Last Sunday, my dog, Daisy passed away. When I first started writing this essay about losing her, the focus was on everything that happened in the last 17 hours of Daisy’s life: from the moment she had the first seizure to the moment she died in my arms. The story was so sad that I just cried as I read it and decided to start over. Daisy’s life was so much more than what happened at the end. Her death was tragic but her life was not so the focus had to be on the 13 years, 4 months and 2 days she lived on this earth.
Daisy was born in Interlaken, Switzerland on January 1, 2007 ringing in a new year with her arrival. We were “allowed” to purchase Daisy because we were living in a small town outside Geneva at the time and her breeders couldn’t show her (she had faults, namely her tear ducts were blocked). To us, she was just perfect: a Pembroke Welsh Corgi that looked like a chubby little fox. Her name was chosen by our daughter because she loved to eat daises in the spring fields.
The laws in Switzerland prohibit the docking of tails (or ears) because these procedures are not medically necessary so Daisy had a beautiful feathered tail. Through the years and especially when we came back to the US, people would often look at Daisy, act perplexed and ask what breed she was, commenting that she looked like a Pembroke Welsh Corgi (although a little boy once told me she looked like a loaf of bread) but the tail was throwing them off because in the US, most breeders dock the tail, in accordance with AKC rules. For the record, we loved her tail and couldn’t imagine Daisy without hers. That beautiful wagging tail showed her emotions and was part of who she was.
For the first 3 years of Daisy’s life, she was with us in Switzerland. We took her everywhere and she was always up for climbing, hiking, running down mountains while we skied, forging streams and wetlands, and trying to keep up with the big dogs. She didn’t know she had short legs and always tried to run with the best of them. Her favorite dog friend back then was a black lab named Moses; to her he was a rock star. He, of course, didn’t know she existed but that never stopped Daisy from trying to get his attention. She would race down streams trying to keep pace with him and once almost got swept away by a rapid current that swelled from melting snow.
The next 10 years were spent in the US and Daisy adapted to wherever we were. Although she preferred cold weather to hot, she was happy as long as plenty of kids and people were around to pet her.
She never tolerated being ignored – which she often was because she was so close to the ground. Failure to acknowledge Daisy typically meant she made her presence known by howling for attention. More often than not, she made people see her and demand they recognize her with a belly rub. As my daughter said “Daisy was unapologetically herself.”
One evening we went to hear Jane Goodall speak at a school auditorium in Switzerland. I had Daisy with me (dogs were welcome in most public places in Switzerland). After the speech, crowds of people rushed to the front to get a chance to speak to Goodall personally. Daisy was not happy. She started howling, which immediately caught Jane Goodall’s attention. She parted the crowds and walked to the back of the auditorium to see Daisy. It was hilarious although I’m not sure the attendees were as amused as I was that Jane Goodall was more interested in the dog in attendance than the people who came to hear her speak.
When we had a family photograph taken years ago, even the photographer recognized Daisy was the star of the show.
Her nickname was “nanny” because she was always gentle with children and wouldn’t allow other dogs to play too rough, or any dog to chase our cat. Horseplay was simply not tolerated.
She was the guardian of the status quo and she ruled with an iron will, deftly coming between animals and barking her displeasure as if she were scolding 3-year olds.
I loved her imperfectly and it is that admission that makes me cry. I loved being around her, taking her for walks or hikes, kayaking, and in her later years, chariot rides in her dog stroller.
But, she could also drive me crazy when she would take her time going to the bathroom in a snowstorm or a downpour, or deliberately peeing on a spot inside the house where another animal had just eaten, as if to mark the spot as hers, lest they ever think otherwise. I learned how to take her out before a meal because she would do her business quickly knowing food was just a few minutes away; and to block her from accessing the other animal’s food areas. And, yet I have guilt; regretting the times I was frustrated and impatient with her.
Daisy died suddenly. One day she was walking around, barking at me for her daily sweet potato, and the next she was gone. And, yet watching her struggle at the end haunts me because it wasn’t sudden enough that she didn’t suffer. Daisy had a seizure on the front porch, and bit through her tongue so there was blood all over her mouth and paws. We rushed her to the emergency veterinary hospital a few miles away but were not allowed to take her in because of the social distancing rules.
I carried her to the front door and handed her to the veterinary assistant who promised to do whatever they could to save her. 3 hours later, while we were waiting in the car in the parking lot of the hospital, the vet called and told us he was able to stop the seizure but as he was talking, she started to seize again. Despite the medical intervention and medications over the next 12 hours, the seizures wouldn’t stop, which indicated Daisy probably had a brain tumor/lesion (an MRI would have confirmed the diagnosis but they didn’t have one and she was too fragile to move). I didn’t want Daisy to think that I abandoned her as I struggled to come to terms with losing her because no matter what I was going through, what really mattered was what she was going through. So, I picked her up and brought her home. She died in my arms an hour later.
So, Daisy this is for you. I loved you with every fiber of my being. I loved how you would go rabid after a bath wanting me to chase you. I was always amused when you would plant yourself on the kitchen floor and bark because you knew there was a bowl of steamed broccoli on the countertop that was yours for the asking. I loved how gently you treated children, delighting in their genuine affection and how you would go to neighbor’s homes and sit on their porches when you heard the screaming shrill of children’s voices.
I loved how you would lay in the middle of the street as if you owned it. I loved how you would communicate to let me know when you needed help and when you could do something on your own. And, I loved how you would never let anyone in a group fall behind. You always rallied and herded us together. You were the ultimate troop leader. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your life with me and for forgiving me when I didn’t love you as perfectly as I should have.
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That was a beautiful way to honor Daisy. My heart feels your pain. Hold onto those moments you two shared. You were a great mom to him. He had a wonderful life. XOXOXO
Thank you for your kind words, Pam. Your words about Phoebe ring so true. Writing the tribute was cathartic.
Happy Mother’s Day to you and give my best to Dana and Charlie.
I was sorry to read about your dog, Daisy. I can imagine how heartbroken you all are. Beloved dogs are such an important part of the family. And, to think you’ve had Daisy throughout all your moves. Your story and the photos in your blog are very touching. In fact, as I read it (twice) I kept thinking that Daisy’s life story (and endearing personality) would make a wonderful children’s book.
When Dana was in college we lost our yellow lab, Phoebe. I am sure Laura is feeling the same way Dana did. Devastated. We are grateful for the 14 years Phoebe was part of the family. We all spoiled her but so be it. She was a joy, sometimes a nuisance, but our lovely companion.
We continually talk about Phoebe and think we see her in commercials or ads. Oh that face! She is still with us in our memory and remembrances.
Though you are very sad, I want to wish you a peaceful Mother’s Day.