Monday, June 23, 2008


In the fall of 2001 I moved into my first apartment that would allow pets, and I was determined to get a dog. I already had my heart set on getting a Pekingese, and I just needed to find the right one. A pure bred Pekingese is an expensive purchase for a college student but I had saved a little money to be able to buy one. I was looking through the Atlanta paper at their dogs for sale ads, when I came across a very strange one. There were 2 Pekingese dogs that were being given away for free. I immediately called the phone number listed and agreed to meet the person halfway between Athens and Atlanta. I met a lady who was not the owner of the dogs but was helping to get them adopted. The dogs were 6 and 8, but the 6-year-old was already spoken for so the 8-year-old was all that was left for me. Ideally, I had wanted a new puppy but when I saw this dog I knew I couldn't leave without her. She was in bad shape and didn't look at all as beautiful and well groomed as most Pekingese. Her hair was matted and she looked frail. Her name was Misha, and her owner had been an elderly lady who couldn't take care of her anymore. It was apparent that she hadn't been well cared for in quite some time.
I took Misha back to Athens and to the vet. She was indeed underweight and had gum disease throughout her mouth. She immediately had to have many of her teeth pulled because they were in such poor condition. I ended up spending in vet bills more than what I would have paid for a new puppy. There were times when I wondered what I had gotten myself into, but I adored this sweet little girl. It took a while for Misha to warm up to me, and I think she had a hard time adjusting to a new home. There was a mirror that sat on the floor in our apartment and in those first weeks she would always go over and lay in front of the mirror. I often wondered if she thought the reflection was her sister.
Misha was with me through the remainder of college, and we became a family of three when Bryan and I got married. Misha was always around Bryan on the weekend but never quite took to him. After living under the same room with him, she finally became as attached to him as me. We were basically the only people she was comfortable with.
Misha was with us for all of our moves. We went from Greensboro to Dahlonega, to Ft Sill, to Germany, back to Ft Sill, and back to Greensboro. She even traveled with us sometimes on our weekend trips around Europe. She kept me company through all Bryan's field exercises and our first deployment. It was always nice to know that I wasn't alone in our home.
Misha started to have problems about a month ago. Her back and back legs just weren't able to go like she wanted them to. We tried medicating her but in the end there really wasn't anything that could help her. Her body was finally just giving out after all these years. During the last week she refused to eat, and that was difficult to handle. Mama was able to get her to eat a little bit of food by hand so that's what I started doing. I would hold her and feed her a little bit of anything I could get in her mouth. We tried a few different dog foods, cooked chicken, sandwich meat, hot dogs, etc. We had a small victory on Saturday when she decided to eat a little bit of strawberry yogurt!
Saturday night to Sunday morning she spent most of the night whining and yelping. Misha never barked or made a peep unless something was very wrong. The fact that she was constantly vocal that night was an obvious sign that she was miserable. I made the decision that I would call the vet and make arrangements to have her put to sleep on Sunday afternoon. On Sunday morning when I got up she was sleeping and I was glad that she was finally able to relax some. Around 10am I checked on her again and noticed that she didn't appear to be breathing. I spoke to her and petted her but there was no response. She was still very warm so I knew it had just happened.
Not only do I have a friend who is a vet, but one of my best friends was actually a vet tech for years. I called her and she insisted on coming right over. She arrived and checked Misha for any signs of life. She felt a faint heartbeat but said that this was definitely the end. She helped me put Misha in the box that we had planned to bury her in. I am so thankful that I didn't have to be the one to end her life, but that didn't make losing her any easier.
On Sunday afternoon, we buried Misha in a nice spot at my parent's house. I'm going to order her a small stone grave marker to place where she is buried. Most of the time this all seems surreal and it doesn't feel like she's actually gone. Then I will have moments where it hits me hard.
Ever since I got Misha I've said that having a dog is a good way to learn how to be a parent. You can't just get up and go without making arrangements for them. You have to clean up after them when they have accidents or get sick. There are so many other ways in which having a pet and caring for a child are similar. Maybe Misha taught me everything she could to help me take care of Marlie. Of course Marlie will never have her own memories of Misha, but we will always consider them sisters. I had never taken a picture of the two of them together so I made it a point to get one last week. It's obvious that Misha was not feeling well, but Marlie was so excited to have Misha sitting right beside her.

1 comment:

Tara said...

oh, Cristin. My heart is breaking for you guys. I am very sorry to hear that Misha is no longer physically in the family but am glad for her and you that she no longer will suffer. She could NOT have had a more loving mother. I'll be thinking of you in the hard days ahead. Even if you know it is okay I'm sure the emptiness doesn't go away as quickly.