In December 1996, I decided that I wanted another dog. I had lived with my sweet dog, Autumn, for four and a half years. We had moved back to Oregon from the east coast, and I had finished college and begun working full time. I decided Autumn needed someone to hang out with during the day while I worked, so I chose to go to the humane society and look there. I had been donating money to the humane society for years and fully supported animal adoption that way. I considered myself an ideal owner; an animal that lived with me would be a full member of the family, receive top of the line care, and lots of love.
I was living in Corvallis at the time. I decided to go look at the humane society in Salem because it was bigger and would therefore have a larger selection. I was not sure exactly what kind of a dog I wanted, but I knew I did not want a brand new puppy and that I did want a female dog.
There were so many dogs to choose from. There were lots of brand new puppies and most of them had signs on their cages indicating they were already adopted. I entered the back kennels to search for an older dog. The kennel was bedlam. Because it was a Sunday, there were lots of potential doggie parents milling about looking for dogs.
I wandered up and down the aisles, occasionally stopping to pet one and say hello. One dog in particular caught my eye. She was about the same size as Autumn, but mostly black, almost like Autumn’s photo negative. Where Autumn was brown, this dog was black. Where Autumn’s points and eyebrows were dark brown, this dog’s were beige. She sat quietly in front of the fence. I went over and started to pet her. She looked at the floor, but leaned into the fence of the kennel so I could pet her ears. She was extremely thin, so thin I could count all of her ribs and see her hip bones.
This dog had curved front paws. There was no obvious bend like an L. Rather, her paws simply curved like the bottom of a U. Later when Autumn contracted diabetes and gradually starved, her paws began to curve too and I learned that curved paws were caused by starvation. I did not know at the time that the reason this dog’s paws were curved was because she had been starving. The sign on her kennel read QUEENIE. Her breed was listed as a doberman mix. I did not think so. Her colors might have been vaguely reminiscent of a doberman’s, but nothing else about her resembled that breed.
I pet her for a bit, then moved on to look around some more. I would wander up and down the aisles then return to the kennel with Queenie. Other visitors would stop at various kennels, but no one else stopped at Queenie’s. I kept going back. She would look up at me, then look at the floor, then look back up at me. The workers allowed me to take her out into a back yard to walk her around and spend time with her. She sat next to me and walked quietly beside me while we walked around a bit. I asked her if she wanted to live with me. She just looked at me, then looked away, then looked back again at me. She won me over and I decided that she was the dog I wanted to take home.
The workers told me that Queenie had been found wandering the streets of Salem three weeks prior. The day I chose her, she was extremely thin. I could count each of her ribs and she had those curved paws I did not know signified atrophied muscles from malnourishment. If she was in this shape after three weeks, I can only imagine how thin she had been upon arrival.
Prior to that day, my dog Autumn lived as a child with my husband and me. She slept in our bed. She ate the best dog food. When it was determined she had hip dysplasia, she received top of the line vet care. She was a priority in our lives. I cannot imagine an animal more loved and cared for. Yet the humane society in Salem would not let me adopt Queenie because the house we lived in was rented and did not have a fence. There were other smaller reasons as well that I no longer remember. The main thing that stood out was the house situation. Even though I had owned another dog and cared for her in that house for over a year, the people there determined it was not good enough. No wonder so many animals can’t find homes. If someone like me could not adopt a dog, I did not see how anyone could.
I hugged Queenie and left the facility completely dejected. I wanted her. I knew she would fit well with our little family. I had to find a way to bring her home.
Knowing the criteria that had kept me from adopting Queenie, I set out to find a friend who would “kidnap” her for me. I called around and described the situation. My uncle John had just moved to the area. When I told him what was going on, he agreed he would go and get Queenie out for me. I was so pleased! Perhaps she would be coming home with me after all.
The next day, Uncle John went down to the humane society. We rehearsed the story we would tell in order to ensure he could adopt Queenie. I waited and waited for him to call. Over an hour later, he finally called to tell me he had Queenie and was on his way to my house. I clapped in joy. She was mine! The story my uncle had told was convoluted and long. He told them he owned his own house with a fenced yard. He said he had a little boy who wanted a dog. They told him he could not take the dog until the little boy had visited. He then created some sob story where they had had a dog who had died. His little boy was desperately sad and missed this dog more than anything. Queenie looked like that dog and he wanted to surprise his little boy. The people bought it, thank God!
