When my husband and I got married, not only did we become a blended family of 5 children, we also became a blended family of 3 dogs — Boadie, Batya, and Laila. Laila was the Grande Dame of the pack. The oldest, the calmest, and the most patient of the three. She had the biggest grin. She was also the biggest beggar at the table. And she ate some really disgusting things in the backyard. She tolerated grandbabies crawling on her. She tolerated her ‘fur brother,’ Boadie, licking and chewing on her ear until it was soaking wet. She came to Sunday School so our pre-K class could learn to be gentle with a dog.
Laila was a ‘rescue’ dog, a mix of mostly beagle and something else. Andrew got her as a puppy. Right after he brought her home, he discovered she had only one functioning kidney, which meant she piddled all over the house. They operated to remove the kidney which solved the piddling problem. But during surgery, they left the heating pad she was lying on turned up too high, which caused 3rd degree burns across her back. As a result of the skin grafts and healing, she had a bit of a Frankenstein pattern of lines on her back. Laila was the smartest of our dogs too. Andrew describes telling her to get her leash, when she was a puppy, so they could go for a walk. And when she pulled out all the toys, Andrew could tell her to clean up and she’d put all the toys back in the basket. That was before my time.
Laila left us at the end of May at 16+ (human) years. She and Batya were due for their annual shots, but when Andrew took them in to the Vet, Laila had not been feeling well all day. The Vet suggested we bring her home and watch her overnight. Laila ate her dinner, went over to the dog bed in front of the fireplace and didn’t move for the rest of the evening. Before we went to our own bed, I covered her up with a blanket because she was shivering. Usually, all three dogs slept in our bedroom. Sometime in the night, I woke up, positive that I had heard the tags on her collar clinking. I sat up and peered at the end of the bed in the dark. Mind you, I wear glasses, which I didn’t put on. But I saw a dark shadow move across the floor and settle at the end of our bed. The other two dogs were sleeping up on the bed, at the foot. I was relieved and said out loud, “Oh, Laila’s come into the bedroom!” But in the morning when we got up, Laila was still in the living room, on the dog bed, and clearly hadn’t moved. She was not doing well. Andrew rushed her back to the Vet but with COVID protocols still in place, he couldn’t go in with her. His last view was the confusion in her eyes as the technician took her inside.
I’ve waited a bit to write this post as the subject was a bit raw. But I also don’t want to forget, so I write this short story, collect the pictures, and share. I want to remember that sense that Laila came into our room that last night. Maybe Laila wanted so strongly to be in our room with us and the other dogs, that I could feel it. Or maybe she was telling us goodbye.