She came back to Atlanta with us to meet my grandparents who had recently lost their beloved dog. We felt certain she would be the perfect balm to soothe their grieving hearts. She bolted into their home, filled with exquisite treasures from around the globe, running from room to room like a bat out of hell, bounding up and down off furniture and in and out of their laps. Then she promptly peed on one of their expensive oriental rugs. No bueno.
Back to North Carolina she went, but not before weaseling her way into my heart on the return drive.
She was our kid before kids–traveling with us, backpacking with us, sleeping with us, and always, always, always kissing us. She loved nothing more than to lay one (or five hundred) on an unsuspecting victim. She even won a kissing contest at a local dog fair. I suspect she felt her whole life had been leading up to that event, and it was her time to shine. And shine she did!
As the years ticked by, her enthusiasm for life remained a constant. Isabelle didn’t know a bad day and she was certain to make sure you knew how happy she was at any given moment. We could all learn a lesson from Izzie about living well.
The kids came along and she was happy to oblige in their antics, a (usually) willing participant in dress up play. I often found her sitting beside and staring at Paige intently, as Paige chattered away to her about anything and everything.
Larry was her main squeeze though, following him everywhere when he was home, even up until her last days when her will to find him trumped her physical weakness.
When Wogene came home, he instantly connected with her. I had been told Ethiopian adoptees were often scared of house pets initially, but not in this case. I used to joke and say that if Wogene had to choose one family member to live with within his first few weeks of coming home, Izzie would have been her first choice, hands down.
Her seventeen years eventually caught up to her, and days before we were to leave for a family vacation I diagnosed her with liver cancer. The vacation was canceled–nothing felt right about leaving a family member when the crystal ball of diagnostic tests revealed the life she had remaining. The veterinarian in me was initially frustrated with myself for diagnosing her so late, yet there was a subconscious part of me that knew something had been brewing for awhile. Given her advanced age and the fact that she was mostly her typical happy self (albeit slower with age), the larger part of me is thankful we didn’t know so we could enjoy her without worry, knowing her age would make any type of treatment more difficult and less successful.
I have counseled clients for years when their own pets are declining, helping them decide the appropriate time to consider euthanasia. Never in my career have I been more thankful for the compassion our profession affords our pets as I was yesterday, when I knew she was tipping the scale from manageable to painful days. The horror of end-stage, terminal cancer is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, much less our sweet Isabelle. She died peacefully by my side, with the loving hands of my friend and colleague, Brian, facilitating her passage to the Great Beyond.My hopes is that it’s filled with beaches to run on while playing chicken with incoming waves, mountains to bound up, toenails that never need cutting, limitless amounts of wet dog food and rotisserie chicken without a dry kibble in sight, dogs to wrestle with and run in huge circles at full tilt around the living room, and of course, our loved ones who have already passed, welcoming her every affection, kisses and all.
It’s still too hard to look beyond this moment, to imagine our family without her. As Mama once wrote, “All love holds the potential for suffering because of death…the deeper the love, the deeper the pain.” She was worth every ounce of the pain and I’m forever thankful for the lesson in love she was and will continue to be in my life. Until we meet on the other side of the river, I love you, girl.