Tonight, my dog was put down. Not just any dog- Tess. Tess had many monikers. She had more names than a wanted fugitive on the lamb. Tess, Teeesssssssss, Tessie, Tessiebaby, Tessiebabysmoochie (coined by my mother), Smoocher, Poochie, Poocher, Poochersmoocher (my personal favorite)- She answered to them all. She was not a picky or fussy companion. Her only demand- human food. She loved it.
I remember the day we got Tess. I was in third grade. We went to the pound and saw one small black puppy in a cage. I don’t remember all of the details, but supposedly I was so surprised that we were actually going to get a dog that I was near tears, as I am now. On the way home, she got her head stuck under the car seat. What a goofball. When we got home, our first big dog dilemma occurred- What should we name her? The options were narrowed down to two names: Tess and Sadie. We eventually chose Tess, which spawned numerous nicknames that you have already read above.
The ‘puppyhood’ stage is not really clear to me. I remember that she got too tired to walk around the block once, quite in contrast to her later years, when Tess and my mom would go on mile-long walks. I remember when my sister first stepped in dog poop. It still cracks me up. I remember that Tess could go down the stairs, but she hadn’t quite figured out how to go up them. She would bark at the bottom of the stairs until one of us would bring her up to the kitchen. I also remember taking her to show and tell in my 3rd grade class at Meadowlark Elementary.
At this time, my mom worked half time. It didn’t take long to see that Tessie was a momma’s girl. My mom took her for daily walks, made up nicknames for her, and taught her many commands and tricks. Tess was a darn smart dog. Say what you will about hybrid hypoallergenic $400 labradoodles, but Tess the 33 pound schnauzer and springer spaniel mutt was just as smart as any of them. She could do the basics: sit, lay down, come. Then came the intermediate set: high-five, roll over, shake, and catching a treat in her mouth. (I vividly remember when Abby, my childhood friend, taught Tess how to roll over.) After that were the advanced tricks and commands: Get the paper (which she did twice a day, every day!), go to the kitchen, get the squirrel/bunny/groundsquirrel (she was only successful a handful of times, but that never stopped her from trying), and Shopping Treats. Shopping treats was one of the funniest. Whenever my mom would leave the house and come home with bags, my dog would get underfoot and drool while my mom said, “I went SHOPPINGGGG. Do you want a SHOPPINGGGGG TREATTTT??”
Smart as she was, my sister, father, and I would make fun of her a lot. She could never quite figure out the game of fetch. Seems simple, right? Not for Tess. She would run after the ball with speed and a zest unmatched by any dumb ol’ cat. Once she approached the ball and picked it up in her mouth, she would stare at you. Panting. Drooling. Daring you to come take it from her. No amount of calling, whistling, and making kissy noises would get her to bring you the ball. If you tried to go grab the ball/stick/bone, she would gleefully run away, playing a grand game of keep away. What a goober. She also had a ‘broken nose’. There would be food dropped on the floor. Tess would smell it and you could hear her nose going round and round, sniffing and sniffing. It would literally be right under her nose, and she couldn’t find it. What a funny girl. Tess also possessed a ‘pigs tail’. It wasn’t quite a curly cue, but it was darn near close. I remember that when she was younger and get groomed, the groomers left the tip of her tail puffy, to give her personality. Humph. If they only knew the personality she possessed. She didn’t need a stinking puff-ball on the end of her tail to make her special.
Tessie’s life wasn’t without adventure. One time, I think when I was in third or fourth grade, Tess ran away. A neighbor opened out sliding glass door and Tessie bolted. Like BOLTED. We chased her, drove around in the car, yelled for her…basically tried everything. I remember crying as I went to bed. The next day, at school, I got a message around lunchtime that Tess had been found, across two busy streets and covered in mud. She felt bad, as she just sat and took her bath, which usually was her least favorite thing. This event was really important in my 3rd grade life, and I wrote my third grade book about it. The title? Tess Runs Away. (Classic Read. I HIGHLY recommend it.)
