I love and have loved ALL of our dogs, each in their own way. But Tessa… Tessa was my heart. And on Friday afternoon, she left us.
At Fair this fall, just before she started having symptoms from a nasal tumor that destroyed the bones in her face and made it hard for her to breathe. In November, DH took her ten hours by car to Colorado State University—the first road trip any one of our pups had ever taken!—for radiation therapy. The therapy worked, but there were complications from the anaesthesia: It turned out she’d developed a condition called mega-esophagus, which put her at risk for aspiration pneumonia, the same d@mn thing that killed her sister Ladygirl three months ago.
She never regained her strength after the first round of pneumonia (in Colorado). When she was well enough to travel, DH brought her back to KC, and she spent five days in ICU here, getting no worse and no better. With heavy hearts, we finally brought her home for hospice care, and she spent her last few days here at home with her two sisters and brother, resting comfortably, still “our” Tess. She died in DH’s arms on Friday, quickly.
Tessie was a late bloomer. When her brothers and sisters were playing together, learning The Doggie Rules, she was in the corner, eating cardboard. Consequently, she missed out on early socialization and ended up at the bottom of the pack, picked on by her sisters and shy around people. She didn’t want to be petted, picked up, cuddled, or held. She’d struggle and try to bite, and she was afraid of everything. I spent her first year trying to figure out how to reach her. It crushed me that this gorgeous dog didn’t love me like her littermates did.
For my birthday the year they turned one (so she was 14 months old), my mom gave me Patricia McConnell’s book The Other End of the Leash, about primate-to-canine communication. McConnell, a zoologist and animal behaviorist, explained that dogs see “ventral-ventral contact” (chest to chest… or hugging) as aggressive behavior, and if you want a dog to approach you, you need to lean back, arms held open. Tessa just happened to be walking past me as I read that very passage. I set the book down, said, “Hey, Tess,” leaned back—and she THREW HERSELF into my arms, as if she’d been waiting her whole life to show how much she loved me, but I’d never given her permission before.
And she never stopped hugging, for the next thirteen years.
Tess was—I’m not kidding here—perfect. She was as close to a pure soul as has ever been; full of nothing but love for everyone else, not a drop of malice or selfishness. It was an absolute joy watching her come out of her shell over the years, get over her initial shyness and reservations once she discovered that SHE was free to shower the world with affection. And she did. I have funny memories of Gracie Pigeon, exasperating memories of Ladygirl… but all my memories of Tess are ones of love. (Well, and that cardboard thing. Ahem.)
Miss you, AngelPuff.