The night Queenie came home I changed her name to Molly. She did not look like a queen, but she did look like a sweet Molly girl.
As part of the agreement to adopt, I had to pay a rather large fee, something like eighty dollars. It was claimed that most of the fee was to pay for a certificate to spay Molly. The humane society where she was adopted was in Marion County. I had been assured the day before that I could use the certificate at a vet in the county where I lived. I scheduled the appointment to have her spayed. My vet told me that the certificates were not good in our county. I called other vets and was told the same story. Because I was not going to get to use the certificate anyway, I took her to my vet. He decided he would honor the certificate even though he would not be remibursed for the work by the humane society. I was grateful to him. We had only been shortly acquainted at that time, but I now consider him a good friend.
Two days later I took her in to be spayed. She was afraid of the vet’s office, but went along willingly. That was Molly. There were many situations where she was afraid, but she would trust me and go along if I was there. She stayed that way her entire life. A couple of hours after dropping her off, I received a phone call from the vet letting me know her surgery was complete. It turned out that when they opened her to spay her, she had already been spayed! The doctor sewed her back up and called me to come and bring her home. He said because the humane society told me she needed to be spayed, it had not occurred to him to question it before performing the surgery.
As I stated before, I had donated a lot of money to the humane society. I wanted to help the organization so it could help animals. However, after my experience that day trying to adopt that dog, after the experience with the spaying certificate I was told would work and then did not, and finally the fact they did not even know she had been spayed already requiring she undergo an unnecessary procedure, I stopped donating to them. It has been my experience, then and since, that there are many people who work in the animal adoption industry who seem to have the attitude that they are the only people good enough to care for animals. I absolutely understand taking steps to keep animals out of bad homes or laboratories. Yet when organizations that claim their purposes are to serve animals, to keep them from being euthanized, and to find them decent homes, they should not make it impossible for a good owner to adopt a pet. Unfortunately, because of the holier than thou attitude at some facilities, this is exactly what happens.
Molly was initially skittish, but she loved me and trusted me right away. Autumn was not thrilled by the interloper considering I had been sole mommy for the four years comprising her entire life. However, she grudgingly accepted Molly into the pack once she determined she was not going anywhere. For the rest of their lives the two basically ignored each other. In my attempt to get Autumn company with Molly, I failed wholeheartedly. Later when we adopted Poppy, Autumn and Poppy became good friends. And later after that, Autumn and Edna seemed to like one another as well. But Autumn and Molly never did. They acted like the other did not exist. About once a year they would get into a nasty quarrel and one or the other of the two would end up with a bloody bite.
From the beginning Molly knew certain words and was terrified of them. Her entire life if I said Vacuum she would go and hide. In the early days, she was genuinely frightened. In later years she would go and sit on the back porch or in the closet when the vacuum came out. She could not stand the thing. She also knew cuss words and would go and hide even if they were spoken in a sentence full of other words. For instance, I could say I’m going to go and dump the damn garbage and she would go hide. It was like a parlour trick, her knowledge of naughty words. I often wondered what happened to her in her early days to instill such a fear.
My vet and friend, Dr. Fletcher, examined Molly’s teeth very closely the month I brought her home and told me he was 95% certain she was just under two and a half years old. This would have put her birth around September 1994. A lot could happen in that time and I will never know what. In addition to her fear of cuss words and vacuums, she was terrified of loud men, arguments of any kind, and she knew sit, stay, and come. It was obvious she had lived with someone, but who knows what her life was like exactly.
Molly did not like being in trouble. Her perception of trouble had a higher threshold than most of us. During Autumn’s last years, Autumn would get into the trash and try to eat things beyond her diabetic dog food. I would come home to Autumn wagging her tail and Molly sitting in the corner hiding. Simply based on Molly’s body language, I knew Autumn had done something naughty. I know some animal behaviorists would say that Molly was reacting to my reaction, that she had no way to know Autumn had done something naughty. This explanation does not satisfy. Molly would be reacting to Autumn’s behavior before I even knew and reacted to it. Molly was smart. She knew.
