Saturday (the 5th) was a very sad day around here.
Laika, the biggest, cuddliest lap dog you’ll ever meet, passed away. We aren’t exactly certain what happened. She’d been limping, but we’d assumed it was arthritis. Since she was going to be 10 years old on the 19th, we assumed she was aging and told ourselves we were preparing ourselves for the inevitable. But on Saturday around noon, she very quickly and peacefully passed away, laying on our bedroom floor, surrounded by the family she loved (except for me; I was at a craft fair).
It’s very hard to fully describe Laika. She was the most gentle creature you could hope for around her family. Justin and I got her when she was 6 weeks old. She was our first little baby. We already had Kingsley, but he was already his independent self. Laika was…Laika. I carried her around like a little baby and she loved it. She never wanted to be far from us. Both of us. It drove her crazy if we were in separate rooms of the house. She would pace from person to person, whining, until we got into the same room.
She tolerated the kids. I wouldn’t say she particularly enjoyed them, but she let them crawl all over her, ride her like a horse, pull on her, push on her, hug her, feed her, steal her toys, her bones, her food, whatever, and I never heard even a grumble from her. We now realize that she must have been in severe pain in her back legs, but even when the kids sat on her, she never showed any signs of annoyance.
These last few months, I let it be known that she was driving me crazy. I’ll feel guilty for that until the end of my days, I’m sure. She couldn’t stand to be separated from people. No matter how much I pushed her away, she kept coming back for attention and love. They say Neapolitan mastiffs can actually die of a broken heart, and I have no doubt that if we’d ever given her up for whatever reason, she would have.
But we’d never have given her up. She was a part of the family. Her and Kingsley predate the kids. Justin and I were together for about a year before the dogs came along, but we were just dumb kids dating. Our life together really started with the dogs. She’s been through everything with us. Several moves, job changes, graduations, deaths, births. We’ve grown up with her. She went from staying up all night partying with us to getting upset if we weren’t in bed by 10. Now that Laika is gone it feels like we’ve lost so much more than just a dog. We’ve lost a part of our family. Not just a member of our family, it’s like a piece of our family is gone. Like we were all puzzle pieces, and together we create this picture of a cohesive little family unit, but once you lose a piece, the puzzle isn’t what it used to be; we have to figure out a new picture to form.
It turns out Laika was the member of the family we all ran to when we were needing a hug. And it turns out we all need a lot of hugs. Laika was our family therapist. We poured our feelings out to her, and as long as we rubbed her eyebrows just so she’d listen with the biggest sympathetic ear you can imagine. She was the stand-by guardian of the children. She didn’t mind having necklaces draped around her neck or hats put on her head, but don’t turn your back on her and a morsel of food. Or a 10 pound sack of potatoes. Or a wholesale-size pack of ramen noodles. Do you know how hard it is to get ramen noodle crumbs out of carpet? A lot harder than you’d think. Which is why she left crumbs, I’m sure.
I cry often throughout the day. My stomach sinks every time I drop my hand to my side and realize her head isn’t right there to be petted. I cry when I walk through the bedroom and don’t trip over her. I keep listening for her barking at the neighbors (who probably won’t miss her all that much, to be honest – she looked scary as hell, I’m sure). I drop food on the floor and look for her (Kingsley’s picked up that particular habit very quickly in her absence; I don’t know if he’ll ever touch dog food again). When the doorbell rings (USPS ignores whatever signs I put up asking them not to ring the doorbell), I jump up to tackle her before she wakes the entire house barking.
I miss her more than I thought possible. “She’s a DOG,” I told Justin often. “She doesn’t NEED a mattress to sleep. She has a dog bed.” But it turns out she wasn’t just a dog. She was our friend; our baby; our confidante; the kids’ fur sibling. We miss her terribly.