Goodbye Sweet Dog

She went the way she came, knowing so much more than I. She had long ago learned that the world, and people in it, could be cruel so all her senses were heightened. Lady Rose trusted only herself and spent her years with us, hoping we wouldn’t let her down. I know she loved me, with every part of her being, but in a way that only a dog who had lived by her wits could. This dog had run wild for years. Life had given her every reason to hate, but her soft heart and sweet spirit wouldn’t let her. She possessed just enough hope to stay near and watch from a distance. She did give me a chance to show her the way, but it took a year.Lady Rose began in Attawapiskat where she was fed by a few teachers and allowed to sleep on their porch when nights were too cold to be brave. They called her Rose and managed to have her flown out of the community after a night of horrors that involved gun shots and death to other dogs. Rose had escaped the worst of fates but had watched as her friend, a little black dog, took her last breath.

The fear she must have felt when she was caught, forced into a crate and loaded onto a plane. She would not have understood that it had been done with love. Rose didn’t know what that was yet. Terror would have mounted when the engines roared and the plane vibrated with the force of flight. Rose was about to be free but she didn’t understand what that was yet. So, when she landed and the crate door was opened, she bolted into the bush behind our rescue worker’s house in Matheson and lived there for two years.

Two people watched over her from a distance. The one who left food out for her in a woodpile called her Lady and the other knew just where she hid her litters of pups. When her first litter was of age Lady allowed them to be taken from her and I am sure her heart pounded as she hoped they were on their way to a better life.

In time, when neighbours became determined to shoot the wild dog they thought to be a wolf, the two people who knew differently, went about saving her. It wasn’t just the wild dog that was at risk, but her most recent litter of pups as well.

This wild dog came to us in November of 2008 with a note attached to her crate that read, “I hope she is still alive. I had no idea how much horse tranquilizer to shoot her with”. In truth, I was afraid to take her and had no idea how to proceed. Because she was with her pups in the puppy cabin she didn’t resist me immediately. I began with a gentle touch to her face and whispered words of hope and promises. She sat still beside me, but raw instincts told me to give her what she most wanted, her freedom. After all she had been through, I felt she had to choose to be close and to be loved. I named her Lady Rose as I opened the door to the puppy cabin so she could run. I could only hope she would return.

She didn’t go far and when we weren’t near, Lady Rose would sit up against the door of the puppy cabin door watching over her pups. We would let them out to be close to her and she would stay until we came into sight again.

I sat in snow banks for hours willing her to come near and we thought many times that a snow bank had formed just outside a window until it blinked and we realized it was Lady Rose sitting still during an ice storm. It took her months to trust the warmth and shelter of a dog house Paul built for her and she would tolerate our dogs for moments at a time before running off to be on her own again. Only once did she allow me to hold her close and even through the layers of my warm clothing I could feel her heart beat. We both knew then that we were connected.

Lady Rose did learn to trust and come inside but she remained our “wildish dog”. She continued to skulk through certain rooms and question the intentions of others. Only a few ever knew her but she was at peace. Lady Rose taught me more than any other dog in our sixteen years of rescue work and her full story is on our web site’s journal page. I loved that dog in a way I hadn’t thought possible and she left me a few weeks ago.

We knew she was ill but the wild dog in her would not allow for weakness. The day I looked in her eyes and she looked away though I knew. Her soft brown eyes had always invited me in so her turning away told me what I needed to know. Far better to let her go too soon than too late. She wouldn’t understand us letting her suffer or becoming vulnerable. She arrived with great dignity and would leave with as much or more. The decision was made but before a word was spoken, she knew. Whether she sensed my sadness or just the shift of energy I don’t know but she knew.

The day the vet was to come to the house I sat on her dog bed and asked her to come near. I wanted to hold her one last time and tell her, once again, how much I loved and appreciated her. She would not oblige me. I held my hand out to her and she stepped back. She lifted her head and looked past me. Lady Rose was leaving just as she had arrived. This proud, “wildish” northern dog would go independently and without human fuss. She was telling me he was ready and I think sparing me the emotion of having to let her go. We had shared so much and crossed the bridge to trust together so there would be no final anything for her. Lady Rose knew she would be forever. I understood, so simply pressed my forehead against hers and thanked her. One of my tears ran down her snout and she blinked.

I stayed until she fell asleep but left before she took her last breath. I think that is how she wanted it. Lady Rose is gone but she shines in every star and glistens in every ray of sun. She was a gift of a life time and she chose to share her life with us. Lady Rose made me a better person and I am grateful.  Goodbye sweet dog.