smart. She understood English (no kidding) and knew exactly what you were saying to her. She could be obstinate at times, and would totally ignore our commands. Yet she would always eventually come around—but it had to be on her terms. Above all, she did not consider herself a dog and would get deeply offended if you tried to get her to play with other dogs.
Roxy truly was a member of our family. She slept on my husband’s and my bed, ran errands with us in the car, and went on family trips to Utah, Arizona, and even a houseboat vacation. Roxy was a ‘social eater.” She ate her dinner when we ate ours. She loved bacon, chicken, tortilla chips and chocolate chip cookies (we never let her have a bite with chocolate). She slept every morning and woke up around 2:00 in the afternoon—just in time for the kids to come home from school. If we went out and left her at home, she would sit at the top of the stairs and look out the cathedral window for us to return. When she heard us walking up the walkway, she would race down the stairs and be right at the door when we turned the key.
We had one horrible mishap with her on Christmas day 2010. We were all caught up in the hoopla of Christmas and weren’t paying attention to her. Consequently, she wandered off. We spent hours combing our neighborhood looking for her until it started to rain. We put up signs, knocked on strangers’ doors (on Christmas mind you) asking if we could check their back yards. Surprisingly, most people were very understanding, even though we were disturbing their holiday gatherings. As day turned in to night, we experienced such sadness and anxiety, not knowing if she was dead or alive. Thankfully, someone visiting their relatives for Christmas, found Roxy and took her home with them — 45 minutes away!!! Their relatives saw our signs and contacted us the next day to let us know she was safe. They returned her later that day and we were so relieved. In true Roxy fashion, she ignored us for two days, clearly blaming us for her ordeal.
She and I developed a night time routine because we went to bed earlier than my husband. As I got ready for bed, I put her on my bed and she would watch me. Usually, I would read before retiring and while I did, she would groom herself. When it was lights out time, she would snuggle in to my feet and I would say, “Good night Roxy. See you in the morning.” And we would both fall asleep. I always get up early, usually around 5:00 am, and she would pop right up with me. We had our morning routine too. I would take her out first thing and followed her around as she did her business. We would come back in the house and while I worked out in our home gym, she would wait for me in my bathroom to finish and shower. Before I left the house, she would snuggle in to her blanket and waited to take her nap until she knew I had left the house. Then, when I returned from work, she would always be up to greet me. What a great companion.
The last couple of years we watched as Roxy slowed down. One by one, as our kids left home, she would stay more and more to herself and not be as playful. Her final downfall started a few months ago. She had various ailments come up and we ended up spending more money on her the last four months of her life than all the previous years. Her last complication was similar to a human’s congestive heart failure. She had trouble breathing and you could see that she was in pain. X-rays determined she had a growth on her lungs and while we tried to stabilize her with medication, she lost weight and was steadily going downhill. We then found ourselves having to make THE DECISION. Definitely one of the hardest things we ever had to do. We knew she was in pain, we knew she would never recover, so we knew we were doing it for all the right reasons. Still, knowing our decision would be final was hard to face.
After a particularly bad night and day for Roxy, we called our vet and made the appointment.
On the scheduled day, before we left for the animal hospital, my husband gave Roxy all the bacon she could eat. He also took care to shave her leg for the shot so that she wouldn’t get upset by having the vet come at her with an electric razor. When we arrived at the office, we were ushered in to an exam room, one we had been in many times in the past. The vet was so kind and answered our last minute concerns. My husband held Roxy tight as I looked in her eyes and told her that we loved her and that she was the best dog ever. Because she was so small, the procedure took only a few seconds and then she was gone. We asked to be left alone — just the three of us. We cried and reminisced and reassured ourselves that we had made the right decision. After about 20 minutes, the vet came back in. We asked for some scissors so that we could save our favorite memory: Roxy’s signature pony tail. And then it was done. We trudged out of the office heavy hearted back to our quiet home.
It has been a little over a week now. The first two days were horrible. But just like any other death, the further away we get from it, the lump in our throats get smaller. We still look for her. She is still in the forefront of our minds. And every night, I still find myself saying, “Good night Roxy. See you in the morning.” I don’t think I will be stopping that ritual any time soon and that is just fine. Love you Roxy girl.
How have you dealt with the loss of a pet? .