Monday, August 20, 2012

The Best Dog Ever

July 1998 - August 2012
Some of you know what occurred Sunday morning, and some of you do not, but for those who don't I just want to give you a heads up that this post might have you reaching for the Kleenex. If you choose to not read further, I won't hold it against you. I also won't have any way of knowing unless you were to tell me so, but in any event, I still won't hold it against you. This is being written primarily for my family and myself, and the myriad others whose lives have been touched by our beloved dog, Perris.

Perris came into our home and hearts on December 29th, 1998. She was 6 months old. At the time, the members of our family consisted of my self, my husband, our daughter, Alison who was just shy of being 2 years old, 2 cats—one named Bearcat who was simply the best cat to have ever walked the planet, and then Chloe, who has become known as the Queen Bitch of the living realm. Incidentally, Chloe joined us when I was pregnant with A, and once she was born, Chloe chose her as her human. In Chloe's cantankerous mind, A can do no wrong. Moving on in the roll-call, we also had 2 birds—a Nanday Conure named Carla, and a Citrine Cockatoo called Turtle.

We lived in a 2 bedroom/1 bath apartment in La Mesa, Ca. and so we of course felt we could cram a dog into the less than 800 sq.ft. living space 3 humans were already sharing with 4 other animals. For those who've read this post, you now see that the pet insanity started long ago...

In any event, my little family went to the San Diego Humane Society and walked the aisles of dogs up for adoption. None of them really jumped out at us and we needed to keep, size, breed and background in mind because of our toddler, so those concerns scratched several would-be Cookseys from the list right off the bat. About 2/3 down one row of the kennels, we came across a dog that was sharing the space with another who was understandably going berserk with the possibility of becoming cage-free. The dog that caught our eyes, though, was just sitting there, pleasantly and patiently wagging her tail. So, we took her out for a testdrive around the shelter's exercise yard.

The dog didn't pull on the leash as we walked her to the yard, but the second we let her off, she bolted, tearing ass around the exercise yard, doing circuits around us at full speed and all the while, making certain she never got too close to the little girl standing there laughing at the dog's enthusiasm. It was like the dog knew she had the potential to knock the girl flat and although she was showing her appreciation for being let out, she wasn't willing to risk the little girl's safety and the dog curbed her excitement until she was a safe distance away before she took off again at lightning speed. She got it all out of her system and came to sit at our feet and then proceeded to play fetch with the toys we threw for her.

Despite a fantastic trial and "interview," my husband wasn't sold. He liked her, but he said "she's too foofy." No lie, those were his exact words. I think he had a more "manly" and intimidating looking dog in mind because you know, a man's dog is a direct reflection of the man himself. (I now this is true for the men in his family because case in point, my BIL was beside himself when he was told his male German Shepard was, in fact, a girl. Of course that could've been because he didn't pick up on the fact that she didn't have a penis himself and had to be told by the vet, but whatever.) So, we left, not having found the right fit for everyone in our family.

A couple days later I was taking decorations off the Christmas tree while Alison and Chloe watched when the front door opened up and in bound a very happy, very foofy dog. If you've ever heard the saying "hit the roof," let me just say that what happened when Chloe saw that dog wasn't just an expression. She literally went from the carpet to the ceiling in one leap and then proceeded to ricochet off the Christmas tree, over to the corner of the far wall, back to the top of the drapes, and when she finally landed on the ground again, she streaked out of the room, not to be seen or heard from for a good 24 hours or so. Although Perris did not then or ever once in the future, chase a single one of our cats (I mean never.) Chloe's been an ΓΌber-bitch ever since.

My husband explained that he'd been thinking about her and when he went back on a whim, he could hear her barking and once he walked down her row, he saw that she was standing against the kennel fence on her hind legs and wagging her tail like she knew he'd come back for her and she was waiting for him. He took her back out to the exercise yard and the dog never once left his side. That was it, she'd fallen in love and, as fate would have it, so had my husband. 

We all had...

