In Memory of Sandy

Our dog died this week. Sandy had been with us for more than 13 years, but had been having health problems for the last 6 months. Late in life, she developed diabetes and started having epileptic seizures. We kept it under control for quite a while, but eventually it was too much for her system. It also turned out she had liver cancer, so that may have precipitated the failure of everything else. We are very sad about her death and will miss her greatly.

Sandy and a toy

We got Sandy from a rescue group where, though being scrawny and having just come off the street, she wagged her tail like crazy and was a very sweet dog. We got her just before Halloween, and she was terrified by the Trick-or-Treaters, so she hid under my chair for the evening (and never did so since). We knew she was a little special because when the vet spayed Sandy, we were told she had a couple extra blood vessels that caused a bit of trouble, but it all worked out. She hated the cone over her head to prevent her licking the stitches, so I took it off and she never messed with her incision.

We got a great trainer and trained Sandy to behave well. She was a quick learner, particularly when food was involved. She could be bribed to do nearly anything, which was good later in life when we had to give her insulin shots and such. She also learned from corrections, but we had to do it well. She drove my wife crazy by trying to bite her way up the leash on walks and runs. I think Sandy thought it was both playing and protest, but my wife couldn’t stop it. Finally, she got in one good correction with the collar snap, and Sandy never tried it again.

While my wife did most of the walking and poop-picking-up, Sandy saw her as slightly subordinate and a plaything, perhaps because my wife sometimes got down on the ground to play with the dog. I was always seen as the alpha dog and Sandy was very good at obeying me, much to my wife’s chagrin. We could get Sandy to jump through hoops, crawl through tunnels, and do figure-8 around our legs as we walked (particularly if there was promise of a treat coming). She was a good watchdog and barked at all the deliverymen and anyone else that came to the door.

Despite Sandy’s questionable time before we rescued her (she cowered sometimes when we made certain motions, so she must have been beaten), she was housebroken and never pooped in the house, except when she was terribly sick and couldn’t help it, and that was only a couple of times over all those years. She only peed in the house once, and that may have been her experimenting with what she could get away with. She squatted over a mat and started to pee and when I shouted “NO!” she stopped and never tried it again.

Sandy was quite a chewer when she was young. When we were at work, we confined her to the kitchen for a while (as we were training her and trying to understand her behavior) and she chewed up part of the linoleum! We put her in a huge cage in the middle of the kitchen (well, not really a cage – we called it the Bellagio, because it was so grand) and one day, she managed to knock it enough over that she jumped out over the kiddie gate and escaped into the rest of the house. My wife came home at lunch to walk the dog and opened the door to see Sandy with some undergarment in her mouth racing past. Sandy had caused a bit of devastation in several rooms, including licking a pair of my slippers to death (the linings were completely trashed), eating my chapstick, and generally chewing things that shouldn’t be chewed. No real harm done, but shocking that she had so much energy. This was even though my wife was running with her several miles a day and going on several walks. We expanded the Bellagio (making it so large that my wife could wheel a chair in and sit with Sandy with the roof on) and put a roof on it to prevent future great escapes when we were out.

Eventually, Sandy calmed down and had the run of the house. She loved laying upside down and napping everywhere, but she had an odd quirk. She always wanted to sleep with something pressing against her, often digging into her head. When we would try to convince her to move her head somewhere more comfortable, she would push it against something else.

Sandy, of course, loved food, especially meat. Once day, I accidentally dropped a frozen burger on the way to the grill and she thought “wow, meatsicles from heaven!” and started licking it. She didn’t get to keep it, but she had a nice time while it lasted. My wife dropped a taco once, and Sandy inhaled it before we could say anything. She also liked many vegetables, particularly corn on the cob (see the movie on my YouTube page), broccoli, and carrots. She hated fruit, tomatoes, and alcohol (if I waved the top of an open beer bottle near her, she turned away).

For a long time, Sandy slept in the kitchen of the Redondo Beach house, but when we moved to Irvine, she started sleeping at the foot of our bed (on the floor – she wasn’t allowed on furniture). Thus began the multiplication of dog pillows – we eventually had 4 or 5 around the house to suit her whims. She did use them all. The only time she tried to get on furniture was after we had taken care of a friend’s dog. We think the other dog must have gotten up on the couch while we were out, because shortly thereafter, Sandy very slowly and deliberately put her front paws on the couch and made to climb up. She was watching me all the time, and I was speechless with what I was seeing. Once I recovered my voice and said “NO!” that was the end of it and she never tried again.

In her early years, Sandy was a counter-cruiser. We caught her on her hind legs with her front paws on the kitchen counter looking for things to steal and chew. And the tail was wagging in such a nervous wag! Later in life, she liked pulling things from trashcans and chewing what she would find. We’d discover a trail of chewed tissues and dental floss leading out of the bathroom. We think she was just trying to get our attention if we were sleeping late, because she didn’t do it when we weren’t home.

About 4 years ago, a neighbor dog broke away from her owner and mauled Sandy. The other dog ripped a huge swath of skin out of Sandy’s right rear leg and also left puncture wounds on her neck and shoulder. After a night of surgery, Sandy came home very weak with another of those cones on her head. She was so miserable that I took the cone off and she never messed with her stitches. She eventually recovered, but her leg became stiff so she could never sit properly again. That was sad, because we had trained her to be such a pretty sitter (she started off with a very sloppy sit, but ended up with a perfect sit posture). She also couldn’t manage the stairs in our new house, so she had to sleep downstairs while we were upstairs, which was sad.

I’ve spent the last 13 years narrating all my actions and thoughts to the dog. She was a constant presence that I could talk to, explain things to (and she patiently listened), and was very comforting to have around. She was fun and playful, though not particularly cuddly. Sandy was a terrific companion and we loved her. If there is a Heaven, perhaps she is there, and perhaps she will put in a good word for us because of her life with us.

Comments are closed.