There are few things of which I’ve been certain. I’m the queen of indecisiveness. Mexican or Italian for dinner? Hmm…maybe Italian? Wear the beige or blue skirt? I guess the beige? What color should we paint the house? Don’t even go there.
In fact, one decision that actually came easy for me was to adopt our buff-colored Cocker Spaniel, Tequila. I suppose, to be truthful, it wasn’t actually my decision. Knowing my history and the fact that I would waver between dogs for days, my husband picked her and I nodded in agreement and relief. Good choice, Jim.
We had good intentions from the get-go and decided not to feed her fattening table scraps. We bought the best dog food we could find and congratulated ourselves on not giving in to those pleading brown eyes under the dinner table.
Two months later, all that ended when my mom had us for dinner and sneaked Tequila one of her juicy pork chops. In that instant, Tequila knew what she’d been missing and intended to continue with this new cuisine at home.
In our kitchen, Tequila followed my every move with those heart piercing, brooding eyes. Then she added a soft whimper that sounded almost painful. Her little stump of a tail quivered as she sat looking up at me in anticipation.
The pressure was unbelievable and I cracked. Eating “people food” became one of the true joys in Tequila’s life: popcorn, pizza, and of course, pork chops being among her favorites.
With Tequila around, there was never a dull moment. At 3-months-old, she had surgery on both eyes for prolapsed eyelids. That’s a fancy veterinary term for Hand-Over-Your-Life-Savings. It was the beginning of a 12-year relationship with a vet we’d see more often than some of our relatives.
When Tequila constantly chased a cat who roamed through our backyard, I wondered what would happen if the cat quit running. The answer: a blown-out knee. Yep, when the cat finally put on the breaks, Tequila tried to reverse direction in mid-air in a frightened scramble for her dog door. Surgery for a torn ligament didn’t deter her from continuing the chase a year later. This time she blew out the other knee…same cat.
Whenever friends visited, Tequila became a nuisance by whining, so we’d quiet her with a treat. Now don’t get me wrong; we realize she had us well trained. Perched on the back of the sofa, she focused on the walkway, waiting for a visitor. Some friends spoiled her more than others. Just the sight of Susan sent Tequila sprinting to the kitchen pantry where she sat howling in anticipation of something yummy, even before Susan entered the house.
Eventually, we taught Tequila some tricks. The order went like this: sit, lie down, roll over, shake. When she conquered one command (with many treats) we went on to the next. However, once she learned them all, we could never get her to just sit, or just shake. As soon as she heard “sit,” Tequila (in one lightening-fast motion) touched her butt to the ground, skimmed her chest on the floor, flipped herself into a roll, and shot her paw out before she was completely upright. She was our entertainment at parties.
Then there was the time my husband’s family visited from Kansas. The morning before they left, Tequila got into their suitcases and ate their San Francisco treats: a half-dozen sourdough rolls and three Ghirardelli chocolate bars. A vet visit later, all was well. But it was the only time Tequila ever willingly skipped dinner.
The amount of love Tequila gave was immeasurable. I received a homecoming celebration each time I walked through the door. It didn’t matter that I’d only stepped out to retrieve the newspaper. She was filled with joy when I let her lick my plate and slobbered me with kisses after a game of catch.
At age 7, Tequila developed a rare blood disorder and needed expensive treatment and chemotherapy. We went ahead without hesitation. At age 12, her body shut down. She went blind and deaf, developed severe arthritis, and eventually stopped eating.
Our thoughtful vet came right over so Tequila could die at home. I clipped a ringlet from her golden-haired ears and cradled her in my arms. She died in her favorite spot, right next to the stove.
We have another dog now, an Aussie-mix named Bailey. We’re determined not to make the same mistakes with him as we did with Tequila. This time, we’ll train him properly. We won’t give in to big brown eyes or little whimpers. We’ll give him only the best dog food — no more fattening table scraps. Not even pork chops.
Of this I’m almost certain.