She was with us through everything... The birth of two of our children, the loss of human loved ones and others of the non-human variety—to this day, I'll never forget how she mourned with me when Bearcat left us far too young. She just sat silently next to me with her eyes closed as my husband buried my precious cat for me in my grandparents' backyard. She was fiercely protective of her family and no one ever dared to look at us crosswise when Perris was around, yet she was just like one of our children and celebrated holidays with us.


She went on vacations with us, endured moving to countless homes, and the addition of many upon many other animals to our family over the course of the 14 years we were blessed to have her in our lives. 

She never once complained when one of "her" babies or one belonging to friends wanted climb on her or play with her ears or tail. 

She loved getting in the driver's seat of her grandpa's truck, simply because she enjoyed spending time with him and knew he missed having his own faithful companion.

She never had to be held on a leash, rather, she preferred to keep her family in sight and she knew her boundaries, never straying from the driveway when at home and she always came when she was called.

We moved into our new home at the end of last October and watching Perris try to negotiate the tile downstairs, we started to truly comprehend her age. Perris was a Belgian Sheepdog, not a small breed of dog, but we'd been so very fortunate to not have had to deal with any of the ailments typical with large breeds or the ones prevalent in shepherds, like hip dysplasia, but she was almost 14. We knew the day was approaching that we would be either faced with having to make a decision or having it taken out of our hands. We prayed for the latter of course, but for months we watched and looked for signs. It was hard. We didn't want to be selfish, but at the same time, we didn't want to be premature either. She'd have good days and then she'd have bad days, and more than once we thought for sure the day had come, but those days came and went without incident. 

 See, despite the heartbreak we knew we'd face, we were prepared to make the decision for her if she needed us to be the strong ones... And aside from not having the best bladder control and having some difficulty on the tile, Perris was the same, sweet baby she'd always been, meeting my husband at the door when he came home and bounding about at dinnertime as best she could for a lady her age. She never let on that she was in any kind of pain or that she was suffering in the slightest. 

Early Sunday morning, Perris told me it was time and she needed us to be strong for her. I heard her make some sounds, not whimpering or crying, more that she was struggling with effort. I got out of bed and found that she'd tried to stand up and couldn't. She didn't have the strength to get her legs under her anymore. She wasn't in pain, but she was ready. I woke my husband up, our girls, and, as hard as it was for me to get the words out, I called the vet. My husband's parents came over and said their goodbyes, and the girls all gave her hugs and kisses and told her how much they loved her. The people working at the vet put on their wings and earned their halos; they had a room and bed ready, and allowed us to be with her the entire time. So, we got down on the bed with her and as I spooned her and my husband held her head in his lap, we pet her and whispered to her what a good girl she was, how blessed we were to have had her in our lives, and how very much we loved her. She didn't flinch, or make the slightest sound; she knew she was safe and surrounded by the family she loved her whole life, and she knew we were doing what she needed us to do.

The hardest part for me was watching my husband as his best friend took her last breaths and having to comfort our oldest daughter as she mourns the loss of an animal she felt was like a sister to her. But, with the grief and unrelenting sorrow we feel right now, there is a sense of relief that it's over and we can begin the long road to healing, and a knowledge that if she could've, Perris would've protected our hearts from feeling this, however, for that to be possible, we wouldn't have ever had the privilege and honor of having the best dog ever in our lives.

You were and will always be the best dog ever, and one day we'll see you in heaven, good girl.


  1. Wow baby, I have read this 3 or 4 times now and I am so thankful you did this. The pictures are awesome as well as the words. Every animal lover out there should have the chance to share their lives at least once with an animal like Perris. I love that I can keep going back to this blog (pathetic as it is) and be reminded of what a wonderful part of our family she truly was. Even after the rough edges of the pain of losing her are worn down by time, and the mental pictures and memories get hazy, I, you and the girls can keep coming back here to spend a little more time with the best dog ever.

  2. My condolences! Animals are precious gems aren't they.

    1. Thank you, Shane. Yes, I think they are... I truly believe that life wouldn't be nearly as rich and fulfilling as it is without a good pet spending it at your side. ;-)


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