On July 2, we laid to rest one of the bonniest shelties that ever lived, Mia. She had congestive heart failure and her lungs were filling with fluid. She was in pain, and she was 11 years old.
I feel raw, and vulnerable, and helpless. This incredible creature stayed with my family throughout my high school career, three long-term relationships, and multiple moves and trips. When she first entered into our lives, she was a timid 8-month-old who had been bred as a show dog. Her characteristic crooked teeth (anyone who has seen her up close knows the charming, crooked under bite smile she possessed) did not allow her to lead a life of fame. Instead, she came to us, huddled between my legs, frightened of her first car ride and the large man (my very gentle, animal-loving father) in the front seat. Over that first summer, I stayed with her every day as she gradually became more interested in other family members and the looming stairs. She has been a constant source of love and pride in my heart ever since.
She was the first one to greet us at the door, went to accompany my dad to the Greyhound bus terminal every time I came home when I was living away, and was never truly happy and at ease until our entire family was gathered together (preferably in the same room – she was a herding dog, after all!). She loved to participate in present opening, and we created special gifts for her to open on Christmas, much to her selfish little delight. She was the alpha dog of any dog group, and would often hilariously socially take on dogs three times her size and put them into ‘their place’. She stayed with me while I grieved the end of friendships or relationships, listened to us rant when we were angry, accompanied us on countless walks (including a few half-hearted attempts at jogging), played catch (sometimes not knowing where the ball went, only to ‘discover’ it seconds before the disgruntled thrower came to pick it up), and obediently came running into the kitchen anytime anyone yelled “Shit!” as she knew food had been dropped.
Mia’s health had been dicey over the past few years – an incident with a tray of oil left her with pancreatitis, but Mia came back, stronger and more exuberant than ever. She loved everyone without reserve, and you always felt like Mia was ‘in’ on little jokes with you. She laughed when others were laughing, and hugged when you were down. She was a constant companion to my dad, rising at the ungodly hours of 3:30 and 4:00am to keep him company and go for her favourite thing, a long walk. She hilariously ran away from my well-intentioned mother every time any grooming needed to be done. One time, in sheer desperation, my mother sent her to a groomer. Her notoriously thick coat came back with the behind entirely shaved off, much to my mother’s chagrin! Mia, however, seemed pretty delighted with the extra airflow, and happily pranced around with half her coat missing for the rest of the summer.
I already miss the disapproving looks she gave us when we acted in a juvenile manner. I miss the ‘hugs’ she would give by wrapping her body around our legs, similar to a cat. I miss her little head popping up at the front door when I left, and when I came home. I miss the ‘click click’ of her claws on the stairs. I miss the feeling of wholeness and love that were so apparent with her in the house. I miss her waiting up for me to come home, in the hallway across from my bedroom. Mia drew our small family together in hard times. Mia was the heart of the family. This commemoration cannot do her justice – at most, it can solidify that others will know of the amazing influence she had on the lives of my family and I. I am so happy that you took the time to read this; my grief can be countered with the simple knowledge that more people were able to know about the incredible family member that we just laid to rest.