Monday, October 03, 2011

Farewell, dear friend

A dear friend of mine died today. She was about 11 years old, near as we know. I thought she had a bit longer to go, but it turns out that isn't the case. I'm writing a bit about her life, partly in homage, partly to assuage the guilt I feel for being so distracted by my family that I wasn't a better friend to her the past few years. She was an amazing dog, and she traveled with me through a significant part of my life. She will be sorely missed.

The Early Years
Big Transitions

Sequoia: the early years

I first met Sequoia when she was a wee gal, 9-12 months old according to the shelter. She'd been found wandering around town. She was exactly the dog my boyfriend and I were looking for - a medium sized pit bull mix. Another family was interested in her, so I watched with trepidation as they took her into the fenced enclosure for a meeting. They had a toddler with them, and when he came over to her, she sat down and patiently tolerated his pulling and prying on her face and ears. (in hindsight, as a parent now, I'm horrified those people took a young child to meet an unknown dog!)

I lucked out - they didn't pick her. I had to wait a week to take her home, and when I picked her up she had a tattoo on her shaved belly. Turns out their tattoo machine was broken, so they had closed her incision with stitches that would make it clear to any future shelter that she was already fixed. The hair never really grew to cover the mark, and she forever bore that bright green mark.

Getting her into my car was a challenge. Her only previous car ride had been from her life of wilderness to the shelter. Other hallmarks of life indoors proved equally perplexing: climbing stairs took days to master (though the day she "got it" she ran up and down and up and down). She walked around the wood stove, looking for the dog she saw in the glass. My boyfriend practiced his tuba one day when she was home, and she was spooked from going into that room for a few days. She spent her days enjoying the 2 acres of land we were renting. She killed a rabbit and two squirrels that first week (at least that's all I knew about), and one of the most beautiful images I have of her is watching her bound through the chest-deep weeds, and then stop, raise up on her hind legs, and sniff a sunflower that was growing in the middle of the pasture.

When we moved into our new home, she and I started taking long walks quite regularly. She would run ahead and come back, run ahead and come back, always keeping me within her sight. There was a five mile forest loop that was scarcely used, so she got away with going leash-less almost exclusively, something I paid for when we moved to the city. I often took her for mountain hikes, too. Once, when I was lonely and newly-single, I decided to hike a rather abandoned trail. About half way up she came running back to me, and sat down behind me. I kept on a bit further, trying to encourage her to come. She wouldn't budge. Finally I decided that she must have smelled something further up the trail, so I decided to turn around and go home. I'll never know if she sensed a bear or mountain lion, but it was the one and only time she ever did that, so I'm sure she protected me from something.

During this time she developed a reputation around food. She was never randomly destructive like puppies can be, but she was 100% untrustworthy around food. She would eat 20 pounds of dog food if I didn't close the cabinet. She would eat a bag of baking flour if I didn't put the groceries away. My mom mailed me a gift for my birthday a few months after she moved in. The gift sat on the kitchen table, and I was saving it to open when I came home. That evening I found a new sweater on the floor, and bits of wrapping paper, and I was thoroughly confused. Then I found the scraps of plastic bags....Mom had sent me a box mix for cheesecake with a sweater. Sequoia had torn into, and thoroughly licked up, the mix, somehow doing so without damaging the sweater. From thence forth, any packages sent to me containing food were clearly labeled, "Sequoia alert."

Sequoia: Big transitions

Sequoia and I left the Tijeras Mountains and moved into Albuquerque. It was a huge change - from a 2000 square foot house to a room, from five mile walks to a small dog park. She also got some roommates: a 22 year old cat and a quiet little dog. Oh, and a human friend, too. The cat took one swipe at her, and forever scared her. The dog was a loyal little friend who buried dog biscuits all over the house, which Sequoia followed closely behind to gobble up. There were many more amazing eating episodes, most notoriously the 27 cans of cat food. There were at least another dozen she didn't eat, so we can only assume that her belly was full or her jaw was tired from popping open the cans. Less notorious, but still impressive, was the surgical, virtually unnoticable removal of Shade's Christmas dog treats from a box that was otherwise full of human gifts. She was only discovered when we were asked if Shade had enjoyed her gift. What gift?

In addition to our life at the new house were our hours at The Haunted House. Sequoia demonstrated the concept of dogged persistence when she tried, for more than 3 hours, to breech the chicken coop.

She moved with me across country, riding patiently through the 32 hours of driving. While my furniture was being packed up, she somehow figured out which one suitcase was not going into the moving van, and she climbed on top of it to be sure she went where it went, with me. During the drive out, she ended up sleeping both nights in the car because she was such a nervous wreck in the hotel; afraid, I guess, of being left behind.

Life in NJ suited her pretty well. My new roommates looked at her as "one of the guys", going so far as to place an order for her when they ordered food from PJs. Brant came into our lives at this point, and wisely worked his way into her heart (taking her for walks when I was out of town) while he slowly worked on mine. She never quite took to taking orders from him, though, and would always look to me for confirmation any time he gave her a command. When I nodded she would do as he had said.