Molly was also extremely fastidious. She would hold potty for hours and hours rather than go in the house. For a couple of years we lived in a 1930′s farmhouse with a full basement. There was no door on that basement so we put a gate at the top of the stairs to keep Milla from falling down them. The top of the stairs opened onto an enclosed back porch. When we were gone, we would leave the dogs on this back porch. One day I came home to discover Molly on the top stair to the basement. How did you get over the gate? I asked her. She wagged her tail. I went down into the basement to discover Molly had gone potty in the farthest corner of the basement. Rather than potty on the back porch Molly had jumped over the gate landing on stairs and gone down and as far away as possible to do it. That’s how she was.
Molly loved sleeping on the bed, but we had decided after we had three dogs and a cat and a child that the bed was too crowded so the dogs were relegated to beds on the floor. Every so often, Molly would slip quietly onto the bed and lie there as still as possible hoping we would not boot her to the floor. Most times we let her stay; she was not obtrusive.
Last April, Molly had a severe seizure. I wrote about that on this blog. You can click here to read about it. The seizure was horrible. When I woke to her twisted body writhing on the floor, her eyes rolling in two different directions, feces and urine everywhere, I thought for sure she was dead. But she did not die. Three hours later, to the surprise of everyone who had seen her, especially the vet, Molly was 95% better. And she stayed better. The vet warned me that more seizures were to come, that she likely had a brain tumor and would continue to seize until one of them killed her. But that never happened. She never had another seizure.
Because of her age, I knew Molly would not be able to cross the ocean to live with us in Hawaii. I arranged for her to stay with my boyfriend and his dog, Tanya, in Portland. She seemed to accept the change after I left. She spent a good deal of time under the bed, her favorite place to be. Boyfriend bought her a rug to lie on under the bed and a pillow for the living room. He bought her a new tag for her collar that said Miss Molly on a pretty pink flower. I would talk to her on skype. I don’t know if she knew what was going on, but she always had a happy face and would come out to play and say hello.
Yet over the last week and a half, Molly seemed to deteriorate before our eyes. She fell down the stairs to Boyfriend’s basement. She has had difficulty with stabilty on slippery floors for some time now and these stairs are covered in linoleum. She stopped wanting to eat. We thought maybe hard kibble was bothering her so Boyfriend bought wet food on Saturday. Molly gobbled that up like a starving beast and we thought things would improve. Only the next day she did not want to eat wet food either. Boyfriend fed her some by hand and she ate that, but the next day she wanted even less. Two days ago when he took her outside to go to the bathroom, she slipped and fell going up the back porch steps. Yesterday when she went out to go to the bathroom, she urinated then lay in it. I knew then that something was dreadfully wrong. My dear, sweet, fastidious dog would never go anywhere near her urine if she could help it. Boyfriend bathed her and I made an appointment with our vet for today.
Molly died this morning in the arms of my boyfriend. The vet said she had a large tumor in her spleen that had burst and her belly was full of blood. She said we could operate to remove the tumor, but she would likely not survive any surgery. There would have been no benefit in trying to save her life. She was fourteen years old. Her body was old and worn out. Trying to keep her alive would have been selfish and cruel.
Milla and I spoke to her over the phone telling her we loved her and goodbye. I hope she heard us and if not I hope our love was there for her. I imagined her flying away from that body just like Autumn did a little over three years ago. My boyfriend took her body home and buried her in the corner of his backyard. Tonight he went out and sat by her under the full moon.
I am so blessed this creature was a part of my life for almost twelve years. She was always there, quietly in the background. Molly loved a lot of people. She was always so excited to see my mom or my good friends. She loved my boyfriend and enjoyed his company, following him around the house for a snack or to have her rear end scratched. She took a bit of time to warm up to a person, almost like she was sizing them up to determine whether they were worth her friendship. Yet once she decided she liked you, she always liked you and would remember someone after months or even years of an absence.
Upon hearing of her death, a good friend said this to me, “She was such a good friend and such a polite and gentle dog. What a blessing to have had her for so long – she loved you all dearly.” These words are simply true. I am grateful Molly came into my life. In her quiet way she was a fixture in my life for over a decade. Of the hundreds of dogs I could have chosen from the humane society that cold, winter day, I am so thankful I chose her. I loved her and I will miss her terribly. I am glad that she was my friend.