On St. Patrick’s Day in 2000 in the small village of Ajijic in the Sierra Madre Mountains outside of Guadalajara Mexico the second smallest of a litter of ten Belgian Malinois came into this world …. loudly.
Tanya was not a show dog. She showed in one event but would not allow the judge near her. Despite innate gifts that would remain unrecognized for years, she was not a French Ring or Protection dog. Her skills at sniffing out minutia would we savored for rodents and rabbits.
While her lineage and talents would have allowed her to be amazing at other jobs, but life had other plans for us, and she was our pet; a home-based Malinois who protected us, cared for us, and was always alert to any thing her siblings or family needed.
I did not socialize her properly, and therefore she kept us at home, mostly, as without an assigned job, she made her own. That was to guard us against outsiders. And she was amazing at that job. Probably the most affectionate Malinois I have ever met, she would never show that to anyone outside our family, not even those who had known her since she was born. She adored her siblings, her step siblings of Otto and Jocko, and her littermate Omar. She teased, tormented, and nutured each one, and consoled each one as the others passed.
Tanya was 10 years old before I saw her sleep. She was so attentive, that she would never allow herself to fully rest if we were around, in case we needed something. The day we moved was the first time I saw her sleep. She was exhausted from the time in the car, moving around all day in the heatwave, and trying to understand what was going on, after just losing her brother. She slid into sleep in the back seat of the car. To make up for her lapse she immediately destroyed the back seat in an effort to “save” me from the parakeets in the cage in the front seat.
I did not see her sleep for another two years. When her best buddy Jocko died, her world changed. She had gone from being one of 14 dogs, to 1 of 4, and now she was an only dog. She slept. She slept for all the times she didn’t. She allowed herself to show her age and her discomfort, if only a little. When Jocko passed away, she was now able to focus on her, and she was sore.
Tanya became my constant companion at home. She was my shadow. She slept on the couch all the time next to me, snoring and stretching out on top of me. She cuddled and licked, and was already up for her massage. She knew when it was Saturday, and she had her routine down pat. She would wake up, go outside, and then demand her walk. Then it was in the car and she was so excited to go to the vet for her laser treatments. Well, she was so excited to go in the car and arrive at the vet … she never really adapted to interacting with others, but in her remaining months, she did seem to respond well to both the laser treatments for her arthritis and the limited socializing. She liked to go.
This morning, however, was different. She got up, went outside, and demanded her walk. She was thirsty, so she drank her water. She was about to settle down for breakfast, but suddenly became restless. She got up for more water. I then let her outside, which she seemed to want to, but I found her drinking more water only. I stood out with her and watched as she tried to throw up. It was rare, but sometimes she would drink so much water she would throw it up. It wasn’t coming out. I watched as her belly expanded and she started to heave. Her breathing became heavy, and as soon as I heard the whimper, from the dog who never ever showed pain, I knew.
We flew to the emergency vet and bloat was confirmed. The choice was horrible. At almost 14 years old she was in chronic pain and had been having more difficulty walking in the recent weeks. Still, it was possible she could survive this surgery, but for what? It wouldn’t take her pain away. It wouldn’t bring her vision back. It wouldn’t improve her sense of smell or her hearing. Her hips, shoulders and elbows would still hurt her at every move.
I couldn’t do that to her. It was one of the hardest decisions. But I had to give up her cuddles and her smile. I had to take her pain away. She can now run and play happily with her buddies, Otto, Omar & Jocko.
You will forever be missed, my little Princess.