The day after I wrote my last post, my 12 year old chihuahua, Lupe, was killed by a pair of foxes.
She has had issues with needing to excessively go to the bathroom all through the night and into the morning. So, like any other early morning, I let her out of our back patio to go to the bathroom. She didn’t go her normal way right in front, instead she went along the side of the house. I told her to hurry, went back in to turn on the light for her, went back out to call for her, heard the jingle of her collar, but she still didn’t come. She had only been outside for a couple of minutes, but something about it felt uneasy. So, I went to get my shoes, went back out and she was gone. Not a single sound. It was deafening. (I was told later by the vet that the lack of noise was a good thing because it meant that death was swift and she most likely had no idea what was happening.) I immediately ran in and woke up my husband. I told him I think something took her, but he was so determined to find her. We hurriedly searched everywhere. As we walked further into our subdivision, I caught a glimpse of two foxes silhouettes under a streetlamp. I pointed so my husband could see them too. They looked at us and then ran off. “No,” was all my husband could say. We finally decided to wake up our son so that my son and I could search by car, and my husband continued on foot. We had been searching for an hour and a half from the moment she went missing to when my husband called my cell phone as my son and I were driving. My husband had found what was left of her body, and her assailants scurried off back into the darkness. Much in the same way we brought her home from the shelter twelve years before, my husband wrapped Lupe in my coat, and carried her home in his arms.
My husband and I had rescued Lupe the year we got married. She was the runt of a mixed litter that had been rescued from a woman who was an animal hoarder. She was only a few weeks old, the size of my husband’s hand, and she was all head. She would bound head over tail as she chased her favorite tennis balls. Lupe was a tiny ball of fury, and she stayed that way until the end.
From the moment we brought her home, she became my constant companion.
Soon after Lupe started losing her puppy teeth, she began having issues. We noticed that she was in pain and unable to eat, so we took her into the vet. Lupe was, apparently, growing an extra set of canines, so she would have to undergo surgery to have them extracted. My husband gave her the nickname “shark tooth.” She was a tough cookie, healed fast from surgery, and went right back to being a goofy, sassy puppy.
About a year after my husband and I were first married, I became pregnant with our son. It was a hard fight to even be able to get pregnant, so we were beyond elated. Lupe was elated too. She would take long naps on my ever growing belly, and only open an eye when my son began to kick, and then quickly go back to sleep. My pregnancy was rough, and that time became rough for Lupe too. Lupe had began having issues walking. She would walk sideways, have accidents, and sometimes be unable to walk at all. We took her into the vet, hoping that it was just that she had sprained something jumping off of the couch. Instead, we found out that Lupe had a congenital defect in her hip that was going to continue to get worse. The vet detailed that Lupe, again, would need surgery. They went in and, basically, shaved off her hip joint, and allowed a new “false joint” to form with scar tissue. It was a rough surgery, and she was left with staples closing a large incision across her hip. We both lay in bed for days on end. Her healing and me growing a baby. We were both anticipating what came next. Thankfully, she healed well, and was able to regain a little use of her leg. However, she would always limp and it would be worse on days when she did a lot or was tired. Some times it would hurt her a little more, and she would have periods where she lost complete use of her leg, was in pain, and had to take anti-inflammatories, but she was the little tripod that could. Lupe never complained and she never let it slow her down. I massaged her hip every day after she healed until her last day on earth.
After our son was born, Lupe lent herself easily to mothering him. She relished in long naps against his warm, soft, baby belly, and perked up with enthusiasm when he finally moved on to solid foods. So much, in fact, that she gained a considerable amount of weight in his toddler years, due to the fact that our son would share half his sandwich with her because, “Mom, Lupe loves sandwiches.” Lupe would dutifully wait for him to get out of the bath tub, and would periodically peer over the edge to ensure her boy was still there. Lupe would lick my son’s face and toes, and he would squeal with delight. A laugh that was so genuine and made up of pure magic. His laughter would make her wiggle and lick even more voraciously. She couldn’t get enough of his laugh.
The funny thing about Lupe was that she always loved little kids. Most chihuahuas fear kids, but she loved them, and they loved her. She would gracefully allow kids to pet her, but would growl and bark at most adults. She knew who needed her.
My husband serves in the Army, and due to his service, he is gone quite a bit. Our son used to love rubbing my husband’s bald head to soothe himself to sleep, but whenever my husband was gone, Lupe was only happy to be his replacement. Our son would lovingly pat her fur and drift off feeling warm and loved. A couple of years ago, my husband was deployed to Afghanistan for a year. It was a rough year. My son and I missed him terribly, but I’m not sure even we missed him as much as Lupe did. She dutifully let our son pet her to fall asleep, and then would curl herself up on my husband’s pillow waiting for him. Every night. Due to where he was and what he was doing, we didn’t get to talk to him very often, but when he did call, Lupe would perk up her ears, look around, and then lay back down, as if we had been teasing her with his presence. The day he finally came home, my son and I both cried in the airport, but when we got home, Lupe raced outside, realized that he was finally home safe, ran to him and immediately peed from the excitement. She refused to leave his side for weeks. My husband has dealt with PTSD from his deployment, and Lupe, the ever attuned girl that she was, would sense his hard days and stay by his side, or give him a loving lick on the nose. She cared for us as much as we were caring for her.
