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Here’s a true short story which fits well, I think with the concept of pets and death.
As a hospice Registered Nurse, I saw Mr. Williams a number of times during the course of his care in hospice. The first one was a fairly routine visit to go over his cardiac medications, and make sure all of his questions were answered, since he lived alone with a small, short-haired brown Chihuahua by the name of “Susie.”
Susie sat with him in the chair throughout each visit. She barked whenever I came to the door, but it was understood – by all involved – that this was just a formality, and part of her job, as a kind of vigilant four-legged doorbell. Having formally barked me in each time, then her job was done, and she’d jump up into the old man’s lap where she belonged.
As his condition worsened, however, Mr. William’s daughter came down from Ohio to take care of him. The routine still remained the same, however, whenever I came to visit. Susie would always meet me at the door – bark me in – and then jump back up into his lap. This is where she always was even during meals. On one occasion, the daughter brought in a tray for him, and on the tray was a small dish. It contained bite-sized morsels of food from the old man’s supper. Both he and Susie then proceeded to eat from the same tray, with Mr. Williams using a fork, while Susie very daintily ate from the small dish. After a while, her dish was empty, and Susie looked up at the old man, who glanced over to where his daughter was washing dishes. Conspiratorially, he took a forkful of food, and gave it to Susie.
“That’s disgusting, Dad,” a voice came from the kitchen.
Mr. Williams laughed.
“Aw, Susie, and me been doing that for years, ain’t we girl?” he patted Susie gently on the head, and she licked his cheek. Rarely, have I ever seen such a look of utter adoration, love, and devotion as that which Susie had in her eyes as she looked up at him. It was clear that Susie’s entire world revolved around this kindly, gentle old man.
About a week later, however, the inevitable happened, and Mr. William’s daughter called tearfully to say that her father had suffered a massive coronary while watching TV. “It just happened so quick,” she said. When I arrived there a short time later, Susie met me at the door as usual, but, the change in her was dramatic. Gone was the friendly, cute little dog, and in its place was a slavering, vicious, guard dog, snarling, and snapping at me.
“Susie!” the daughter said, sharply, shocked by Susie’s sudden change in behavior. “Come on, girl,” she said gently, picking her up. “I’d better put you in the other room.” And, although she continued to snarl, and snap at me, her barks took on a more urgent tone, which seemed to say: “No! No! Let me go! Let me go!” They sounded almost frantic, as the daughter put her in the bathroom, and closed the door. From within, Susie continued barking, and whining plaintively as she scratched at the door.
I proceeded to care for Mr. Williams, making all the phone calls, and talking to a few close friends while I comforted the still tearful daughter. All the while, Susie barked incessantly, and scratched at the door. I was just sitting there in the very small bedroom, when down the hallway I could hear a neighbor talking to Susie.
“What’s wrong with you, girl?” she said sympathetically. “Somebody stuck you in here? I bet you want to see him too, don’t you?” I could hear the bathroom door open, and the scrabbling of tiny claws on the floor tiles. I didn’t even have time to say, “No, don’t,” before Susie rounded the corner at full gallop. And, in a leap which would have impressed any Olympic athlete Susie landed in one single bound, with all four feet planted firmly on the old man’s chest.
Susie had me cornered, and it was obvious that as long as she had breath in her body, she was not going to let anyone take Mr. Williams anywhere! My back was right up against the wall, and those tiny needle-sharp teeth were just inches from my nose. She was snarling, and snapping, and barking viciously at me, like any fearless guard dog ten times her size.
“She’s going to bite me!” I called out. “Somebody better get in here!”
Luckily for me, the daughter was nearby, and she raced in and picked Susie up just in time. The dog continued to rage furiously, struggling to get free. She put Susie back into the bathroom, and the incessant barking and scratching began again.
“Oh, poor thing,” the neighbor said. “She’s beside herself, half out of her wits.”
“Yes,” the daughter shook her head. “I wonder if she knows what’s really going on.”
Just then, the funeral home arrived, and as they were going out with Mr. Williams on the stretcher, there arose from the bathroom such a low, mournful, and profoundly grief-stricken howl, that it raised the hair on the back of my neck, and sent chills up and down my spine.
We all looked at each other.
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Thank you for sharing the story of Suzie’s protection and devotion to Mr. Williams. It’s clear theirs was a beautiful bond.
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