Written by Tiami Coleburg
Chapter of Life
A cold Autumn rain beat down on the world outside and the dark weather was a good fit for my mood. Holding the warm coffee cup between my hands, I stared at the rain that pelted the window panes and then trickled a path downward. The rain and dark skies were in sharp contrast to the bright sunny skies that were with us the day before. Yet, that sun filled day had not been a happy day, for it had been a day of parting.
The sadness swept through me and I found myself lost in yesterday and thoughts of the past. I looked down at the empty kitchen corner that was her last place here with us. It was where we had said, "Farewell," to our beloved Roxi while she was cradled on Shayla's favorite blanket. From a three year old child, a sweet act of kindness and a show of selfless love. Shayla's tiny voice told Roxi, "Here, this blanket will help you feel better." She then looked up and said with the simple wisdom of a child, "It's time for Roxi to fly to heaven." She bravely spoke the words that Michael and I could not, because we were lost in the past and memories of what used to be.
Memories of who she was: She was a funny, daisy eating Rottweiler. I can see her sitting quietly snacking on hawk weed flowers and clover in the Spring. I remember her eating a flat of pansies. She had plucked each flower carefully, leaving each plant intact. When I came back out to plant the flowers, she wagged her tail saying, "Thank you for the lovely gift." For Roxi, with the exception of flowers, "crunchy" was the key to "delicious". She only ate crunchy dog cookies and kibble and turned her nose up at steak. She would carry one tiny cookie around in her lips like a tiny treasure for hours. That sweet, funny girl would do her hop pop Rotty dance in play with Michael and I. The silent girl, who only barked once, in all the years I knew her. It was not that she could not bark, she just did not feel the need to make a fuss. Gentle and kind, she would not stand up for herself if other dogs picked on her or played too rough. In an effort to help her with the dogs we finally put a spiked collar on her so they would not push her down. The collar was rather ironic on this gentle soul, who loved everyone and was good from the tip of her nose to the end of her stubby tail. Roxi gave our lives purpose and a reason to go on in the saddest of times. She was Michael's best friend when I first joined them and he usually called her "My Bug" or "Pretty Girl". She was the first Rottweiler that won our hearts. She had a good life, a long life and she was loved.
Yesterday morning had found her unable to rise. Her strength was gone and you could see she felt her dignity was going too. To ask her to stay with us would have been about us, not her. I sat by her and murmured to her about what a good girl she was while I hand fed her tiny pieces of biscotti that had just the right crunch for our Roxi's taste. We waited for our friend, Dr. Ginny, to come help us let her go on her way and to let her escape the shell that was once her beautiful body. Thank you, Dr. J for your caring support. Yet, the time to say goodbye to a love is never the right time and her loss was not easy, even with the realization that she needed to go.
I held her head between my hands, looked deep into her eyes and kept my tears to myself for her. She looked back with love and I knew she was ready to fly free. She was still herself, just trapped in this vessel that had failed her. Then she was gone and so was her pain and her battle was over. Years of love and life were now memories and this was her final chapter of life.
The Angel by Her Side
The following morning, I stared at the dark computer screen willing myself to push the on button and get busy working on the emails that waited for response. The screen came to life and there among the emails was one that instantly caught my eye. It was titled, "Our Angel." I knew instantly it was from Angel's adopters. They had always called her, "Our Angel," as we shared a love for this dog and she was indeed both ours and theirs. Angel was a Rottweiler we saved from euthansia in a local shelter. She had been severely abused and bred many times for profit. She became unwanted when she had reached an age that was not good for breeding and her life of enslavement was cast aside and another unfortunate Rottweiler female took her dark place. From being bred so many time and fed free feed style she was very overweight and the story this dog lived was clear by the mental scars she showed. She was haunted by acts of cruelty at the hands of man. Angel would fall to the ground and cry aloud waiting for the blows if you moved quickly or carried anything in your hands that resembled a stick. Never once did she react with aggression even though it was clear she was terrified. She was also terrified of hats and would cringe in fear. I remember when the phone man came to the door and she shrieked in terror. I explained and he took his hat off and spoke softly to her. He felt so bad for her that he got tears in his eyes. She wagged her stubby tail in response to his kindness. He left smiling and that day was a turning point for Angel. It took time, but she soon learned we would never hurt her and that she could trust us. She lived with our resident dogs including Roxi and many foster dogs and got along with everyone. Although, she lost 40 pounds, she was still really chubby but more time and good diet would help that. She won our hearts and became, to this day, our favorite foster dog. For a year she stayed with all of us and she healed in heart and mind.
We were lucky enough to find a home for her that was as perfect as they come. It was hard to part with her but a home of her own was what we knew was best for her. She shared her new home with a tiny Brussels Griffon named Sid Vicious and a Bull Mastiff named Ponce. Her adoptive parents, Jennifer & David, adored her. They shared emails and pictures of Angel and we never doubted our life choice for her.
I opened the email hoping for some bright news about our Angel. The words that lay before me actually cause me to gasp. Jennifer's words rose from the email and they were sad and shocking, "I just wanted to let you know that Our Angel was laid to rest yesterday.
Angel developed Degenerative Myelopathy and was unable to use her hind legs any more. We had her on steroids the past 3 weeks which helped a great deal until a few days ago.
Our Angel girl.... We gave her a good home for the past 3 years and I know she was grateful to us. She had to be the easiest, sweetest, kindest dog I have ever known. We will miss her greatly...
Thank you for saving Angel's life and bringing her to us. We have been honored to love her."
I was sad, stunned and amazed at the news. I was sad as Angel was truly a special girl that stood out among the many foster dogs we have had. If you were to ask who my favorite foster was of all time it would be her. She came so far from abuse and cruelty, never losing her love and adoration for humankind. We as humans did not deserve this respect for what she had endured.
I reflected on Jennifer's words, "Thank you for saving Angel's life." I knew in my heart that it was not just Michael and I who had saved her. It was Roxi, also. What we believe in and what we fight for are always a reflection of another being's influence in your life. If Roxi had not lived and been a part of my life, I would not have loved the Rottweiler breed and Angel would have lost her life frightened and alone in an animal control facility. Roxi is the dog that opened the door to the path of life for all the Rottweilers we have saved.
I am amazed and stunned, not only because Angel is gone, but because we lost our Roxi yesterday, too. But also I feel a sense of peace and believe the girls are together. Roxi and Angel were alike in many ways. Both little cubby-bear Rotties, sweet and loving with not an ounce of anger in them. They were the Rottweilers that you do not hear about often enough. I like to think they flew to heaven together, old friends reunited for the final journey home, the stellar good dogs that were our angels on earth and now in heaven.
Our sadness has been eased with the thoughts of them together and I was blessed with an awakening that Roxi and Angel live on in the lives we save. The book that was Roxi's life indeed has another chapter to be written and I shall help write it. Fly free our sweet Rotty girls. You are forever in our hearts...
~ Our Angel's ~
"To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Tiami Coleburg and Rescue Every Dog