My wife Ali and I rarely agree instantly on anything, but we did on that point.
As we drove into the animal shelter parking lot we said it almost in unison.
We wanted a “real” dog, not one of those annoying small dogs that yip all the time.
We walked from cage to cage, reading name tags and stories about each dog.
“Fluffy is a sweet girl”
“Keep fingers out”
“Loves to play”
We made two laps around, surprised that we didn’t feel a connection with any of the inmates. (Even though in dog prison most of them are innocent)
About to give up we noticed a cage that we hadn’t before.
The name tag read; “Cookie, barks incessantly when crated and has been returned twice in two years”.
Her little tan head peaked out from behind the yellow paper and then hid again.
She was trembling.
Ali and I looked at each other thinking the same thing.
Was this little dog that matched exactly the description of what we didn’t want just capture our hearts?
A volunteer assisted as we brought her outside.
Her ears and belly were hairless.
She was flea bitten and her ribs showed.
A leather collar two sizes too big around her neck.
She was a mess, came with a warning and yet she was perfect.
We would rename her before we left the pound.
Alison recalled three gypsies from the spanish opera, Carmen.
She suggested “Frasquita”.
It was perfect and soon we were on our way home with our little gypsy.
She was nervous at first.
So were we.
How could a five year old dog not be house broken?
Why doesn’t she sit when we ask her to?
Had we bitten off more than we could chew?
We hired a dog trainer and swiftly realized that any issues Frasquita had were not because of Frasquita.
Her issues were because of her owners.
The trainer trained us and within an hour she sat when we asked her to.
She learned and learned.
How to walk on a leash, how to ask to go outside and how to play fetch with a stuffed toy lobster, she learned lesson after lesson.
Even in her later years she learned to sit up like a meerkat when we called her pretty.
For those unwilling to love her she was a nuisance who had to go back to the pound.
For us she was perfect.
Two years ago, as her muzzle had begun to grow whiter we realized she was no longer a puppy.
She no longer ran up the stairs but rather walked with hesitation.
Issues with her gallbladder needed to be addressed with occasional antibiotics and fluids.
Over a decade she had become a little old lady.
We happily cleaned up after her and didn’t mind having to watch where we walked.
Often we would have to carry her up and down the stairs.
In her hay day she ran wildly on the beach, showed the bigger dogs that she was in charge and terrorized every squirrel who would try to invade our yard.
She spent every evening cuddled up to us and loved being held and having her belly rubbed.
She was a mamma’s girl.
Alison and Frasquita had a special connection that was hysterical to watch.
She had a couple of close calls with her health and a year or so ago it became clear that her time was coming.
Our veterinarian and I tried to convince Alison that it was time.
Her gut didn’t feel right about it and our little dog bounced back within 24 hours.
Two weeks ago was different.
She had become blind and deaf a few months earlier and could not go outside during the day because it hurt her eyes too much.
She was stretched unable to lift her head.
She let out yelps of pain every thirty seconds or so.
Her breathing had become shallow and Alison agreed it was time.
We drove the forty minutes to the all night emergency pet hospital.
Having been alerted that we were coming we were met with compassion and care.
For nearly a half hour we held her and petted her.
We whispered our goodbyes and kissed her.
We kissed her nose, her paws, face and took every minute available to say goodbye.
The Dr explained what she was doing as she injected the drugs into her IV line that would sedate her and then allow her to pass peacefully.
We sobbed and as I write this I am on a plane traveling from Memphis to Baltimore breathing deep and fighting the sadness that comes with remembering that moment.
We stayed with her for another twenty minutes after she was gone, offered a final kiss and whisper that I will have to wait to know if she heard.
We sat in the car and cried for a bit and two weeks later we are still heart sick.
She brought so much joy to our lives and I will never forget her.
I don’t know the details of her first five years, when she was called “Cookie” and returned to the dog pound twice.
I do know that the last ten years of her life were filled with care and attention that any human would revel in.
Frasquita taught me what happens when you set aside preconceived ideas in exchange for the pull of your heart.