Elena

In April 2001, Whisper, our Golden Retriever and companion of almost eleven years, died of lymphoma. We were all heart-broken. No one took it harder than I. Due to my severe depression, Whisper had become my companion animal. It soon became apparent that I was not coping well without a dog; my mother had adamantly insisted we would never, ever have another dog because it was just too much effort to take care of one.

Right around December of 2001, I found a few printed pages with breeder information on our table because my father had been careless. On my birthday, I received a stuffed animal Golden Retriever along with a card that this would have to tide me over until our real puppy arrived. Getting a puppy was not easy, but at last we came across a breeder who was desperately trying to find a home for a puppy that had been returned to them due to her original family not being up to dealing with a small dog.

So, in early February 2002, Elena entered my life.

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She was a rambunctious puppy. We bonded instantly and this was all that prevented me from murdering her when she chewed through my internet cable, wanted to play at all hours of the day, nearly dug out my father’s favorite rosebush and went digging through our rubbish bins. She was also sweet – she fit into my lap, which soon became her favorite place to sleep. She filled my life with love and laughter, even when she insisted on bringing me lunch meat wrappers.

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The first year was tough – she was a little destructive, but nonetheless lovable. She suffered through various forms of medical treatment after getting spayed, vaccinations, x-rays for her hips and one or two behavior training classes. We gave those up when it became apparent she was more interested in sniffing the behinds of other dogs than actually listening to some strange woman who kept her own Golden Retriever puppy on a choke chain. Elena made friends wherever she went. She had a big, open smile and enough personality for three dogs.

She was also the love of my life. No person made me as happy as my dog did. Even when school took me away to another city and it made me weep, she was always pleased to see me when I came back on weekends. It wasn’t for my family that I came back. It was for the ball of fluff who made sure absolutely all of my clothing was covered in her fur, no matter how many times I washed said clothing. We seemed to fill out different ends of the spectrum – she a happy, bounce blonde ball of fuzz, and I a sulky Goth kid. For her, I didn’t mind breaking the mold.

Elena was my backbone and my heart through several severe bouts of depression. Whenever I came close to the edge, there was a cold pinkish nose nuzzling under my elbow for attention. I could never go through with whatever stupid plans I made when it occurred to me I would have to leave her.

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Eventually she moved to England while I went to college. While I wilted away emotionally in the US for being separated from her, my dog seemed to deteriorate. She developed a limp. There was a lump in her side that grew. When I came home for summer, it seemed as though my dog had aged far more than should normally be possible. Only a few days after I returned she developed a severe limp, so bad she could barely walk, let alone get up. A visit to the vet confirmed that she had arthritis and muscular atrophy in her hind legs. She was put on an anti-inflammatory medication. It helped.

Until, on July 22nd 2009, she fell chasing a deer. Her hind legs and tail were paralyzed. Again, we went to the vet with her, where x-rays were taken. She was diagnosed with spondylosis, a condition where a vertebra becomes arthritic and begins pressing the next disc down. A harsh, sudden movement shoves the disc into the spinal cord, severing neurological function. Sometimes it can be temporary, in which case it is referred to as spinal shock. We waited, hoping it would get better. It didn’t.

On July 24th, Elena was put to sleep because her paralysis would not abate and it affected not only her legs and tail, but also her bowels and bladder. Nothing functioned without a lot of help from vet technicians. She was only seven and a half years old. Life is lonely without her love and companionship.

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