Most of you who read this column will remember that I lost my tiny Shih Tzu, Poobah, and my oldest Shih Tzu, Mouse, late last year; one to bad kidneys and the other to epilepsy. Without being maudlin, it devastated me. When dogs live with you and are part of a dog family there are side-effects. It wasn’t difficult to detect a mourning process going on among the dogs. Of course, it didn’t help that they picked up on my sorrow.
Since then, an interesting phenomenon has quietly taken place. Lulu, the eldest daughter of Mouse, seemed to know when her mother was nearing the end. She began to distance herself. It was hard to detect at first, but gradually became more evident. The time frame here was maybe a week before the passing of Mouse. In a way, I understood. My sister and I had taken care of my mother before she died. In order to do that with the absence of hospice we had to be clear minded. And, so began my observations of Lulu, who, by the way, looks very much like her mother.
Lulu’s personality when her mom was alive was feisty. I continually had to gently discipline her. In particular, she would bug and irritate Gracie, a very sweet-natured female. Lulu didn’t like Gracie’s daughter Delilah, either. Lulu could get very overbearing and nasty. Gracie would take it to a point, but then a real bullying would start. If I hadn’t stepped in they would have hurt each other. Mouse was the peacekeeper as much as possible.
Lulu was very possessive of her mother. As she withdrew from Mouse, I felt a familiar sadness. When her mother was gone I cried into Lulu’s fur. At first, I thought that Lulu was grieving, then I saw it was more than that. I watched her gradually come forward and step into the gap her mother had left. It was truly amazing. She put herself in gentle charge of all the girls. And, even me! No more disciplining Lulu. She actually began cleaning Gracie and Delilah, who graciously accepted it. Then she attended to the others. Once, she slept only with her mother. Now, she would pick a different dog each night. One night there were two dogs in Lulu’s big pink bed with her! No longer do I break up fights because scrappy Lulu is now dog-mom to all.
She constantly watches me; and, of course, receives pats and loves. Previously, I would settle in the living room only to have to go back to the kitchen to break up a squabble. Now it is quiet and Lulu has become a caregiver.
Mouse would be proud of her daughter. It seems almost planned. Though Mouse was old and very ill, I also think she couldn’t let Poobah, who she adored, be in Heaven without her. The night Mouse died I clearly saw in dreams Mouse and her Poobah playing in lovely long green grass. Dogs are miracles, aren’t they? Clearly the best medicine.