I remember the day I brought her home. We had driven over three hours to meet this new member of our family. Probably through a monster rainstorm because that year we had had so much rain people were complaining their gardens were being flooded. We had just lost Taz, our 14 year old Shih Tzu. My sweet Beau-ba-licious was three. He was on the trip with us because, of course, he had to approve this new one. No use bringing her home and finding out they didn’t get along.
I loved having a Boxer and wanted a second one. I saw an ad or maybe I googled Boxer rescue. I’m not sure. But I found this rescue site. They said to call and get placed on their waiting list because it could take months before you would finally get a placement. So I called.
The lady said she was supposed to be getting a white male from the Humane Society that Saturday. I told her I didn’t think that would work because I already had a male. She asked me what I was looking for and I remember telling her, “Ideally, I would like a brindle female.” A few days later she calls me back and tells me that somehow the Humane Society had given her the wrong information. She did not get a white male; she was receiving a young, female brindle. She went on to say that it was extremely rare that she ever got young dogs; she estimated this dog’s age to be somewhere between 10 months to a year.
I broke the news to Jerry Lee who questioned why I wanted a second dog. The answer? I just did. Eventually he relented and agreed to it. I loaded the kids and Beau up and we went down the next day to meet this mysterious female brindle.
She was a sweetheart. So pretty. She and Beau got along fine. We stopped at a gas station and somehow she escaped. I remember thinking, “Oh my God! We’ve had this dog for less than an hour and we’re going to lose her. She’s going to run away and we’re never going to see her again.” But we got her back. Into the minivan she went.
For years I had said I wanted a female brindle and I was going to name her Dixie. Well, I got my female brindle. I ended up naming her Laila, after Laila Ali. I had heard all of these cute boxing names other Boxers were given, like TK and Jab, and I decided to go with something like that.
You know what my biggest memory of that day is though? I remember watching from our little deck as both dogs chased each other around the yard. I finally had my two Boxers. They were joyfully playing with each other and I stood there in the moment, drinking it in. I remember thinking, “Enjoy this moment because it won’t last; one day they will be gone.” I don’t know why I thought such a morbid thing at such a joyous time, but I did. Enjoy this very moment in your life because one day it will all be gone. I guess I didn’t think at the time that my life as I knew it would also be over, but I knew that dogs leave us way too soon, and this would be a memory one day. And so it became.
Once again, cancer claims my dog. She was fourteen. For a Boxer, fourteen is old. I mean, for any dog that’s getting up there but Boxers, on average, tend to live around 10 years. A vet once told me that anytime he had a Boxer over 10 for a client he took a special interest in them because it was rare to see. So I knew each day was a gift. I knew it was a matter of time. Maybe she’d get lucky and she’d beat the world’s record, which is 16 years and 9 months, I believe. Maybe we’d have another Christmas, or another summer with her. In March she was given a clean bill of health. The vet said she was in remarkably good shape for her age. He noted a bit of arthritis and some tartar buildup, but that was it. Six months later she was dead.
We came home from the Apple Festival and saw that she had thrown up a couple of times. It looked like she was throwing up grass and pebbles. Not the usual thing you see. I thought maybe she had eaten something and had an upset stomach and was trying to throw it up. The next day her back legs were shaking. She was wobbly and not herself. We took her to the emergency vet where they did x-rays. The vet there said they saw large quantities of sand or dirt in her intestines, but more troubling were the masses in her chest; she believed she had metastatic cancer. She couldn’t tell me how advanced it was. She wasn’t able to tell me if there was a blockage in her intestines. She advised I take her to the regular vet’s to get x-rays done once again.
On Monday the mobster took her in and I met him there. Honestly, that morning I thought when I took her in I was going to be putting her to sleep. She was sleeping on her bed when I left for work, although she did raise her head when I came into the room. The ER vet had given her a terminal cancer diagnosis. She didn’t seem to want to eat or drink. But then hope was restored. When I met the mobster there she was walking around on the leash. She seemed alert. And then the vet there said he wasn’t convinced it was cancer. There was definitely something there that shouldn’t be but it could be a problem with her lungs and not cancer. He advised we try to get whatever was in her stomach to pass and we could do follow up x-rays in 2-4 weeks.
I took her home feeling positive. If we could get whatever this was in her stomach out then she would be okay. We might have another year or two with her. I ran to the store to try to get baby food, as suggested by the vet. When I found the shelves to be bare I bought chicken, hamburger, and plain yogurt, also suggested by the vet. The mobster took her out into the yard to see if she would use the bathroom. She had been digging holes. Eventually she had solid stools (sorry- TMI). She was drinking even if she still had no interest in food. This was good. This was hopeful.
Then Tuesday came and her breathing was labored. It sounded like she had a cold and couldn’t breathe through her nose properly. We were back at the vet’s on Wednesday. It was considered a partial hospitalization. This time they did blood work, x-rays, and an ultrasound. Found that while the junk had passed through her stomach it was stuck in her cecum. The new x-rays showed even more masses, which indicated it was indeed cancer and it was spreading fast. He didn’t think she would be a good candidate for blockage removal surgery because of her lungs. And while we could be aggressive and get answers in regards to where the original tumor was, it wouldn’t prolong her life. The growth of new tumors was causing her difficulty in breathing.
She was fourteen. Even if we did everything as aggressively as possible what kind of quality of life would she have? How much longer would we get with her? My sweet Luscious Laila Lou was struggling to breathe, was having problems navigating any stairs (I was carrying her up the stairs from Sunday onward), wasn’t eating, and did nothing aside from lay around. I made the difficult decision to put her to sleep September 23rd. Rest in peace, my lovely Lou.
I still think about that day in June back in Utah. 2008. Watching those majestic beasts play. Being so damn happy. I like to think of it as a deposit into my memory bank. A really, really good memory.
The mobster says dogs don’t live long enough. He thinks after Ripley dies he probably won’t get another dog. He’s thinking maybe he’ll invest in a tortoise. Not me though.
It hurts like hell when you lose them, especially when you’re the one having to make that decision. But I can’t imagine living my life without them. I think maybe it hurts so much because they give you so much. They love unconditionally. They don’t lie. They don’t cheat. And they only break your heart when they die.
I lost my sweet Beau Beau in 2017. Laila Lou just days ago. In my mind she crossed the Rainbow Bridge and is once again happily running and playing with Beau. Just like they did that day in June thirteen years ago when they first met.