Saying goodbye to my dog Tia
As I type this, my dog's body is lying on the floor of my laundry room wrapped in a blanket.
Tia died Saturday night after my vet's office closed for the weekend. I am waiting for it to open so I can bring her there. I live in a condo. There is nowhere to bury her.
Is there a place to bury my deflated heart?
I felt like I was playing at being an adult when I adopted Tia and her brother Tai in 2004. I had just bought my first house in West Seattle and moved in with my boyfriend. The sky was the limit for housing prices. My mortgage payments and repair bills on a 1918 structure were overwhelming. I packed a sack lunch each day, shopped at Home Depot each weekend and played a shell game with utility bills each month.
I suspect I'm not the only woman who sometimes felt afraid to go back to a dark house at the end of the day. My boyfriend was a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter who wrote about the Seattle Sonics, covering 41 away games a year. Daylight is scarce during the NBA season.
Home ownership raised other scary questions. Did I want to give up the single life and get married (and have children)? Did owning a house mean I would be trapped at my job in Seattle and give up my other dreams?
I needed dogs to keep me safe, I told my boyfriend. He sighed and said, "Well, if it's really what you want."
I applied to adopt a pair of Shar-peis from the Mercer Island Eastside Orphans and Waifs, a rescue organization. They said we needed a fenced yard. My boyfriend built a fence in a weekend. The dogs moved in.
We were smitten with their wrinkly faces. A month later, my boyfriend said he couldn't imagine life without them.
It did not matter that they were useless guard dogs. Guests tromped through the whole house before the dogs even noticed they had arrived. They slept through meter readings. The only intruders Tia ever alerted us about were garbage trucks as they rumbled through the alley.
The dogs made my house a home. They gave me a reason to come back at night. Tai had the nose of a hippo and the jog of a varsity athlete. He was goofy and extroverted. Tia was a beautiful, aloof, scarred Ice Queen. She flinched when any man near her raised his hand. She fled the room when someone popped open a soda can.
Tai died in 2009 at age 8. Tia flowered in the sun of our attention. When we moved to a condo in Capitol Hill, she seemed to grow younger and friendlier with the frequent walks. The drag queens and homeless inebriates loved her. She no longer flinched when my husband scratched his head.
Tia had been sickly this week, but it seemed a usual up and down for her. We took her in for a checkup and the vet promised test results soon. Then on Saturday she couldn't get up. She died at the ripe age of 11.
Another journalist, MSNBC dayside anchor Richard Lui, challenged me Sunday to think about what my dogs signified in my life.
I know the answer now: I stopped flinching at adulthood. I said yes to the dogs, to this city, and, finally, to my boyfriend when he proposed.
Committing to adulthood was not about getting trapped. It was about taking a leap of faith, then another, then another, farther each time. My dreams got bigger, not smaller. My heart blew up like a balloon, and popped this weekend.
Dog-loving Seattle: What did your dog mean in your life? Let me know in the form below so I can share some of your dog stories with our readers.
Photo of Tia: Sharon Pian Chan / The Seattle Times
Information in this article, originally published at 7:49 a.m. on Oct. 1, 2012, was corrected at 3:15 p.m. on Oct. 3, 2012. A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to the rescue organization as Mercer Island Orphans and Waifs. It is the Mercer Island Eastside Orphans and Waifs.
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
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