She was almost 2 when she discovered she could spin counter-clockwise out of her collar and chase the school bus down the street, barking outrage. The second time, I nearly fainted screaming at her to come back. She lived as long as she did by the kindness of strangers ... like Scarlett O’Hara. Only FLowie was a “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” kinda gal.
She wore a harness after that. Despite the visible indignity.
Until a week before her death ... as her health failed and I didn’t use harness or leash, because her heart was so bad she couldn’t take more than a couple dozen steps without collapsing. I was picking up her poo as she began striding down the sidewalk. It took me a few strides to catch up and a few more to realize she was going after her arch-nemesis – the garbage truck – 100 feet away. I did not expect her to make it that far, but she did, finally stopping at its back wheel. Her outrage unbowed, she stifled a bark but lunged to go under the truck. Thank God my fingers caught, as the airbrakes screeched and she was nearly run over by its twin tires.
I hoisted her up, her heart pounding against my forearm. She looked at me like, “Why, boss? I was going to tip the beast and rip its feet off!” It would have been a warrior’s farewell. Perfect for her self-image. But this wild dog was my family girl. I still had hope her medicine would help.
I don’t recall how it happened, but at some point she cowed Butter. If he tried to get in bed, she’d come flying out barking Chipugua fury. Butter raged similarly at dinner times when Flowie first joined us. I had to feed them separately for years. But now they ate together. And at 10, Butter was mostly deaf and going blind. She had realized this was her chance to alpha-dog him. Even at 7, she nursed dreams of dominance.
I would come home from work and there they would be, side by side on the couch. But once I was home, the snuggle chums stopped. Butter approached me with enthusiastic caution. Flowie would interject, to steal his love. She was an easy work-around though, never an ardent defender of her canine hegemony. At bedtime, I quietly held up the sheet and Butter would eventually get brave enough to jump softly in and lay instantly down along my thigh. If Flowie, at my left hip, sensed intruder, she was simple to quash with one hand. Only 17 pounds, and she never fought too hard.
Belle was impossible to quash when she decided FLowie was not worthy of the bed. That’s when I got the baby fence and my apartment became 1961 Berlin. Belle still wanders through the now-open border looking for the old tigey-striped girl who used to live here.
Flowie ate dinner Tuesday night with her usual zeal, howling like Pinduli from the bedroom as I made food noises in the kitchen, sure she was getting gypped. But Wed. morning, she refused the chicken-wrapped medicine. Even chicken without medicine. I tried several more times that day to talk her out of the course she had chosen.
The next 36 hours she spent lying in wait. I got my last kiss and tail wag on Wed. afternoon. I asked God to send Clair Madeline and Butter to walk her home. They took their time.
Thu. morning, I sat at my desk and she walked into the kitchen to get a drink. I listened for her collapse, but she returned to her bed, breathing heavily. 10 mins later, she crept under my desk and lay down at my feet. Like old times. On cold winter mornings, I used to put her behind me in the chair.
Suddenly, I smelled poop. I pushed open the bedroom door, suspecting Belle. But it was too strong to be Boston gas. I shoved in the keyboard, scooted back and watched Flowie’s bowels empty autonomically, on my floor. She looked at me, helpless, as though I might shout at her. After all, I yelled at the puppy when she did it. She knew me pretty good.
I cleaned up the poo and transferred her limp body to the dog bed. She lay on her side, breathing soft and shallow. I lay beside her, stroking her and singing, “What a pretty pretty girl she is, she oughta be in the showbiz,” and extoling her in my ritual recitation of her defining beauty points: the tigey stripes alllllll over, even between her paw pads, the pugly mask right out to the tips of her ears, the pearly whites on the lower row, of which there once were 6, but now only 2, and the swishy-swish tail, oooh yeah, which is just the bestest part, the swishy-swish tail is.
As I sang, I hoped she’d look at me and say ‘goodbye’ somehow. I told her how brave she was for the umpteenth time. And her Price Pfister turned off. Her mouth lolled open. Her tongue fell out. Her eyes fixed. She breathed her last raspy breath. If there was a thestrel in my living room, I woulda seen it for sure.
Instead, I saw a little blonde girl flanked by a creamy white Frenchie and a tigey-striped Chipugua walk off toward the Iowa cornfield that once yielded Shoeless Joe Jackson.
I will always wish they’d have looked back.