Sombra (July 4, 2003-October 25, 2013)
I put the tissues away too soon. I cry whenever I am left alone, including when my husband lies asleep beside me. I tried my usual coping mechanism of cleaning the house, but doing the laundry reminded me of how she loved to nap by the dryer exhaust vent so she smelled like fabric softener; vacuuming reminded me of how scared she was of the machine, and cleaning the floors reminded me of how she’d splay her toes when she walked on it because she wasn’t used to smooth, slippery floors.
It’s been barely 30 hours since I made the decision to let my beautiful Sombra go.
I didn’t think I would cry so much.
I thought I would’ve had more time with her. I thought that her health would slowly decline as she aged to the ripe age of 13 or 15 or older, and I’d have time to prepare myself for when Sombra’s time came to cross the rainbow bridge to the big dog park in the sky.
Instead, I’m just another person who walked into the vet’s office with her dog, and walked out with just a collar, tags, and a leash.
Sombra was my beautiful 10-year old black lab/terrier mix. She was mostly black except for the white on her chin, on her chest, and her toes. She has bronze highlights from sunbathing. She was born on July 4th, but was deathly afraid of fireworks. Her favorite things included going to the dog park to catch tennis balls, long walks, sunbathing, organic gardening, big band/marching band music, and being surrounded by her family. She thought she was people and didn’t like playing with other dogs. Her favorite toys were plush squeaky toys. She’d squeak them all day until she eventually decided to gut them and kill the plastic squeaker inside. Her most favorite toys were squeaky pigs because the first toy I ever gave her was a squeaky pig.
My mom got her from a co-worker. Sombra and her sisters were barely 2 months old when they were brought to mom’s work one day, and we were blessed that she was the pup who scampered into the box my mom set down in the puppies’ pen. At first, I was against my mom bringing home a dog that could potentially grow to be so large since I’d be the one who would need to care for and clean up after it. Then I came home and she was there on the backyard patio. I’d just come home from school, and my parents were rushing out as I walked into the house. They were going to Petco to buy food and supplies. Against my mom’s orders not to disturb the dog, I went out to see her. She was scared and alone. As soon as I picked her up to comfort her, I knew I was in love with her.
She lived in a house my dad built for her on the patio just outside my bedroom window for 3 years. She was a great dog. She hardly barked, hardly caused mischief, and hardly destroyed anything. She was easily trained and learned tricks quickly. She loved to flirt with men. The first time I brought my husband/then boyfriend over, she’d shy away when he tried to pet her, but would sneak up behind him to sniff him when he wasn’t looking. He spoiled her by buying her a soup bone at the market, and he seasoned the broth with carrots, onions, and soy sauce. She repaid him by peeping in the window when he changed his clothes. When he caught her looking, he ran to tell me, and I told him it was his fault for not closing the blinds in the first place. When I got married and moved out, I had to leave her with my parents. I didn’t want to take her away from the backyard she grew up in or deprive her of all that space or the sunshine in which she loved to sunbathe. That first week was hard for her. Mom said she would sit by the sliding door looking from the door to my old bedroom window waiting for me to show up.
From then on, I visited 3 times a week after work just to feed her dinner and give her head rubs. In the spring and summer, we took advantage of the extra sunlit hours and went out for walks.
When we bought a house and moved out of the apartment, I wanted Sombra to live with me, but she didn’t like the dog houses we set up for her, and she was too much of an outdoor dog to adjust to living inside the house. So back to the 3 visits/week routine we’d set up. She did quite enjoy my bigger yard. When she visited, she liked it when I threw the ball farther so she could run and run and catch it and run and run to return it. It was like having her own private dog park.
She was so smart. She knew my visitation schedule. Once, I forgot to tell her I was going on vacation for a week, and my mom said she fretted when I didn’t show up. I made sure to always tell her when I would be missing a day, or a week, so she wouldn’t worry. I always tried to bring her a souvenir treat or toy.
She was the best listener. In exchange for head rubs and belly rubs, she’d listen to me tell her all about my day, whatever worries or fears I had, and plans for the near future.
My biggest regret is that we never got to walk together again in the last 2 years. I’d injured my Achilles’ tendon in a work-related incident 2 summers ago, and have suffered major injuries to my knees and ankles this past summer from 2 separate falls in my home. I’ve been on crutches for 8 weeks now. As a result of my recent injuries, my 3 visits per week were reduced to only once per week.
I almost didn’t come to see her Friday. I almost came too late. I was going to volunteer to help out with an extracurricular activity at work, but I didn’t. I could’ve spent more time with her if I’d skipped the thrift shops that morning. When I got to the house, my dad was already home from work. My mom had already called me at work the day before to mention a few things, including that it was time to renew Sombra’s license and that she was sick. Eager to see Sombra, I went outside to the back yard.
