This morning we had to say good-bye to Babe, our almost nine-year-old mastiff. Saying goodbye was hard, especially since we had just said good-bye to Charley at the end of November.
Babe was suffering from an auto-immune disease that we discovered about a week ago. She did perk up when we put her on steroids, but last night she had a very rough night. She kept panting deeply,
sitting up, and then falling over, hitting her head against the wall–that’s what woke us up. Over and over she did this, and I was afraid she was having seizures. Then this morning, she didn’t want to leave the bedroom. We finally did get her out to the car for a trip to the vet, but instead of climbing in (which she usually loved to do), she simply lay down in the road.
Once we finally got her to the vet, the doctor examined her. After I explained some additional symptoms, the doctor said we could continue to try treatments, but there was probably something else going on–something like cancer that was affecting her entire system.
Babe is a grand old girl, and I didn’t want to put her through painful and probably unnecessary experimentation, so I told the doctor we had come to the end of the road. Then I got down on the floor with her and talked to her as the doctor helped her into that final sleep that leads to the “rainbow bridge”–or in my theology, to heaven. As she rested her big head on her front paws, I told her to look for Charley. After a long, long moment, her head slipped off her paws and she simply rolled onto her side. She was gone.
Babe came to us as a three-year-old rescue. I wouldn’t say that she had been abused in her earlier home, but the moment I saw her, I knew that her former owners hadn’t understood what they had in a mastiff. Babe was wearing a black leather collar with silver studs, the uniform of a junk yard dog, and mastiffs are NOT junk yard dogs. They are gentle giants, dignified guardians, the most stately dogs in the canine kingdom.
I quickly came to understand that Babe had been kept on a chain in her former home–apparently her owner was a mechanic who kept Babe in the garage, and chained her during working hours (and let her “guard” the premises during evening hours.) You probably know that when threatened, an animal will choose to fight or flee. Most dogs will flee first, but if they can’t (because they’re on a chain), they have no choice but to stand their guard and at least ACT like they’re going to fight. So Babe had developed a habit of ferociously barking at any MAN who approached, including our mailman, the UPS man, and all the neighborhood boys and men.
Babe was also incredibly strong. She was 230 pounds of solid muscle, with an appetite that had no “off” switch. (I should have realized how sick she was when the vet told me she had lost 16 pounds). She took her job of guarding our home so seriously that she broke the stained glass in my front door, plus broke through two dining room windows. But we replaced them with stronger glass and tried to keep her away from anything breakable.
As she grew older, Babe mellowed somewhat, but she never lost her urge to bark at anyone who approached the house. She was the alpha queen over Charley, frequently bossing him around. She was smelly, she had dark drool that stained my walls, and she was loud.
But we loved her. And she proved how much she loved us by doing her job well, even when her muzzle grew white and her step grew a little slower.
When just hubby and I lived here, Babe and Charley slept in their beds in our bedroom, naturally. But when our daughter and granddaughter moved in, Babe began to sleep in the dining room, right next to the windows at the front of the house. I didn’t understand why until the hubby pointed out that she wasn’t just guarding us anymore–she was guarding the girls upstairs, too.
Babe often annoyed Charley because she had a habit of lying down in every doorway, always facing out (the better place for a guardian). Charley didn’t like this, because he couldn’t walk past her without eliciting a snarl, so hubby and I were always having to “escort” Charley past Babe.
But two days ago, Babe came into my office, sat next to me for a pat on the head, and then, with a great effort, turned to lie down–facing the door. Doing her job even then.
Tonight will be the first night in over 18 years that we haven’t been lovingly guarded by an adult mastiff.
This week Babe had virtually no platelets in her blood, and I know she wasn’t feeling well. But one day the new puppy, Dani, decided that she wanted to play with the big old dog, and Babe tolerated the youngster nipping at her heels, occasionally looking at me as if to say, “Mom? Can you please put her away for a nap?”
Last night she laid next to me for a long while, then she got up and moved to the doorway–that’s where she was when she began panting and having momentary seizures. I woke up, realized what was happening, and felt my heart sink. We love our new puppy, but saying goodbye to the older ones is never easy. And two times in two months is far too many.
I believe (because Scripture says so) that animals have souls, and I believe animals will be in heaven (after all, Jesus comes back to earth on a horse.) 🙂 And so I pray that my beloved dogs–Sadie, Justus, Charley, Babe, just to name a few–will be with me in eternity.
And when people ask why I would let big, smelly, expensive, drooly dogs live in my home, I just smile and hand them a dish towel to wipe away the occasional slobber. I love mastiffs because they know their job and they do it well without a lot of fuss. And there’s incredible beauty in doing what you were created to do.
I thank God for the gift of dogs and other companion animals. I praise Him for their unconditional love that mirrors His. And I am so grateful that I was allowed to be “mommy” for Charley and Babe.
And now, Dani. 🙂