For the past week especially, but actually for a month, I’ve been remembering my most beloved dog, Misty, who passed away 5 years ago this time of year. My heart has been breaking again, thankfully not quite as much pain as when she first passed, but sadness for myself and my missing her.
Misty was a dog-in-a-million to me. She was truly “my dog”, she loved me unconditionally and was with me during some very trying times in my life. I want to write her story here in loving memory of her. Please bear with me because this is a long story of how she came into my life…
Misty came into my life by accident. A few weeks previously to Misty coming into my life, my ex and I had put down our first dog and we were both heartbroken, it was the first dog we both had in our lives as adults–that was “ours”. He was only 3 years old and died of cancer. For three weeks, I cried every day, I cried when I saw another dog, I cried when I was driving home knowing I was coming home to an “empty” house, and I cried about the sadness of my dog, Cochise, living just a short 3 years before being struck down with a deadly illness.
We knew we wanted another dog right away but we debated the breed of dog to get. I had been in love with Golden Retrievers for quite a while, and my ex wanted another Chesapeake Bay Retriever (as Cochise was). I was determined that whatever dog we got would be a female. We had basically come to the decision that we would get a female Golden when a nearby breeder had puppies ready (about 2 months away) and then in a while we would look at getting another male Chessy. Still, I checked newspapers for puppies every day. One weekend, about 3 weeks after Cochise’s passing, we went back to our home in Cape Breton to visit friends (we were, at that time, renting a home outside of Amherst, Nova Scotia along the Northumberland Straight). When I got to our friends house, I immediately looked in the newspaper and found there were two places nearby who had puppies. One place had Samoyedes and the other were Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. Well…we just had to go look. The Samoyedes were cute, but there were no females left–I also was a fan of the breed as an old live-in boyfriend had had one. We then went on to the Chessies. When we drove up to the breeder’s we noticed how deplorable the conditions of the place was. There was no one around and the puppies (all approx. 6 months old) were all locked in a single large kennel area, but they were filthy with feces and dirt. We walked around the kennels and found the parents who both looked haggard–the father was losing patches of hair. It was very unsettling. One of the puppies had somehow gotten out of the kennel and was running around but would not come anywhere near us–was very leery of us. I made us leave before talking anyone.
That evening, I was so sad thinking of all those puppies (approx half a dozen) and the conditions they were living in and I told my ex that we needed to save at least one of them. So…the next day we phoned ahead and told them we were coming and would possibly take one of the females.
So, on our way back to our rented house we went to the breeder’s and he let all of the puppies out of the kennel so we could see them. But the puppies would not come near us–they were so leery of people. My ex had seen one that he really liked but could not get close to it. I sat down on the grass and found one dog who would let me pat her while she chewed on an old cow bone that was in the yard. She just sat there chewing on this bone with her tail wagging. There was another one close by who had a large lump on the top of its head but that just frightened me having gone through Cochise’s cancer. So, we chose the one who let me pat her and we paid a small amount for a dog we were going to name Cheyenne.
Because she was covered in dirt and feces we wanted to wash her as we had a long (four-hour) drive back to our home. We decided to stop by our real house in Cape Breton which we were renting out to friends.
As we had not known we were going to get a puppy, we did not have a leash or collar for her. We were pleased with ourselves and we were stopping at our neighbors to show off our new puppy–our neighbors had loved Cochise. My ex made a temporary leash and collar with rope. While I was knocking on my neighbor’s door, a bolt of thunder came by and then my ex came running “she’s gotten loose, she took off into the woods!” Well, we started looking for her right away, not knowing which way she would have gone. Our house was in a small village at the base of a mountain and dense woods were all around us. In the pouring rain for hours we looked, I was crying to God to help me find this poor scared little animal who didn’t even know her name!
We did not find her that day. We ended up staying at another neighbors weekend home next door to our house and the both of us searched for two full days–our feet were bleeding with blisters, but we could not stop. Just the thought of a poor 6 month puppy lost in the woods kept us trying to find her. There were sitings of her around and we knew she was near but we didn’t see her at all.
