Saturday night at around 10 PM, we lost the light of our lives. Our beloved fur baby, a German Shepherd / Yellow Lab mix we had named Taz, crossed over the Rainbow Bridge unexpectedly. And all too soon.
It was about 8 years ago, when Taz was only about 2, that she entered our lives. Our daughter's boyfriend was trying to take care of three dogs; 2 males and 1 female. The female (Taz) kept going into heat as no one had bothered to have her spayed, and the two males would attack each other when she went into heat, so our daughter volunteered to mind Taz. It was thought to be a temporary situation. But as time went on and she went into heat two more times (this time at OUR house), Barbara stepped in and told our daughter that we were going to pay for Taz to be spayed, and that she was now our dog.
We named her Taz because she was a bit excitable at the time, being cooped up in our daughter's room a good portion of the day. She wasn't naturally excitable, but you could sure get her going if you wanted to!
Taz was the original cuddle bug. She had to be in contact with one, or both of us at all times. If I was sitting in my recliner watching TV, she was pressed up against my side. In bed, she staked out her spot between the two of us, either above the covers or under them if she was cold. If friends came to visit, she was either laying on their feet or leaning up against them on the couch, making sure they got the full Taz experience.
Once we started RV-ing, she would stake out her spot at Barbara's feet, looking out her doggie window as the world went by; only lifting her head when I would occasionally stray onto some rumble strips (as if to say, “Hey Dad, you wanna keep it between the lines?”), or if (Heaven forbid!) Barbara left her seat to get us something to eat or drink.
Taz was not very good with other dogs. This is not to say she was mean or anything; she just didn't know how to do anything calmly and got too excited to meet new friends, usually turning them off. We were really hoping her time on the road would have allowed her to get better at that. She was also extraordinarily patient around kids, especially our 3 year-old grandson Jace.
Taz was full of love, adoration, laughter and life. She had a huge soul, and you could see it in her eyes.
Saturday morning in Lajitas, Texas began as any other, with one exception. I was sick with the flu, so Barbara had Taz duty during the day. As Taz was taking her usual time to find just the right spot to do her business, she apparently spotted something on the road beside our campsite. Could have been some bone from someone's trash, or maybe even a scorpion that got Taz's attention; we'll never know. She lunged for it, crunched it up and swallowed it before Barbara could do anything about it. For the rest of the day Taz was fine, until 5 o'clock rolled around and she began to get lethargic. She wouldn't eat, even when her favorite (cheese) was offered. Not a whine or a peep out of her. Laying on her side around 8, she pooped on the floor (something she would NEVER do), and she couldn't get up on her feet.
We found a vet nearby in Terlingua who thought she might have suffered a stroke and gave her something to increase the oxygen in her system (don't get me started on vet services in the Big Bend area of Texas), and we brought Taz back to the RV. Carrying her up the 5 stairs, she immediately collapsed on the floor. We cuddled with her while her breathing became more labored and wrapped her in a blanket to keep her warm; but we knew we were losing her. And still not one noise out of her throughout the night of moving her back and forth in the Mini and in and out of the RV. She pooped again while lying on her side, and there was blood in her stool. Our sweet baby was dying. She rolled over to try to get into a more comfortable position, and as I helped her, Taz let out this long, plaintive wail – her first sound of the long ordeal. Her tongue stayed out, her breathing stopped. Our Taz was gone.
At first I thought she was in pain at the very end, and maybe she was. But maybe – just maybe – it was that giant soul of hers leaving her earthly body to begin her journey over the Rainbow Bridge.
I don't know if there is a Heaven. I do know that if there is, Taz is waiting for Barbara and me to join her there.
There's a quiet in the RV now. Too quiet, in fact. We don't have to worry about a giant tail sweeping a drink around the floor or off of a table. There's no race to see who gets to the door first, whether Taz needed to go out or if I just had something to do outside of the RV. We have room to stretch out now without 70 lbs of dog jumping up on us. We don't feel guilty leaving the RV without being able to take her for her much anticipated rides in the Mini.
Will we ever get another dog? It's too soon to tell. The pain is certainly too raw right now to consider that right now. We're not as young as we used to be, but given our family histories we certainly have plenty of time if we chose to do so, but an RV isn't the same as a house. It can be a cruel environment to bring a strange pet into, and we'll always try to do right by our pets. Time will tell.
For now, we'll grieve and celebrate the life of a magnificent soul – Taz.
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're planning the ultimate retirement experience - travel the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, play golf and stop at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.