Last summer we took Lupe on an epic road trip that spanned 7 states in 14 days. We packed up the car, loaded our bikes, and we were off on an adventure. Lupe and our son both learned to ride bikes that summer, and they both quickly fell in love. My husband fitted a basket to his bike, so that Lupe was able to come with us on family bike rides. We weren’t sure what she would think about it, but she took to it like a fish to water. She was quite the adventure dog. I can’t even count how many miles we put on our bikes last summer. So, during the road trip, we would stop periodically and take rides to stretch our legs and let Lupe drink the wind and sniff the smells. She had a lot of adventures over her lifetime, but she really showed off last summer. She stayed in a glamping tent, and we snuck her into Mt. Rushmore. I feel comfortable telling you this now, because Lupe is gone, and I doubt the park ranger who yelled at us is going to come after her now. She was a rebel. Lupe went into Minnesota lakes, and spent time with her grandparents and uncles, who loved her almost as much as we did. She took a spa day mid way through. She attempted to eat our son’s leftover continental breakfast waffles out of the trash in our hotel in North Dakota. She sat in her bike basket happy as a clam as my husband showed us around his old college campus. She laid on the beach and let the warm sand soothe her achy hip. It was the kind of trip I will hold forever in my heart and play in my mind over and over again.
Along with trash waffles, Lupe was a fiend for pizza. Once, when our son was a toddler, he gave her half his slice, of course, and she was hooked. Even after my son grew up, and we explained to him that he really need to quit giving her his food, she was a spoiled dog, and my husband and son continued to sneak her a nibble here and there.
Lupe started to get sick around October of last year. We, of course, rushed her to the vet. Visit after visit, and they continued to tell us that she just had a stubborn UTI, which didn’t seem crazy at first because she had struggled with UTI’s in the past, but it was getting worse and worse. By her third course of antibiotics we knew that something wasn’t right and sought a second opinion. The new vet was incredible, thorough, and straightforward. She thought with Lupe’s lengthy health history and age that we might be looking at a bladder tumor. The vet took her back for an xray, and came back to tell us that it looked like Lupe had multiple bladder stones and would need another surgery. We immediately got her scheduled. Her surgery took a while, and her recovery was lengthy. She was an old girl this time, and just didn’t seem to bounce back in the way she had before. The vet told us that she had to have had the stones in there for a considerable length of time because they were very large and very smooth. Lupe was tough. All of the times she was being seen and we were told it was a “UTI” we now knew was most likely because of the stones. We remained optimistic that she might still be ok. Recovery was slow. Despite her pain, the night after her surgery, still groggy from the anesthesia, my son went to kiss Lupe goodnight and she licked him like she’s been doing for the past ten years of his life, and made him giggle and laugh like only she could. I, thankfully, recorded it. I finally told him, “Ok, you need to tell Lupe goodnight.” He giggled some more, looked at her with love and not wanting to let her go, and said, “No goodnight.”
She recovered a lot since that first night. She was able to run around again and be her silly self. The vet put her on a prescription diet, and at first it was working, and then she was getting sick again, so she was put on another one, and it seemed to be working alright, but then she kept having issues. No matter what we were doing, she was having GI issues. The vet was doing everything she could. We had her on and off a particular antibiotic that was helping when she was on it, and then cyclically, she would start having issues. One of the issues that she had continued to have and would get increasingly worse off and on was the need to go to the bathroom all through the night and into the early morning, and that brings us full circle to the night that she woke me up needing to go outside, looked up at me with her beautiful, round eyes, wiggled her curled tail, hopped on her three good legs, I told her to hurry in, and I never saw her again.
As quickly and all at once that she rushed into my life like a tiny ball full of love and light, she left it.
I could never thank Lupe enough for loving us and trusting us to care for her. She was my friend, my companion, my confidant, and sometimes the only thing I had that felt light and unconditional. The ache in my heart is immense.
Lupe saw me through the highs and lows of the last 12 years and she did it with love and patience.
My son put it best when he told me that it felt as if “someone went into my heart, pulled out all of the parts that belonged to Lupe, and sewed me back up, but they forgot to fill the holes.”
There is a hole in our life without her.
She had a million nicknames, and I made up a million songs that I would sing to her. Songs that I will never sing again.
My son will never laugh that special laugh that only Lupe could elicit.
I’ve watched all of the water evaporate from her dish, and her leash is gathering dust. I can’t seem to move anything of hers, because my mind keeps thinking she’ll need it.
I find comfort in thinking that maybe Lupe knew something we didn’t, and she saved us from having to make a decision for her.
The vet was surprised that my husband was able to find her body, and despite the fact that I consider myself a woman of science and I deal in facts, I think Lupe drew him to her. One last way to care for us. One last way to give us the peace that she so freely gave us throughout her life.
Now she lives only in my memories.
What better place for her to reside than safely in the mind of the person who loved her most of all?
Who loved her sweet, puppy fur and her distinguished, senior whiskers.
I will keep her safe with me in the heart she has been so loved and the mind that refuses to let her go.