Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday Afternoon with Alice

It's been a quiet Sunday overall. We had a nice time having dinner at our friends' house last night and went to bed at our usual time and soon fell into dreamless sleep. Around 4:30 a.m. Dear Husband woke up, wide awake, due to the fact it was 7 p.m. in Adelaide. He reached out to me and started talking as if it was noon...Diva snored beneath the covers, the cat purred at my side, and I grumpily said "Go. Away. Now. It is 4:30 in the morning. I am not waking up right now."

He decided to vacate the bed and go downstairs. Diva and I went back to sleep until the respectable hour of 9 a.m. and our Sunday morning routine (newspapers, funnies, breakfast/coffee) began.

Now it is Sunday afternoon and it has gotten dark.

Sunday afternoons have always been a bit depressing to me, even back when I was a kid, when it meant school was the next day and whatever homework I had procrastinated about doing all weekend now had to be faced. I still feel that way now that I'm a grownup of 53 years old. I know work looms ahead of me the next morning and the fleeting minutes of the weekend are fleeting ever faster as dark approaches.

In my melancholy state I started to look at some pictures of our old dog Alice. She was a great dog. Because I didn't start this blog until well after her death, Diva is going to get all the attention and you'll never know about Alice if I don't tell you about her.

I first heard about Alice in 1995 from a neighbor who was good friends with a woman who ran the East Orange pound at the time. We had just lost our 20-year-old cat, Mathilda, in February of that year, and were bereft and pet-less. My neighbor told me about a dog that her friend had told her about. The dog had been found wandering the streets of East Orange, starving, with a broken pelvis. The East Orange Animal Control officer had picked her up and she had been taken to the vet and x-rayed and treated.

After a month of confinement in a cage to keep her from jumping around and lots of food and care, she was ready to find a home. The East Orange pound didn't actually adopt out dogs due to liability issues (they were too cheap to pay the insurance, I surmise) but some left through the "back door." So I told DH about this dog that needed a home. He was dubious about it but we had decided we might be better off getting a dog instead of a cat, since no cat could replace Mathilda, and both of us had had dogs when we were younger.

So we went to meet this dog. She was still very skinny, only 32 lbs., when we saw her, and still limped with one of her hind legs. When she saw us she came out of her cage wagging, and proceeded to roll on her back.

I had done my homework (not having had a dog since I was a kid I thought I'd better read up on it) and immediately recognized that she was showing her belly and being submissive. I was impressed. I will add that this was the one and only time she ever, ever, rolled on her back and showed us her belly in the 10 years we had her. I think she knew what she was doing.

We went home and thought about it and came back the next day and took her home. She smelled pretty bad so our first act was to stick her in the bathtub and give her a nice warm bath. Until the end of her life she always loved baths and we think it was because she associated a bath as being the first sign of being an owned dog. She also hated having her collar taken off, probably for the same reason - it meant she had a home.

The people at the pound had called her Ali, perhaps because she used her paws so much to ask for things. (She came knowing "paw" and "sit" so someone had owned her at one time). We wanted to name her something else but she seemed to know her name, so we came up with Alice, short for Alice Kramden.

In the ten years we had her, Alice learned over 100 words, she slept on our bed every night, and loved to go for walks or rides in the car. There are so many stories about her little habits that I actually wrote them all down after she died so I wouldn't forget them.

She would cock her head to one side whenever she thought she heard a word she understood. Once when we were watching TV and I said the word "scar" out loud she thought I said "car" and started jumping up and down so much that we had to go out in the rain and drive her around the block about 5 times before she was satisfied.

She loved our family and friends and was great with our friends' children. She defended us against anyone else, however, who wasn't invited into the house. She had a lifelong feud with the mailman, despite the fact that I repeatedly told her it was such a cliche' for a dog to hate the mailman!

Right before we realized she had cancer, we spent a week at Cape Cod with her and she had a really good time. But after we returned we noticed she was breathing too fast and hard. An X-ray showed the worst news possible...cancer throughout her lungs. She only lived 2 weeks after the diagnosis. Apparently it was a very aggressive form of cancer and the oncologist we took her to told us she probably only had it a couple of months.

The night before we had to take her to be put to sleep she had a wonderful time in her favorite park. She walked all the way around, barked at some dogs, and was happy. The next day she suddenly went downhill. But I was glad she had one last evening of enjoyment in her life. And although the suddenness of her illness was worse for us, at least she didn't linger long and suffer. I find comfort in knowing that she had a wonderful life after her sad beginning and that she was loved until the end.


Anonymous said...

Memories are so important; maybe one day you will share more of those memories in an Alice Blog. I am so glad that Alice had such a wonderful family to care for her.
Ruth x

Mauigirl said...

Thanks so much, Ruth. I like that idea of an Alice Blog. I have a whole list of favorite Alice memories and lots of pictures of her from when she was younger. Those have to be scanned in, though, since they weren't digital pictures.

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