A Surprise Blessing

 This last blogging hiatus missed the arrival of a very important new member of the family, so let me introduce you to this sweet girl.
Early October I came back from a church activity alone, late at night, on our dark street, and as I pulled up I noticed this wolf/dog with glowing eyes in our front yard.
Thoughts before I walked up to our front door (right by where the dog was): It could be sweet... It could be vicious - wolf-dogs! ...Probably aggressive... Doesn't look too mean... I would need to watch it for a while before testing that theory... I'll just walk by assertively and not make eye-contact so it doesn't think I'm making a challenge... Unless it attacks - THEN I'll show it who's the alpha around here!... Okay...I'm going.
She acted interested, but I didn't stop to discover if it was hey-you-look-like-such-a-nice-lady interested, or hey-I'm-looking-for-a-fight-and-maybe-I-can-take-you interested. I came across a plethora of dogs walking the streets of Santiago, Chile as a missionary, not all of them friendly, and I didn't want to deal with a mean dog just then, so I kept my optimism to myself and stuck with cautious. ;)
She stayed by our house all night, I watched her sporadically from the window in the morning, and by lunch I was 90% sure she was a tired, lonely, and hungry sweetheart. She lay by the garage directly across the street from my window, and I was debating what food I could give her when my neighbor opened and closed her garage to scare her off. The dog got up and walked over to the grass and lay down, but then the neighbor grabbed a mop and was going at her. That was too much for me (the dog was being so sweet and passive), so I grabbed some corn tortillas (Derek's suggestion: "Dogs love them!" I doubted that, but I did have them handy) and ran across the street. I started talking with my neighbor about the pooch and approached her little by little, offering tortilla bits. She gratefully ate them up and came to me, happy to see a friendly face, and even lying down and rolling on her back while I pet her. I went back in to get more tortillas (they were a big hit) and asked Derek how he felt about adopting her if she was as nice as he seemed. He said he'd leave it to me, and went back to work.
Hmmm... Things were progressing fast, but I knew from my neighbor that the pound was coming to pick her up in a couple of hours. So I got Deborah down to nap and researched how to temperament test dogs, and then went across the street to touch her all over, pull at her ears, pet her and even take away food while she was eating - basically act like a little, curious toddler - which I happen to have. ;) The pup passed with flying colors, so submissive and gentle - I found myself falling in love. I felt that we could be good for each other. I read about huskies online, prayed, called my mom, called the pound, checked the lost and found, reported her as found... then got her to run with me into the backyard and texted Derek to let him know that unless something changed, we had a dog. :)

I was happy, the dog was happy, and when Deborah awoke to find we had a dog in the backyard? Thrilled.
Frankly, this move to Louisiana has been very difficult for me, and I have struggled. I had been praying more earnestly for help, and I feel that this sweet, fun, loving dog was guided to our home at just the right time. A sign from Heavenly Father that he was aware of me and loved me. And knows me - I've always loved dogs. So in thinking of names, I thought it fitting she should have a scriptural name.

Meet Sariah.
First Day Pics
The next day we took her to the vet to get checked out, and unfortunately found that she had heartworms - a dreadful condition spread by mosquitoes to dogs that infests their heart and organs with worms. The treatment is extensive and costly, but we were in love, so we decided we would keep her, start her first on the preventative pill, and do the treatment later when we the air force finally got our salary  figured out and we weren't living on our food storage. ;)

But she was our dog! And we began all of the adventures that a new and sudden addition of a canine member of the family brings. The vet figured she was probably 2-3 years old, and I agreed, because she was a complete toddler - energetic, curious, loving, eager to please, wants to be with you all the time, excited to learn, getting her nose into everything, playful, etc!
One day as I was walking all over the house putting things away I heard this clicking wherever I would walk. I looked down to check my shoes to see what was hanging off making that noise when I realized it was Sariah sticking to my side every step I took, but hadn't ever got in the way. So cute. And it was repeated daily...though many times we tripped over each other.
Huskies shed. A lot. I recommend the "furminator." It is worth it. :)

We also got her a crate, which Deborah loved - she would frequently put herself in it. Funny enough, I don't think Sariah would go straight to love. ;)

Deborah & Sariah had a complicated relationship at first. Deborah loved playing with her, but every now and then Sariah would jump on her, which did NOT encourage affection - from Deborah or myself. I began training her not to jump (especially not on Deborah - I am first a mama) and thankfully after a little while she learned to keep her paws on the ground.

Sariah loved Deborah, and every time she fell down Sariah would run over and lick her face to make sure she was okay. This kind gesture, unfortunately, was unwelcome and usually led to an increase of volume, intensity, and length in the crying department. Even sweeter though, at nights when Deborah cried, Sariah would come and open our door to make sure we knew that 'the little one' was distressed and we had a hold on the situation. ;)
One of the many times, Deborah would shake hands and say, "Pleased ta meetchyou. Pleased ta meetchyou, Sariah."
 I am an unabashed lover of dressing up, and I wait anxiously for Halloween each year. I was having a hard time deciding what we should be, when my wolf-dog inspired me to dress up as this fairy tale story. So fun!
Btw, that is not a muzzle, just a gentle lead leash - she could eat, drink, or even bite someone if she wanted to.
 Sariah was quite well socialized, but untrained, so I spent most nap times researching training techniques and then trying them out. Deborah LOVED helping me train Sariah, and would always ask to use "the clicker" (positive enforcement training tool that clicks. ;) not much mystery as to the name) and say, "I a dog trainer!" It turned into training Sariah and training Deborah to train - so double the work, but very fun. Deborah picked up on when to use the cues quickly, and could often be found sneaking a treat and saying, "sit," "down," "off," "come'ere," "leave it," or "rewease" appropriately.

