My family and I have been blessed with an awesome menagerie of pets over the years – critters that bring with them personality and presence far and above what one would expect from a pet. I still hear stories of Barney, the notoriously ugly terrier, who kept vigil over my son long before I arrived on the scene. I recently used up a lot of bytes talking about my cat, Shakira. I could use up a lot more bytes talking about Morgan, our Airedale Terrier who loved to lead us on a merry chase through the neighborhood from time to time; or Merlin, the loveable Labrador who finally won over my wife by nearly going through a plate glass window in order to get an intruder trying to climb over a fence into our yard. All great pets. All dearly loved and missed immensely.
I am not sure there’s a proper way to say goodbye to Cea (Chaya), named after Boudicca, the Queen of the Britons, who fought bare-chested and proud against the Romans. I don’t know if Boudicca was as beautiful as her namesake, but if she had half the personality, she would have been someone to know.
Cea came to us via a story, as do most good characters that happen into one’s life. We’d become involved with the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) as a family, and enjoyed the camping and festivities that surrounded an SCA event known as the Potrero War – fought just a mile or so north of the Mexico-California border. I want to remember that it was the third and final night of War, but it may have been the second. A guy came walking through the various campsites with a bunch of puppies. “Part-wolf, part-Rottweiller, part-Shepherd, ” he told everyone. Though, they didn’t appear to have much Rottweiller in them, the pups were beautiful. One of our kids’ friends who had tagged along on the trip said that he wanted one of them. We tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted and said his parents would let him keep it. So, we relented. Well, he did keep her – until his dad, a Navy guy, came home. Pretty soon, we had an extra dog at our house. She came to be known as Cea.
Now, Cea never had a drop of Rottie in her. There’s no way. But, she did present patent wolf-like behavior, though I think she was mostly a mix of German Shepherd and Husky. Any way you go about it, she was a beautiful dog – full of love and obedience (when it suited her). She could be territorial when the need presented itself, and she didn’t back down. She did not like the pit bull that lived across the street from us (who is also a sweetheart) back in SoCal. The fact that the pit bull could have killed her with one big chomp never seemed to click. Maybe it was because the pit bull would always roll over on its back and show throat. Never impressed Cea, though.
Cea loved to lay beneath things, particularly the coffee table. She found security there that she never seemed to find while out in the open. As she got older, and her bones got stiffer, she reconciled herself to a big blue pillow full of stuffing from which she could reconnoiter everyone and everything coming through the doors. She loved it if you got down on the floor with her, and she’d bring herself out from under the table or lift herself from the pillow and come trotting over to you for a little play fighting or some simple loving.
In the mornings, when she first rose, she’d snarfle, sort of a sneeze, but done quickly and sharply and repeatedly. She’d bounce on her front paws – little short hops – sometimes in place, sometimes from side to side. We read in an article somewhere that the snarfle was a dog’s form of laughter, and she loved to laugh. She was so excited when her humans crawled out of bed and were ready to meet the world. Whenever she got excited, she danced like that. If you came to the house, once she’d finished her barking, if she knew you, she greeted you with her own version of the jive. If she did, that was a high compliment because it meant she liked you.
Throughout the day, wherever she went, Cea moved as gracefully as a dancer moves (only with four legs), gliding more than walking. Cea could run, too. I mean run. She was fast, could turn on a dime, and loved to go full-out until we made her come back. At night, when bed time neared, she would start trying to round us up, start trying to shepherd us, start trying to aim us for the den, where the pack would all be together, safe and sound, for the night. Cristina says she did that to the very end.
She seemed to really embrace the move from SoCal to Oregon. Our place was one big park for her, and she loved to be outside. She loved to take off down the road toward the mailbox, stopping and turning to see if you were coming, too. Even if you weren’t coming, she rarely came back without first making her own trek down to the mailbox. Unfortunately, she developed a tumor, which proved to be cancer. This slowed her down some. We had it removed once, but it came back a second time. At her age, it seemed cruel to subject her to a second surgery. The woods became a no go for her, but she still loved to romp around a bit on the flatter ground – a few slips and falls notwithstanding.
As is often the case, the cancer wouldn’t go away, and the tumor grew quite large. Her movements became hindered, and during the last several months, she began to lose control of her body functions. They tell you not to assign human emotions to animals. Personally, I think it’s a way to rationalize treating them as things rather than as cognizant creatures. Anyone who’s ever seen a dog lose control of their body functions has seen true embarrassment. Dogs have a sense of dignity just as we do. The last few months Cristina commented more than once about Cea struggling physically, sometimes falling, sometimes making a mess. These reports came more and more often, and it became clear that, at 14, her days were coming to an end.
Cristina called me on my cell phone and told me it was time. She’s a practical woman, even when something is crushing her heart. Cea was her dog – devoted to her and protective of her – a true companion. For her to call me and tell me this meant it really was time. Her only regret was the Cea wouldn’t be around when I came home for Christmas. I assured her she was doing the right thing. And, it was.
Cea, the beautiful dog, was 14. She lived a good life. She loved her humans. We are going to miss her beyond measure.
Copyright, Greg Hubbard, 2007.