Tess loved many things. Playing tug of war with old socks was one of her favorite pastimes. When the stuffed sock turned into a fake squirrel, she was in heaven. When she (and I) was younger, Tess would be really hyper and run around the couches downstairs for what seemed like a long time. My sister and I would chase her, but we could never catch her. Tess also hated many things. The vacuum cleaner was her arch-nemesis. She really disliked that thing, and would run downstairs until the scary contraption was banished back to the closet. As previously mentioned, she hated baths. Just a mention of the word would have her hiding behind the couch. She didn’t like getting on the furniture, either. She was never really allowed, even though she didn’t shed. She just didn’t like it, or maybe her inner conscious was stronger that we thought. The only time she got in my bed was when the power went out and the smoke alarms would beep. Sometimes, when I was younger, my mom or dad would send Tess into our rooms to wake us up. Have you ever been woken up by puppy kisses? It is the best. Tess also hated when I would pull out her gray hairs. However, in the past few years, the gray hairs were plenty and the black ones were rare.
This summer, Tess was moving a little slower. She tore her ACL last year running after a ball, and injured it by lunging for a hamburger in the street when she was on a walk. Typical Tess. However, she was still the same smoochie. My sister and I even made up a song about her this past summer. A rap, if you will.
When I left for college this past fall, Tess was the same old dog, just a little more gray and a little less energetic. When I came back 6 or 7 weeks later for fall break, she was an entirely different canine. I remember thinking, “Surely this isn’t my Tess!” She had developed Cushing’s Disease, and had issues with her Thyroid. I don’t really know the specifics. Tess had become afflicted with cataracts. This dog was nearly blind. She would run into chairs that weren’t pushed in. At first, this was slightly humorous. But then the mess ups got more scary and risky. She would walk off the deck and fall down the first few stairs. I left fall break thinking that the end was near. When I returned for Thanksgiving break, I was astounded at what I found. Again, I thought, “Surely this isn’t my Tess!” But it was. In a month, she had lost seven pounds. When you average 32 pounds, that is a large amount. She was extremely lethargic and and laid around in the sun all day. She wouldn’t eat. Then the news from the vet came- her thyroid looked good, but her kidneys were failing. (Boy, we all have a lot to look forward to, don’t we?)
By now, the decision was clear. She wasn’t happy, she wasn’t comfortable. It was time. We took a few last pictures and I got one last smooch. When I left my house and headed for Omaha, a smile on my face. I was in such a hurry to leave that I slammed my knee in the car door. (I have the bruise to prove it.) The second I pulled off of Fairacres Road, I started crying. I cried all the way to Gibbon. (Looking back, I should have probably pulled over. Emotional driving on the Interstate…not such a good idea.) Then, when I was all cried out, I turned on the radio to get my mind off of Tess. Naturally, it was on the Oldies station. A song began to play, one I had never heard before. Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion”. Andddd the waterworks started up again. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pa5H_4lBXs&feature=related Upon further research (and by research I mean Wikipedia), Paul Simon wrote this song about his dog dying. Don’t believe me? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_and_Child_Reunion Once I got past the War Axe Exit, I was doing well. Until I saw a dead deer in the ditch. Just guess what happened? Yeah, tears. Once I passed Grand Island, I saw a herd of cattle. This got me remembering how Tess would go camping with our family and bark at the cows that were feeding in the pastures. And cue the dramatics.
After that, I was all cried out. At peace, you could say. I was lucky. I got to say goodbye. There was no Marley and Me moment for me. When I saw that I had a missed call from my dad today, I knew what had happened. And strangely, I was okay with it. Sad, but okay. In a weird way, she wasn’t my dog anymore. She wasn’t the Tess we all knew and loved. She was a shell of her former self, asking us to help her finally get comfortable.
I know what you are thinking. Will they get a new dog? And while I can’t definitively speak for all of the Brandt’s, I believe that the answer is no. Not right now, at least. I am in college, and my sister will head there in a few years. My parents both work full-time. Our lives have changed since we first got tiny baby Tess. Besides, getting a new dog won’t make anyone feel better. We are obviously sad about Tessie’s death, but I feel that we are all in a good place about it. Also, let’s be real. Tess is irreplaceable. She was the perfect dog for our family and never caused us grief or sorrow until these past few months.
So, here’s to Tess! Or Smoochie. Or SmoochiePoochieBabykins. Whatever you wish to call her.