My gentle petting didn’t wake her. Perhaps she thought it was the usual affectionate touch from one of my parents. She normally greeted me with such excitement. Instead of waking her, I decided to put my hand in front of her nose to let her sense of smell recognize me. Sleepily, her snout wiggled and sniffed as she came to. She tilted her head up as her foggy gray blue eyes searched and strained to focus and see. With much effort, she leaned in to give a kiss. Her nose was dry and breathing took effort.
That was the last time I saw Sabi (short for Sabrina), the family’s 16- year old Australian Shepherd mix. Just days later, my mother had enjoyed a sunny day out in the garden with Sabi. “I don’t know if she was keeping me company or if I was keeping her company,” my mom tearfully said, not knowing the fate that awaited Sabi hours later.
Back in September, Sabi had her first stroke and we didn’t know if she’d make it. But her will to live was strong and she even started “chasing birds” as soon as she got home after spending several nights at the hospital. It’s a Sabi thing: she’s been chasing birds since she was a puppy. She’d run and bark in the same direction the bird was flying and stare it down till it flew out of sight. She’s never caught one nor has she ever actually taken flight. You’d think that after 16 years of trying, a stroke, tumors, and arthritic joints she would have given up. Even though she got old, like all things do, something as simple as chasing a bird still gave her the “umph” to feel like she was still that youthful dog she once was. And as short lived as the experience is in chasing a bird, this brief moment in her life is probably one of the most ecstatic and purposeful lived moments…its significance obvious to her but easily dismissed by others.