Finally, my ex had to get back to work and I refused to leave until I found her. A neighbor went to town for me and picked up a leash, collar, dog food, and bowl and I kept looking. One time, she came right into the yard about 10 feet away from the front door but when I opened the door she ran away. I just believed that I could “save her”. Finally, one day I came up with the idea that I would use Cochise’s old kennel which just happened to be in our garage and I’d set a trap for her.
I set up the kennel with food and water in it on the deck of the cabin I was staying in and tied a rope to the door and brought the rope through the door frame and I slept on the other side of the door. Then, about 5 o’clock in the morning, “Hallelujah!” I heard rustling in the kennel and I pulled the door closed and looked in and there she was. Her new name was Mystique because she was so good at hiding and mysterious. When I dragged the whole kennel into the cabin, she just sat down and looked at me like “what took you so long?!” “I’ve been waiting for you to catch me!” I opened up the kennel door and she came to me and was glued to my side, I fed and patted her and cried and was so grateful.
Here’s a picture taken of the day that I caught her.
That day, every time I tried to leave the cabin to get items to take back to our rented house, Misty would howl the most heartbreaking howl that sounded so lonely.
When we got back home, Misty took a while to get used to me leaving her and she was definitely “my dog”. She didn’t like my ex at all–every time he tried to take her for a walk, she would slip out of the collar and run back to me. When I went out at night, she would go upstairs and wait at the top of the stairs for me to come home and then she would be “normal”.
A couple of months later, I realized that it was finally time to leave my abusive ex and packed up my car with all of the items I could fit into it and put Misty in the front passenger seat and headed west to my family in Manitoba. I would have left her with my ex if I thought she could have a happy life, but she was just so glued to me and still would not even look at my ex and barely let him even pet her. I didn’t know where I was going to live and I didn’t have a job, but I could not leave her behind.
During the trip, she was a great comfort to me as I was scared my ex was going to try to find me and bring me back. She slept curled up next to me and would even get into the shower with me in the morning because she wanted to be so close. (I found out before I left Nova Scotia that the place we got her from was a puppy mill and there were other dogs rescued–thankfully–who were also abused and fearful of people). Misty had a few scars on her muzzle that never went away.
When I reached Manitoba, I lived with my parents in a small town in southern Manitoba until I could figure out what to do. Misty my soul dog, she was unfortunately afraid of my father too as he was loud but he loved my mom immediately. I started school and eventually moved to a nearby city. Misty stayed with my parents until my mother had to be hospitalized with cancer and thankfully the apartment manager where I lived let me keep her with me. I loved having Misty near, we walked every day and she made me laugh at her antics. With me she was a “normal” dog but around others she was shy and hid under tables. Imagine a 90 lb dog hiding under side tables.
I moved a few other times, bringing Misty with me wherever I went–if you got one, you had the other. I took her to the lake with me as much as I could. She LOVED to swim and her and I would swim around together in the lake. If you would throw a stick in the water for her to retrieve you could keep her entertained for HOURS, even if she could barely stand up, she’d dive into the water to retrieve. She loved the lake and was the only place she would run loose and not be afraid.
When Misty was around 5 years old, I finally had enough to buy my own house and when I moved there, all of a sudden Misty came into her own and seemed to develop her confidence. No longer would she hide when people came over to visit, she would greet them at the door with a wagging tail and playful growly sound. She went up to people for affection and would sit for hours while people scratched her, especially right above the top bone on her chest.
Misty never outgrew her fear of thunder and lightning though. She would scratch and crawl her way under my bed every single time the lightning started. I finally figured it was the flashing lights so if I knew that a storm was coming, I ‘d sleep with the light on or leave the light on if I was going to be away, which helped a bit. I would find her in the most odd places when she tried to hide. Once I found her under the drum in the washing machine–she had somehow (without hurting herself) pulled herself through a narrow hole at the back of the washing machine and crawled under the machine–I had to lean the washing machine forward to the floor to get her out! One place I lived, I built a little safe zone for her under the basement stairs with a cardboard box, bedding and a dark curtain in front of the box. She hid there when I was away.
