Bye Bye Baby, Bye Bye
Although my list of potential 2010 happy things has proven to be pretty accurate so far, unfortunately something unexpectedly sad happened, too. I write this entry with very heavy hands.
My favorite doggy/"sister" Libby passed away in early February, after briefly suffering from a brain tumor. She lived an amazing sixteen and a half years (which is almost three years longer than her life expectancy). We did not get to throw her a doggy funeral, but I feel like she deserves a eulogy anyway, even if only just in blog form.
So here goes.
When I was thirteen years old, I decided that we needed a dog. My entire family was reluctant to bring a four-legged mongrel into our home, but due to my persistence (ie. excellent little-sister whining ability), my parents agreed to "think about it".
A few weeks later, my mom and I found ourselves at an American Eskimo breeder's house, knee-deep in fluffy white puppies of all ages and sizes. Once we saw them, we knew there was no turning back - I mean, look at how cute the puppies are:
(plus some still had floppy ears and could fit in the palm of my hand!)
One 6-week old female stood out from the pack. She wasn't sloppily wrestling with the other puppies; she sat up straight with the adult show dogs, watching the puppies with a kind of dismissive amusement. I picked her up and she laid down in my lap and napped a little. I whispered to my mom, "This is MY dog!".
Two weeks later, she sat calmly in my lap as we drove her to her new home. We named her Liberty Belle, since she was born on the 4th of July. Her first night was quiet as she explored her surroundings, and then she curled up in a pile of blankets in her crate (her "house") and fell peacefully asleep.
She had us so fooled!
The next morning we found her scampering in circles around the kitchen in a frenzy, whining and yipping and spilling her food. We quickly realized that she not only was a bundle of energy, but was also very smart. She wasn't in our fenced yard more than two minutes before she found a way out!
As it turned out, Libby fit into the family perfectly. Like her human siblings, she went through an extremely long awkward phase growing up. For about a year, her head looked too big, her body looked too thin, and her fur just didn't sit quite right. She also could make the exact same awkward sound we did when she needed to scratch her throat. But, like the rest of us, as an adult, she became a normal-looking functional member of society.
None of us ever really "trained" her, but she was clever enough to become well-trained herself, thankfully. Libby naturally wasn't a biter or a chewer (she only wanted to chew meat products that she could eventually swallow), and she could learn new tricks very quickly. Her favorite was giving us a high-five, and her favorite to avoid was rolling over.
She certainly trained us, too! I am fairly sure that she thought her place in our "pack" was Top Dog. And her big brown eyes and happy smile could always win us over. She got to a point where she could bark at mom to say "Give me the food on your plate!" and mom would happily comply!
It's hard to organize sixteen and a half years of Libby's life into something resembling a five-paragraph essay. So the following is a random assortment of memories of her that stick out in my mind:
- Libby weighed about 20 pounds, but I think she was a big dog trapped in a little dog's body. She would get so frustrated when we'd easily be able to pick her up, especially when she was outside. She would whine and struggle as if to say, "I am a large vicious wolf, and you are embarrassing me while I am trying to hunt!"
- Libby loved to run! I swear she had sled-dog in her genes somewhere. When she was a puppy, she would run so fast that she would end up accidentally somersaulting. She could put her hips down to make herself more aerodynamic and race around the garage. We didn't even have to chase her; she would keep running as long as we pretended to "try to catch" her as she zoomed by.
- Libby's favorite toy was a partially-deflated orange basketball. It was almost as big as she was, and if we kicked it around the backyard, she would growl and bite at it and attack it like it was pure evil. She never tired of trying to get her little mouth around the huge ball!
- Libby did not get easily scared, but the things that did scare her were always amusing. She loved thunderstorms and lightning, but freaked out if she saw a helium balloon blowing gently in the wind. She was unfazed by the hair dryer or the vacuum, but growled at and hid from rotating fans.
- Libby's sworn enemy was the mailman. Every day she would bark ferociously from behind a fence as the mailman walked up the driveway. I am sure that in her mind, the mailman would have broken into the house and attacked us all had she not "chased" him away each day. She would even come in for a treat after he had left; surely she felt that she deserved a reward for "protecting" us.
- Libby also hated squirrels and cats, both of which were abundant in our neighborhood in Detroit. Libby learned over time to suppress her urges to go after the squirrels until they were fairly close to her, but she never caught one. After a good "hunt", though, she always begged to eat her lunch outside. I imagine that she pretended that she was eating what she had chased and not just Kibbles 'n Bits.
- Libby was still pretty little when she saw her first snowstorm. I remember she stepped onto the porch, got her first glimpse of deep snow, and jumped right in. It covered her entire body, but before we had a chance to pick her up out of it, she leaped out herself! She spent hours playing in the snow. With her thick coat of fur, she was in her element!
- Libby spent most of her time in our kitchen, but mom would let her run upstairs to wake up Davidde or me some mornings. I would usually wake up upon hearing mom excitedly say, "Where's Ciara? Go get Ciara!" right before the 20-pound ball of fur would jump on me. We learned later that Libby had no idea that I was "Ciara". To Libby, "Ciara" apparently was my room. Even if I was standing right next to her, if someone asked "Where's Ciara?" she'd run upstairs and jump on my bed!