I don’t even want to remember how hard it was for her to get up or how painful it was for her to walk. I was beside myself. I thought she’d hurt herself or had arthritis because the weather was so chilly lately. My parents said she spent the last 2 days in her house, and she didn’t touch her breakfast that morning. Her breathing was labored. Her usual vet had sold the practice years ago, so I didn’t even know where to bring her.
I called my husband to ask him to drive over and help my dad load her into my car. The stupid crutches I use wouldn’t allow me to pick her up or carry her into my car myself. My stupid injuries wouldn’t allow me to stoop down or sit on the ground to comfort her the way I wanted to.
By the time my husband arrived, my mom had arrived home from work also. At first, Sombra wouldn’t lay on the blanket so they could carry her to the car, so they coaxed her to make the long, painful walk around the house to the car in front.
We caravanned to the vet’s office. I didn’t want Sombra to get anxious, so I talked to her like I usually did on car rides, warning her when there were bumps/dips, when I would stop/start, and when I’d make turns.
We arrived at the vet’s, and she didn’t want to get up from the back of the car. My husband and my dad carried her on the blanket into the office. Everyone who worked there was so kind and so caring to her and to us.
Once the vet discovered the growth that took up most of her left side, he knew it wasn’t a good sign. It was a tumor. There was a biopsy and an ultrasound. The vet didn’t have good news. Even with surgery, things looked pretty bad for Sombra. Making the decision to let her go was one of the worst experiences of my life. I didn’t want her to be in so much pain anymore, and I didn’t want to put her through the pain of being put back into the car and the pain of the bumpy car ride back to the house. It would be selfish to make her suffer another night just so I could have more time with her.
Even though the vet’s office was closed, they let me stay as long as I needed to with her. I could see in her eyes and her face that she was suffering. I didn’t know the pictures I took of her in the waiting room would be the last ones I ever took of my beautiful Sombra. As much as I tried not to cry in front of her, I couldn’t. I couldn’t even make intelligible sentences when I spoke to her. I couldn’t say good bye. I just kept saying I loved her and thanked her for being the best dog. I wasn’t brave enough to be with her when they put her down.
I wish she could’ve had more time. I wish I could’ve walked without crutches so we could have more time together doing all of the things she loved to do.
I hope she knows how much I love her and how much I miss her. I hope I made her happy and that she had a great life. I hope I gave her as much love as she gave to me.
Sometimes, I get sad.
If it wasn’t hard enough watching my friends having babies, I have to watch my friends’ babies grow up and have babies.
There’s someone at work, that I try to avoid at all costs. I’m sure she’s a lovely woman (to someone out there), but I’ve had just about all I can handle from her. She always seems to be in the break room area whenever I’m there, especially during lunch time. I tried having my lunch later so I don’t overlap with her lunchbreak. Then she decided to forgo a lunch beak so she can clock out sooner, meaning she’d end at the time I’m eating and end up staying late to “chat” with me. Once, I tried eating earlier, and her student ended up cancelling/not showing up, so she’d come and talk to me, and I was a captive audience with my salad and Lean Cuisine.
My lunch break turns into a theater production that I refer to as ”Middle-Aged Woman Won’t Shut the Hell Up”, a one woman show where all she does is talk incessantly about something, anything that is on her mind. Usually, it’s a rant. It could be about something complex, or something just downright annoying to her. One day’s episode was called, “Why, oh why, won’t my hard-boiled egg peel?” You can probably guess that she was having a hard time peeling her boiled egg, and she decided to go on about how the eggs she buys at Trader Joe’s peel easily and cleanly, but not on this day for some reason; perhaps, the eggs aren’t as fresh, and she’ll have to write a letter to the manager.
Today’s episode was titled, “Support Group for the Partners of Hoarders”, only no one told me it was a 2-woman show and I was playing the part of support group.
She’s a lonely woman. Once she finally earned her degree at the university, she no longer had interaction with people other than her partner, her co-workers, and the students she tutors. There aren’t many colleagues here eagerly lining up outings with her. She can’t hold a conversation without actually insisting she’s the expert of all she surveys. She once argued with me that her chicken adobo (made with Heinz white vinegar and Kikoman soy sauce that she found on the internet) was better than anything made by an actual Filipino. FACEPALM.
I think it’s time to follow some advice I gave to someone not too long ago. I told someone to stop thinking about what they don’t want (“I don’t want her to interrupt my lunch time.”), and instead think of what they want. I’m going to seek out/ask for a nice peaceful lunch, and I’m going to remember that I want to be less negative and think of positive things. I need to realize that it’s a compliment that someone seeks out my company and feels comfortable enough to be candid with me. I’m also going to ask that this woman finds whatever it is she needs to be less negative and less overbearing to other people so she can find people who want to socialize with her and she won’t feel so lonely anymore.