We began spending most of our days in the backyard (luckily the mortifying humidity had worn down by this point), played and took walks all the time - finding that this little husky filled a perfect spot in our little family.

One of Deborah's favorite games, which she made up, is playing "cuckoo!" Hiding behind something, then popping her head out and saying "cuckoo!" like they do in Sound of Music. :) She and Sariah even played it together. :) They were quite the toddler pair and enjoyed exploring and discovering the world together.
In the snow! Yes, it snowed in Louisiana! It snowed at night, and some was still left late morning.

A serious pack-lover - Sariah always wanted to be in on the cuddles, hugs, and kisses. Whenever Derek would leave and Deborah & I would kiss him goodbye, Sariah would sneak around to jump & kiss him too. And each time Derek & I would kiss & hug she was just like the You've Got Mail dog - waiting patiently for her chance to get in on the love. ;) Such an expressive face, one night Derek & I were watching a movie on the couch and she just looked on balefully with an I-can't-believe-they're-cuddling-without-ME expression. It was so pitiful. I called her over and she put her head on my lap, but when I looked down a couple of minutes later, I was shocked to find that without my realizing it she had smoothly navigated herself into a ball on my lap. ;) She's good.

By December we were getting worried about the heartworms, plus the air force had finally sorted out our pay, so we took her to the vet for treatment. I didn't like the vet, but I felt that way about most of the customer service here, so I thought that was just how it was. The treatment was rough, she had to stay there for 5 days (we would visit her) and then we had to keep her on "bedrest" where she couldn't run or jump, stayed inside 24-7 and had to be let out only on a leash to relieve herself. We still managed to have fun though.

Unsurprisingly, our live Christmas tree was one of her favorite hangouts. Isn't she lovely?

A few weeks later, right before Christmas, I took her back to the vet for a check-up and evaluation - where she was cleared to go back to normal activity and start the preventative pill again. She was still coughing and didn't seem quite herself, so I raised my concerns to the vet, but he assured me that it was all fine. Skeptical, I still kept her inside the house, but I would let her go out on her own to go to the bathroom and sniff around the yard for a little bit to help with the cabin fever.

Christmas was fabulous! I loved it.So fun.

New Years was a jerk.
Deborah was getting increasingly sick, and I was right behind her. Derek & Deborah spent the day at urgent care - Deborah had an ear infection, runny nose a fever and probably more, while I stayed at home with fever, aches, a sore throat, runny nose, etc - I thought it was a flu, but was worried about her ears. I couldn't sleep for two days my throat hurt so bad, and in the haze noticed that Sariah had a moment of trouble with her back legs, though it seemed to fix itself. It happened a couple of times the next day and she seemed a little weaker, so I restricted her activity more and tried to get in to see a new vet. Turns out I had strep throat so I got on antibiotics, then tried to get into this vet (that I hoped was better) as soon as possible, despite our fevers. Her appointment was at 3:00 pm January 3rd, but I was worried about her because she seemed to have aged about twelve years in just two days. I called the vet's office and told him that she was really sick and we were coming early. The vet was still on lunch, and while I held Sariah in the office, I knew things were bad. She kept getting weaker and weaker and seemed to lose her strength. She started crying and howling, and my heart broke - helpless to know what more I could do for her. I plead to the receptionist, "She needs help right now! Please!" A minute later the doctor pulled up, and there was a rush to try to help her.

Within two minutes she died.

Perhaps from a heart attack, an embolism from the dead heartworms, any number of things. Perhaps it was preventable, perhaps the heartworms were already dealing their fatal blow. It has been hard. I have cried more than a little. I have grieved at night and lost sleep. She was so sweet and special, and it was such a surprise to lose her so suddenly. Guilt weighed me down. I blamed the first vet. More strongly, I blamed myself for taking her there. I blamed myself for letting her outside - for giving her the preventative - for any number of things that may have contributed. In the end though, those are "what ifs," and it is not me who has control over life and death, but God. Not a sparrow falls without His notice.

I remembered this sign I saw outside of a church graveyard in Santa Fe, NM made hundreds of years past.
 "Dios da y Dios quita." Quite a common phrase in English as well, "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away," but for some reason it impacted me much more, seeing it on that old spanish church. I was struck by the faith and humility of those early believers, who when faced with the death of their own family members and friends, trusted in the Lord and His plan. Knowing that this natural life has hardships, and death, and tribulations - much more heart wrenching then the loss of a beloved pet - they were grateful for all the good that God had given them. Their loved ones, this beautiful world, and most especially the gift of His Son Jesus Christ, who conquered death for all of us. It is a comfort to know that God is in charge.

I too am thankful for all the amazing things God has given me. I have been richly blessed in so many important and ways, and Sariah was a tender and unexpected blessing from heaven. It still touches me to think that God sent her to me. We had so many good times.

Thanks for coming, Sariah. Have fun in heaven.

Forgive this long post, it's my way to preserve the memories.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World - Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole


TamaRon FamLee said...

Oh Manda, this makes me cry :( such a sweet dog for such a sweet family. I'm so glad you took so many beautiful pictures of her. Here's a long distance hug for you. We love you!

Katrina said...

This is a lovely tribute to Sariah. What a little sweetheart. And just so beautiful...oh those eyes. She loved you so. And you loved her and took tender care of her. I love that she part of your family. I'm so sorry. Like Tam said, too, you have amazing pictures of your time with her. xoxoxoxo

Danielle said...

oh Amanda. I haven't been on the blogosphere in so long and I was so happy reading this post. What a sad ending to that story. I have been wanting a puppy for so long but its never been right. What a blessing she was. I'm happy you found her. Like I have said so many times. We need to keep in touch better! ;) love you Manda!