Yesterday morning--ironically, Elvis' birthday-- I received word from my mother that one of our beloved family dogs had to be put down.
Shasta came to us, as many of the dogs that my family owned over the years, quite by accident. Our next door neighbor owned Shasta and her partner in crime, Lady, and both dogs would escape from their own fenced in prison, as if they were escaping from Alcatraz.
Once they got out, they had the run of the neighborhood, but for some reason they would return to our house, not to their own house.
We'd see Shasta and Lady at the top of the hill, scream "Shasta-kis and Lady-kins" and Shasta's tail would be straight up, in a corkscrew sort of way, and she'd be wagging it and running down to the house.
This was a daily occurrence, until a couple of days-in-a-row passed and we didn't see either dog. I finally could not stand it any longer and asked my neighbor what happened.
"My husband got mad because our son won't watch his dogs, so he threw them in the back of the truck and took them to the Atlanta Humane Society," said his wife.
I was mortified.
Then, she added," He told me that Lady fell out of the truck on Interstate 85...I'm really angry with him."
Yeah? Not as angry as I was. I wanted to take a lead pipe to his head. Poor Lady.
But when my brother--we used to tell him his middle name was "Dog"--found out about Shasta and Lady, he went ballistic.
With the okay from my mother, he went down to the Atlanta Humane Society to find Shasta. He said that she was all the way in the back of the place, in her own 'cage,' looking sad, and he said "Shasta-kis," and she looked up, but still couldn't see my brother.
He said it again, louder, "SHASTA-KIS" and she jumped up, saw David and came running toward him, whimpering and all excited.
He brought her home, and after a few days of confusion and upset over her best friend, Lady, being gone, she quickly fit into the menagerie of dogs and cats at the house.
We found out, from a woman who was out when we were walking with Shasta, that she was quite possibly an Australian Blue Tick.Hound variation, and she was a "digger."
Even when I tried to be mad at her, for digging out a spot to escape the huge fenced-in backyard, there was no way that I could be mad at her. You could judge where she was in the neighborhood by the barks of all of the "friends" she just had to visit.
It would end up with Shasta coming home about 45 minutes after she dug out of the fence, wondering if she was going to get in trouble. Looking into those big brown eyes of hers, I totally understood her need to be Steve McQueen in "The Great Escape," even down to all of us taking huge concrete blocks to block every weak area of the fence.
It didn't matter. Shasta would spend hours trying to find another spot, refusing to come in the house when called, until she would find another way to get out and party.
You gotta love that spirit! As she got older, she had to endure introduction to more stray animals, including the last edition at my mother's house: Milly. Milly is a Jack Russell mix, a big yapper, and she got on Shasta's last nerve.
God love her, Shasta was such a good girl. I should have known something was up, the last time I house-sat for my mom, when Shasta--who usually couldn't wait to take a long walk in the morning--could not keep up anymore and seemed to want to go home.
I attributed it to arthritis, but it was not arthritis. One of my last encounters and memories of Shasta, or "Shas-E-Frass" as I called her, was Shasta refusing to come inside on a warm, sunny day a couple of months ago.
I knew where I would find her. She was laying in front of her last escape route, which was sealed over, and she looked up with her sad brown eyes and pleaded for me to let her go. I couldn't do it, because my mom's neighborhood has gotten worse, and it's not safe for her to roam, but I so wanted to.
I coaxed her into the house and loved on her for a long time, pushing crazy Milly away, and I had the feeling something was not right.
My mother said that over the past few days, Shasta had been making BM's that were black as tar, loose and bloody. Not good. As well, my mom said she didn't want to move and was losing her bladder, etc.
She wrapped up our Shasta in her arms and took her to our vet of 28 years, and when the Vet techs came to greet her, they already knew what was going on.
She was bleeding internally and her organs were shutting down, and it was time for Shasta to cross over the "Rainbow Bridge.'
I guess it's corny, but I broke down and sobbed like a baby when my mother told me. I loved that dog, and she was always a fighter and survivor. This was the one time she couldn't find an escape route out of it.
Mom said that Shas seemed to sense what was happening and my mom said she placed her hands on Shasta as they gave her "the shot," and said, "You gave her to us, God, now please welcome her back to you."
Shas-E-Frass, I am going to miss you something terrible, and thank you for all of the fun, love, companionship and irritating barks at 5:30am in the morning.
I know you are up there playing with Blackie, Evita, Sam, BiBi, and last but not least, your best pal, Lady.