She was always The Dog That Could Die at Any Time. I adopted her in 2001 when she was a scared, sweet shelter pup, and, not soon thereafter, Lydia was diagnosed with a heart defect that was the cause of her frequent fainting spells. We were told she couldn't even be spayed because her heart would stop from the anesthetic. In fact, now that I think about it, the way we found that one out was that her heart actually stopped on the operating table when they tried to spay her, and they managed to revive her before calling off the surgery. But, somehow, eventually, the fainting faded away as she grew up, and she even survived a later bout of endometriosis that required anesthetic for a lifesaving hysterectomy. She was a survivor, and a sweet snuggler, and I took many a weekend nap with her. Everyone who met Lydia loved her. At our frequent summer volleyball games at our house, she had a knack for cozying up to a quieter visitor and charming that person with cuddles and maybe a kiss or two. She also came with an unintended rock-and-roll pedigree. Born on D. Boon's birthday, she died on Mike Watt's. And she is featured in not one, but two, paintings by Wes Freed, the man famous for so many Drive-By Truckers album covers.
Lydia was the best dog I have ever had. Fiercely loyal, yet lovable to the core, she followed me around the house so closely most days and nights that at one point I regretted not naming her Shadow. Many was the time my leg inadvertently connected with her hard pit-bull/lab noggin when I would change direction and she would be so close by that we would collide. She loved people, cats, other dogs and, most of all, her family.
But old age sucks for dogs too. And Lydia's thirteenth year on the planet was not kind to her. Failing eyesight and hearing were just the beginning. She started "sundowning" -- that wandering/agitated thing that dementia patients do each night at twilight. She walked in circles so much that she lost weight and got skinny -- *bony* skinny. And then the seizures started. Some were mild, some awful. And each one took a small chunk out of her personality. By last month Lydia was often a sad little shell of her former self, drifting from room to room with a troubled, discontented look on her face, as if searching in vain for The Unseen Problem. But other times, she would still gleefully greet my return home from work, and give us a little hope for her.
But then a few weeks ago, she had a big seizure, and then, last night, she had an even larger one that not only soiled rugs and floors, but sent her into a three-hour-long tailspin where she walked in circles for that whole time, drooling and crashing into walls, furniture and family -- even *after* we gave her a dose of Valium that would have sent most people into an extended trip to Snoozeville. It was awful. I said to my wife, "I am afraid it is going to be time soon." Always sensible, she said, "I'm afraid it's already time."
We took Lydia to the vet tonight. They couldn't have been nicer. They saw us after-hours, so no other animals would be in the waiting room to stress her out. Lydia died quietly with our hands cradling her head. Instantly, I had known that we made the right call. Her deep, relaxed sigh was the calmest one I had heard from her in many months.
As Jason Isbell sings, in my mind "I buried her a thousand times" previously. She was always on a high wire of shaky health. But Lydia's long, beautiful life was that rare sweet gift the universe occasionally hands you. I won't forget her.
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