Sunday, July 23, 2017

RIP Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, 30 May 2000 (more or less) - 22 July 2017

Tiggy yesterday morning
The rescue ladies weren’t sure we deserved Tiggy.

Her first two years had been rough. Someone had taken her to an overcrowded Chicago animal shelter because, they said, they had “too many dogs.” When the rescue ladies found her there, she was matted and frightened and obese—a common ailment in dogs who have had poor nutrition. Spring her from the shelter, they thought, clean her up, feed her good food, give her lots of love, and she’ll make somebody a nice pet. Ten days later, she gave birth to four puppies.

Well, that solved the weight problem.

Tiggy was a good mom, so good her foster mom, Pat, thought she probably had raised puppies at least once before. And Tiggy was a good dog. Pat adored her. Whoever wanted Tiggy would have to pass a thorough inspection.

Alas, Tiggy wasn’t at her best the day we went to meet her. In just one week she had weaned her puppies, sent them off to college, and had a hysterectomy. And now Pat, her best friend, was letting strange people take her for walks around a huge and frightening pet store. “She’s a very honest dog,” Pat told us, and the hormonally challenged, terrified terrier honestly saw no reason to befriend us. “She’s probably not for us,” I said.

But for a week I couldn’t get Tiggy out of my mind. On paper she was exactly the dog we were looking for: a small but sturdy young adult female of good character. Maybe love at first sight wasn’t required. Maybe she really was the dog for us. I phoned Pat. “Probably not,” she said. “We don’t trust you. This dog needs a permanent home that is totally committed to her. She’s been tossed around enough in her short life.”

“That’s why I didn’t say yes last week,” I said. “I didn’t want to take her unless I was sure. Now I’m sure. If you’ll let us …”

Bless Pat, she let us, despite her misgivings. And Tiggy was a challenge. We named her Mrs Tiggy-Winkle after Beatrix Potter’s eponymous hedgehog, but she seemed to have no concept of names (had nobody ever called her anything?). She suffered from major separation anxiety: if we left her alone in her crate for even a few minutes, she’d get the runs. If we left her loose in the bedroom, she would try to chew down the door (at least that approach removes tartar). Car rides made her sick. She was afraid of brooms. She smelled bad. And that was just the first week.

Very soon, however, we observed small changes. She’d look up when her name was called. She’d agree to stay by herself for fifteen minutes, gradually lengthening the time she could spend on her own without panicking. She’d get excited when it was time to go for a walk (and wasn’t it always time?). The old smell of fear went away. She began offering tentative kisses.

Before our eyes she was turning into a typical little terrier—trusting, curious, impulsive, talkative, eager, playful, affectionate. She started telling us that we were, sadly, rather boring. So we brought her a lovely young cat who, we were told, enjoyed playing with dogs. Mistake! Over the course of a week or two, the two of them started dozens of games, but they couldn’t agree on the rules. Eventually the traumatized kitty found peace with a large, placid dog who never transformed into a guided missile heading straight for her.

Muffin & Tiggy, 2008
In April 2003, we changed our approach and brought her a small dog. Thus began an eleven-year symbiotic relationship. On walks, Tiggy announced every dog we passed; if the other dogs were big enough, Muffin lunged at them. At home, Tiggy learned obedience (loosely speaking) through repetition; Muffin learned by observing which of Tiggy’s actions led to treats. Together, the 12-pound miniature schnauzer mix (Tiggy) and the 10-pound toy poodle mix (Muffin) learned how to occupy the entire vast middle of a king-sized bed.

Muffin died in late 2014. By then Tiggy was 14 years old, losing her hearing, losing her teeth, and losing her compulsion to comment on every passing butterfly—but still eagerly looking forward to frequent long walks around the neighborhood.

In recent months Tiggy slept a lot. In March of this year, she had extensive dental surgery, from which she quickly recovered. But a couple of weeks ago, the problem returned. Something pathological was happening in her jaw and affecting her left eye as well. Terriers don’t like to complain, so we don’t know how much it hurt. But it was only going to get worse, and she was no longer a candidate for surgery.

With heavy hearts, we made the dreaded final appointment with her doctor. We still had a morning to spend together, so I took Tiggy for her last one-mile walk. It was a slow walk, but she enjoyed sniffing the grass (so many dogs!) and touching noses with a neighbor’s baby dachshund. Then to the office of her kindly vet where, at noon yesterday, she “gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old [dog], and full of years; and was gathered to [her] people.”

Yesterday and today, we’ve been going through hundreds of photos and reminiscing about her younger days. There she is, climbing into the dishwasher to be sure every plate is well rinsed. Methodically tossing sofa and bed pillows to the floor. Playing tug-o’-war with David and doing physical therapy exercises with me. Levitating onto tables bearing unguarded food. Arranging pieces of kibble in formations that look like interrupted games of battleship. Snuggling next to many of her human friends. A good dog. An honest dog. A beloved dog.

Rest in peace, little one. Or, if you’d rather, go chase a rabbit. You won’t catch it, but you can run forever. Where you have gone, there are no fences.