This may sound weird or morbid, but for all of my beloved Martha’s 14 years and 2 months of life, I thought almost every day about how wonderful she was and that I would have to say goodbye some day. She developed arthritis in her spine as she aged, and I had many moments with her and conversations with my vet about how to know when it was her time. In early July, she suddenly lost use of both her back legs, was in extreme pain, and wouldn’t eat. That was when I knew.
I had always planned to get another dog, and after she passed I called the breeder of her sire, and asked if any litters were planned. To my surprise, she told me she had two males ready to go, one was “small,” and I drove the hour and a half away to go meet him.
Marty came home with me only four days after Martha passed. He is her cousin, her sire was Marty’s great great great etc grandsire. I swear she sent him to me.
And it’s been bittersweet, realizing how much pain she suffered for a very long time in her last years, months and days, yet having the joy of a loving puppy to help ease the tears.
LIke many a frugal Yankee homemaker, I use tennis balls in my dryer to help fluff heavy loads of laundry such as sheets and mattress covers so that they will dry evenly. I have amassed quite a collection of tennis balls over the years. I’ve never had to pay for a one – my walking route with Martha includes the area just outside the local public tennis courts, and stray balls have inexplicably found their way out of the woods and brush and into my cellar for use in the dryer.
When Martha was younger, I attempted to use these stray tennis balls as toys. I soon learned that she and I had very different ideas about the recreational uses of these fuzzy yellow orbs. I’d heard tales of ball-obsessed Labradors, who endlessly chase and return slimy, filthy balls to their owners for hours on end. Alas, Martha was not one of them. She’d retrieve the ball maybe two, three, or four times, but that was it. She quickly lost interest in the sport, and instead showed great delight in chewing on the ball so as to carefully and delicately peel off the fuzzy covering, leaving a broken and ruined wreck all over the living room floor.
She showed a similar attitude towards soft, fuzzy stuffed animals. I’ve heard tell of dogs who lovingly carried their stuffed animal “babies” around for hours, tucking them carefully into bed, and generally doting on them. Martha could disembowel and shred a stuffed toy in less than five minutes, leaving a huge messy cloud of stuffing and shredded furry covering all across the room. Frozen beef marrow bones would keep her entertained for nearly an hour. I was shocked to learn that many dogs take several days to dig the marrow out of such bones. She’s such a lady.
I am pleased to report that her destructive tendencies are strictly limited to inanimate objects. (She has also been seen to attack plastic grocery shopping bags and stray hub caps in the wild.) She is perfectly polite and gentle to all living creatures, and has been known to show special fondness for puppies and small breed dogs. She also loves people, (though not so much being petted) and seems to understand the need for special calmness around small children and those who are elderly or in wheelchairs. My sweet puppy. I guess her values are in the right place.
Anyway, back to the mysteries of laundry. How is it hat when I put tennis balls in with the sheets and pillowcases, the tennis balls somehow find their way inside the pillowcases in the dryer? A free (used) tennis ball to the first person who can explain that to me.