We walked together all the time, she did not need a leash as she listened to me completely (well by the time she was 5 she did ;o) ). I would take her to the park and just let her run loose. Everyone who knew her said she had an old soul–she was so gentle with smaller dogs, cats, and children.
In 2005, I noticed that she was getting a bit grey around the muzzle and she was slowing down with our walks. No longer would she stay ahead of me (but within viewing distance). Now she stayed within 20 feet and sometimes would even be behind me. She was 10 now and being a larger sized dog I thought she was just getting older and aging.
In May, of 2006, I took her to the vet for her regular shots and just happened to mention that she was slowing down and noticed she had lost a bit of weight. The vet looked at her closely and said her gums are white (I just hadn’t noticed), and then he said he wanted to do some blood tests. He called me back a couple of hours later and told me that she was dying. I started sobbing right away, “what do you mean?”, “what’s wrong with her?”, “what can be done?”. Unfortunately the answers were not good. He told me he was surprised she was even alive right now as her white blood count was not enough to sustain life, he believed she had bone marrow cancer, and anything we did would only prolong her life but not increase or maintain her happy life. “How long do you think she’ll live?” He told me he thought she would pass within a few weeks at the most. I left work destroyed…I don’t think I had ever been loved so completely or loved another being so unconditionally and I really could not imagine my life without her. Over the next week I took her back to the vet every couple of days, thinking each time that the vet would say we should put her down now and crying each and every time. The vet and I talked about it and my only concern was that I did not want her to suffer in any way–she had had a tough first part of her life and she did not deserve to have any further suffering in her life. “How will I know when it’s the right time?” He told me that sometimes we don’t know for sure and sometimes we second guess afterward that we waited too long or not long enough–not much help right? Well…I just watched her and made her life as comfortable as possible–really other than now she was starting to lose weight rapidly–5 lbs over the next week–she was still super happy to see me when I came home from work and would get up with me when I went into other rooms, as she had always done. She didn’t seem that different–but I also knew she was a very stoic dog, I had seen her hurt once or twice by accident and she never made any noise. When she was upset or hurt, she would pant a lot, that was all.
About ten days after the diagnonsis, May long weekend, 2006, and the Monday night before going back to work, I woke up in the middle of the night, Misty was lying on the floor panting. I knew, she was in pain now and I had to let her go.
I went to work at 7:00am and called the vet first thing when they were opened and made an appointment for later that morning. I knew I would be off work a couple of days at least. When I left, my Manager hugged me because she knew how devastated I was, she was with me when I got the phone call from the vet.
I took Misty to the vet and told him I could not see her dead, I did not want that picture in my head (I have never regretted that decision). He told me he would give her a sedative and I could stay with her until she was drugged. So her last conscious memory was just her and I and me holding her tight…
Misty’s passing not only affected me but also my family members and my friends who knew her–we all missed her and cried for her.
A few months later, I decided to get her name tattooed on my ankle.
I still have the top two picture of Misty at my desk at work and see her picture every day.
I’ve had three dogs in my life since Misty passed away. Ceilidh, a poodle-terrier cross I had since Misty was 3 years old–she was put down 2 and a half years ago. Ginger, a rescue chocolate lab cross who was just too much dog for my lifestyle so I found a good country home for. And right now I have Ruby, a LaShon whom I absolutely adore. I never had children and perhaps that is why I am so attached to my pets.
But you never forget your first soul dog.
I can’t imagine I will ever forget Misty, and how important she was to me. She was with me while I rebuilt my life after an abusive relationship, many moves and jobs till I got back up on my feet. She was the constant companion and helped me feel secure and loved. She is just engraved on my heart…
They will not go quietly
the dogs who’ve shared our lives.
In subtle ways they let us know
their spirit still survives.
Old habits still make us think
we hear a barking at the door.
Or we step back when we drop
a tasty morsel on the floor.
And, sometimes, coming home at night,
we miss them terribly.
Although time may bring new friends
and a new food dish to fill.
That one place in our hearts
belongs to them…
And always will
Good bye my sweet sweet Misty. Thank you so much for being in my life. And thank you Spirit for bringing this gentle, sweet soul to me and letting me be her caretaker on Earth.