My mother had a dog.
Do I say had or has?
The dog doesn’t live with her anymore.
I’m struggling with that.
Happy on homecoming day with mom
A little white Cockapoo was born in November of 2005. She entered my mom’s life in January of 2006, nine months after my dad died of a massive coronary at the age of 80. My mom, then 78, had married at 18 years old and had never lived alone, and the vacuum created by her husband’s death needed filling.
My siblings thought a puppy was a terrible idea, too much work, and hassle. But my mom and I were on a mission. It was that or a human roommate which was incomprehensible.
So when this little white floof showed up on a petfinder website, and her mama’s name was Molly — the same name as a beloved Yorkshire terrier my parents had had previously — and her litter name was Happy, the name of my dad’s childhood dog, it seemed like the universe was saying yes.
At the time, my mother was living in Florida and I was about an hour away. Happy’s birth owner was located in South Carolina. So off my mom and I went one weekend, to pick her up. We met the guy in a Burger King parking lot. It felt like an illicit puppy drug deal. I held her first, which would be significant later, while my mother signed papers and talked to the man about what the pup was eating etc. On the drive home — I can’t remember how long it was — Happy curled up on my mom’s lap. And we laughed and giggled and agreed she was keeping her litter name. It was too perfect a fit.
I confess it wasn’t easy. When we first got her home, she was oddly grey underneath her white fluff and so we put her in the bathtub. We scrubbed away at her dark skin, thinking why is she so dirty, when we realized — this is a white dog who came from to dark-haired parents. Of course her skin is dark. (Her daddy was a brown cocker spaniel, and her mama a black poodle.)
Initially, as puppies do, Happy wanted to eat everything: thumbtacks, paper clips, pillows, of course spilled food, but chair legs and soap? But she potty trained fast and, as a Cockapoo, was pretty smart.
Happy became my mother’s constant companion — she even went to the supermarket, much to our consternation. ￼She was spoiled with a seemingly endless supply of toys and treats and lots of walks and even slept in mom’s bed with her. My mom needed somebody to come home to and happy more than fit the bill. That dog loved her.
And whenever I came to visit the dog went crazy. We called it the zoomies. She would run around the house crying and crying and crying and yapping and yapping and yapping with her little wiggle butt going the entire time. I think she thought I was her littermate — and I’d been the first to hold her. It probably helped that I had worn the same perfume since 1987.￼
When my mom moved to Maine in 2008, one of her favorite places in the world, Happy came along. She adapted to the cold with a supply of colorful warm doggy jackets. And she loved snow! Mom enrolled Happy in doggy daycare so that when she volunteered at a library the dog wasn’t alone. The people at the daycare loved her so much they put her in their annual wall calendar.￼
When my mom had to move from Maine to Texas in 2010, to be closer to family as she aged, Happy came along, and they lived in a cute little red house in the woods near one of my brothers. The dog went grocery shopping with her and became a beloved neighborhood resident.
And then, mom’s age started to make itself known.
First, she had a bout with breast cancer at the age of 89. Until then, she took nearly zero medications, had tons of friends, ￼was mountain-goat steady and had little memory lapses, but nothing really alarming. After surgery things got scary, with her forgetting names, dates, places, and not remembering how to start her car. The side mirrors on her car started disappearing and she couldn’t recall how. My siblings and I knew it was time for her to have more help. We found somebody to come to the house for a couple hours during the week just to be with her, take her grocery shopping, and make sure she was at least slightly supervised.
But when she reached her 90th birthday we knew things were going to have to change again .
We took away her wheels. She didn’t go to many places alone anymore and she lived in the middle of nowhere so I bought her car for my son.
￼Mom’s little yellow house went up for sale and sold in a month. Soon after this, halfway into her 92nd year we had her all moved into a independent living facility near my older brother in Missouri – Happy with her. I flew out to help mom get settled in, and the dog well.. enter zoomies.
But…A couple months after this move, her memory was getting so bad she was hallucinating, and leaving the stove on.. And then her gallbladder quit. More surgery. She didn’t know what day it was. And she’d call me or my siblings at 2 am frantic.
At that point we knew she was going to have to be moved yet again. And this time, Happy couldn’t go with her. Around this time, that dog started acting very strangely. It was almost as if Happy didn’t know who my mom was any more, and she’d hide from her.
It saddened me so much to watch this happen. I think because I always thought that one of the two of them would die before we got here. After all, mom is 93 and the dog is 14.
And I wasn’t sure whether to feel good or bad about the fact that neither one of them had done that.
Instead it was a cleaving.
My mother initially thought about putting Happy down, saying she felt the dog was in pain, and didn’t want to eat, and things like that. But it turned out there was nothing wrong with the dog. Happy was actually recognizing that my mother was not the same person. She didn’t like this new stranger she lived with — who smelled like my mom but wasn’t her — and wasn’t sure where my mother had gone. My brother who lived in Texas, nearby where my mother used to live, and had been around Happy for many, many years, volunteered to take the dog. He had quite a menagerie of two cats and two other dogs and a giant fenced yard, so the fit was there. My mom was cognizant enough to think this was a wonderful idea. So he drove out to Missouri and picked up the dog.
A few weeks later, mom was moved into a one room memory care unit with no phone. She has caregivers all around her and her now diagnosed vascular dementia worsens weekly.
And I don’t know that she remembers Happy at all.
I am not going to ask. I know the answer.
Happy is living with my brother and deaf as a post, but healthy.
I’ll probably never see her again.
07/22/20. Update from when I wrote this.
Happy died last night.
And there’s no one to mourn her with me because my mom can’t. And only she and I shared this.
Another part of our mingled history….and no where to put it.