Dear Myrtle
by Douglas Houston
Dear Myrtle,

What was I thinking?!

The Animal Shelter? Why am I driving into the Animal Shelter? We had 2 dogs already. Actually 3 dogs, if you counted Beebs, our orphaned micro-tea cup Chihuahua. So, the reason for my going for a visit at the Animal Shelter was really beyond me. I knew going in that I would want nearly everything in there, so what was drawing me? Was I a fatalistic, glutton for punishment deep down inside? Uhmm, probably. My thoughts raced as I got out of my truck, “ We have too many dogs already. What’s wrong with me?” Still, whatever imaginary magnetic force that had drawn me to the lot was pulling with greater force still.
I entered the shelter and could clearly hear the desperate barks and whimpers of dozens of unseen dogs. I explained to the lady at the desk that I’d just like to look around and she opened the door to allow me my access. Truly dozens of dogs, puppies, in between aged dogs, pretty, mutts, purebreds, they were all there. Each one looking more pitiful than the one before it. Not one caught my eye and deep down, I felt better knowing that I probably didn’t have to worry too much about explaining why I had gotten another dog to Lakyn.
I got to a door at the end of the cages and asked one of the keepers what was behind it. She replied that it was where they kept those dogs that had just been brought in, dogs that were injured and dogs that were scheduled to be “put down”. Put down? Here’s my chance to have one glimpse of those that have had their last opportunity to be saved. I felt like I was walking down Death Row. Cats, Kittens, Dogs, Puppies. Here they were. Blank, hopeless stares. It was almost like they knew what the future held, or maybe they didn’t care anymore.
That’s when our eyes met. Actually, you had already been staring at me when I saw you. You were beautiful. Floppy, gray and black spotted ears, white, black and gray spots all over and your eyes. I had never seen a dog with yellow eyes. You never stopped staring. You didn’t make much of an effort to get my attention either. You were almost “aloof”. Maybe you didn’t care. Maybe it was because you were hurt. I noticed that you held your left front foot up. Thinking back now, it was probably because you were a “player” even back then. I asked if they could let me hold you and the lady said yes. The shelter had you listed as a “Blue Heeler cross”, but you were a Catahoula through and through. The slight “thump” of your tail told me that you were OK with me. I felt my “wall” of resistance being chopped away. You had been 10 – 12 weeks old and your owner abandoned you in a trailer park. Apparently after beating or kicking you. Why wasn’t he sitting in this cage instead?
The lady told me you were scheduled to be put down! “What will it take to get her out?” She replied, “Check with the lady at the front desk.” She didn’t seem too concerned.
$10 later, you were riding home with me.
You took to my front seat like you had been there forever. You never took your eyes off me, except when you were asleep and snoring like my grandfather. You also “chased rabbits” in your sleep. I like to think that is what you were doing and not having a bad dream about getting away from your previous owner.
A month later, you were evacuating with us because of Rita. Many hours and miles later, we all found our safe haven with people in Simmsport that were better friends than I had ever had. You won over hearts there too. Still, you are Lakyn and Kameron’s dog. I’ve come home and you and Kameron were lying in my recliner. Other times, it would just be you. That was fine. You have turned out to be more like them than I can imagine. California has the “Terminator”. We have the “Aggravator”. You aggravated Beebs to the point where she was biting you furiously, with no apparent effect. Afterall, it was Beebs doing the biting. How bad could it be? You aggravated our Yorkie, Sassy, by sleeping on her pillow, sleeping on her bed, sleeping where ever she was sleeping. You would “ooze” into those places. Most of the time while Sassy was still in them. That provided the most effect and reaction from Sassy, both of which were your ultimate reward. You seemed to relish getting as close to her food while she was eating as you could. Poor old Sassy. I can still see and hear her fuming, growling, snapping at your very presence. Didn’t you have limits? Even today, you continue to aggravate Boomer by nipping at his legs, chasing him. You are much faster than he is, even with your broken left shoulder. It never healed right and you continue to favor it when you first wake up in the mornings.
Ah, mornings. My alarm clock goes off at 3am and you will make your way to my side of the bed to lick my arm, hand, whatever might be hanging over the edge. As I stumble to the bathroom, you go through your stretches and wait patiently for me to let you outside. I will creak down the hall and let you outside. I always like to watch you seek Boomer out. You go to him and lick his face. It looks like you are wiping the sleep out of his eyes and cleaning him up. He lets you do it.
He loves you as much as we do.

I can tell by how worried and “whiney” he gets when you make one of your many, daily escapes from our yard. You have mastered the opening and the closing of doors. No man-made barrier will keep you in or out, if you decide you want to be on the other side.
You have also become a tolerated mooch at the breakfast table, the lunch table, the supper table, anywhere food might be available. In the beginning, you made a half-hearted attempt to be subtle. You quickly cast that trick to the side when you realized slamming your bottom jaw down on top of someone’s knee had the necessary and immediate effect.
Lakyn and I often ask each other if we think you know how much we all love you. I hope you do. There are certain people I want you to growl at. I plan on pointing them out to you later.
You are always glad to see me when I come home. Even if I’ve been gone 5 minutes, you act like it’s the first time you’ve seen me in months. You do your quivering, twitching, jumping and running-in-circles thing that you do so well. Even nipping Old Boomer, if you think that he is getting any of the attention at all.
You are a tireless wanderer, always up for a new adventure, even if it is just tearing after squirrels and birds in your back yard. And at night, you are there by my bedside, awake, guarding me.
Now I catch myself worrying about what will happen if and when you die. Our family will be devastated. I believe that I, will be frantic. Where will you be? Will you be OK without us? Will we be OK without you? Will we be OK without you to take care of us and protect us? We have become dependant on your company and your infectious personality.
I find myself hoping that after that day comes, I will have the inescapable feeling that you’ve come back and are in the room with me – on my side of the bed, of course. I want it to be like you have come back to let me know that you are OK, and that I’ll be OK too.
That day finally came on the 18th of February 2015. You were a tough fighter and had fought the heartworm’s effects on your body until you were so frail. You were barely able to walk anymore and while I was willing to carry you, I knew you were hurting and had stopped fighting. Imagine that? Myrtle had stopped fighting. Our tough, old girl didn’t ever get up to eat or drink anymore.
I wrapped you in your favorite blanket and drove to the vet. What an awful drive it was, but even as you started your first ride home, you wrapped up the last one by laying your head on the center console, watching me the entire way. Did you know where we were going? God I hoped not. I had called ahead and the vet met me outside with a sedative to help you relax. After the medicine took effect, I carried you inside and held you till you fell asleep. The doctor came in and gave you your last dose and I believe the hardest thing I have ever watched was your breaths slowly stop. The doctor looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “She’s gone”. I knew you were in a much better place. I took you home and made a spot for you next to Boomer. Even though you’re gone in body, you’ll always be with us all every moment of the day. It will be hard to let you go. It will be hard to lose you. We all know there will never be another one like you, but it won’t ever keep us from hoping…

What was I thinking?
Love, Daddy
Comments would be appreciated by the author, Douglas Houston
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