- Libby had an amazing internal clock. She knew exactly when it was time for lunch or a walk, or when the mailman was supposed to arrive. Eventually she became my mom's alarm clock, barking at regularly at dinnertime for example. Daylight Savings would confuse her a lot!
- If Libby was left alone outside and would hear a siren, she would respond to it by howling. She'd throw her ears and head back and howl like a wolf in the moonlight (although the sound she made was pretty pathetic). If she caught us watching her, though, she'd immediately stop! It's like she would say, "What? I wasn't acting like a dog, I swear!"
- Libby was an expert at avoiding swallowing pills. We tried everything - we'd put it in peanut butter, mash it into cheese, bury it in a piece of beef, etc, and she could always quickly swallow the tasty treat and spit out the pill. We eventually gave up and started dissolving them in gravy. She did, however, love her meat-flavored bone-strengthening pills. She would do every trick, without being asked, two or three times just to get one!
- Libby hated having us put her harness on before a walk. She knew she had to wear it in order to go out - she never ran out the front door without it, even when given the opportunity - but she would still duck and weave to avoid it. I guess she preferred to not wear clothes? (It does run in the family.)
- Libby's ears were the best. They were like an insight into her brain. If we'd call her to come inside and she didn't want to, her ears would fold back, in a "what? I can't hear you, my ears are down" sort of way. But they would perk right back up if we whispered something like "eat?" :) She even convinced mom for a time that she was deaf, years before she actually started to lose her hearing!
- Libby started to slow down when she got some arthritis in her hips a few years ago. Around that same time, Davidde got his cat Ralphie, and brought him to mom's to spend the night on Christmas Eve. Libby, who had been lounging for hours, took one look at the kitten and basically jumped for joy, arthritis be damned! After chasing Ralphie over the couch (and Dante) until he hid in the piano, Libby looked at us with such a sense of gratitude. It was like she was saying, "You guys finally got me a kitten? You love me so much!" For weeks after Christmas, Libby always made sure to check around the piano to see if Ralphie had come back.
- Libby had such a grip on my family that we - seriously - call any white fluffy dog with pointed ears "Libby". Once while Davidde, mom, and I were in New York City with friends, we saw an American Eskimo on the street. Instinctively, the three of us abandoned our friends and ran over to the dog, calling for "Libby!!" Needless to say, the scared pooch did not appreciate it... and neither did our friends!
I could share memories forever. She was a huge part of our lives for a long time. At 30, I spent more of my life with Libby than without. Libby was our dog through all of the biggest changes and drama in my life so far. She shared my most difficult times and we literally grew up together.
She was so intelligent and had such a strong personality that in my heart, she didn't even seem like a dog, she was more like a little sister (one with mom wrapped around her little paw, no less!). I have been known to joke about her lack of loyalty, but I think she knew we were a part of her pack, and she loved us.
She seemed to make friends with all of our friends, too. She was on Friendster (with 11 friends, which is a lot since no one is on it!) and has her own Facebook group (with 29 members). Libby was probably the most popular one in our family! Her presence in our lives was a special gift, as much any dog can be.
I'll miss seeing her face in the window when I walk up to my mom's front door.
I'll miss giving her eskimo kisses.
I'll miss seeing how pretty she was when she'd come back from the groomer, and how silly the bows on her ears would look.
I'll miss her tiny paws, no bigger than silver dollars, that somehow were always under our feet.
I'll miss how she would tilt her head when Dante would tease her by saying "girl, day, pity?" because she could tell the words weren't quite the "squirrel, play, kitty" that she knew.
I'll miss how she'd fake "lying down" by just pounding the floor with her front two paws so she could get the treat without actually having to do the trick!
I'll miss holding her like a baby, which she would usually put up with for me.
I'll miss my mom and brothers accidentally calling her "Ciara" or me "Libby", because it was all the same to them!
I'll miss her always wanting to run on walks, even though she knew that I wasn't in good enough cardio-vascular health to keep up with her!
I'll miss her putting her head in my hand (it fit perfectly!) when I'd scratch her ears or snout.
I'll miss mom calling Libby her "baby", even though technically I was supposed to be the baby of the family.
I'll miss watching her sleep and dream at the foot of the front door in the winter, so that she could soak in all the cold air leaking in from underneath it.
I'll miss putting a treat in one clasped hand, but offering her both so she could guess which hand it was in.
I'll miss it when she'd sit up on her bed and cross her front paws like a little lady.
I'll even miss seeing the "tumbleweeds" of white fur that she'd shed all over the house and lawn every spring.
It's sad to picture of my future without her in it, and I think about her every day.
It really sucks to lose a pet. :(
But the truth is that we were all so blessed to have her healthy and happy and with us for so many years. She was my sweet little angel, and we seriously lucked out with such a good girl.
Rest in peace, Lubby Dubby. Kisses.
Please enjoy the following slideshow of Libby throughout the years. My entire family contributed to this collection of pictures.
Liberty Belle, 7/4/93 - 2/6/10
For more memories, here are other entries about Libby I've written throughout my diaryland years:
(click on the titles to view)
Lubby Dubby Doo!
February 23, 2003
It's Just That Easy
July 11, 2003
Mail Bursting In Air
July 4, 2004
Down With... Something!
July 6, 2005
March 14, 2006
It's A Spitzation!
June 23, 2007
My Favorite Things
April 29, 2008
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