Caramel came into our lives on a sunny, but cold day on February 8, 2009. I happened to find her through an on-line advertisement at www.craigslist.org. I called the person who had advertised her as a pure-bred Jack Russell Terrier. It seems that the woman had once been married a few years before. She and her husband had purchased Caramel from a breeder. She had been raised up with three cats. Somewhere along the way, the man and woman divorced. He initially took Caramel with him, but soon thereafter brought her back and asked the woman if she would keep her a little while so that he could get settled in his new place. The woman agreed to keep her for a while, but she really didn’t like dogs. She was a self-proclaimed “cat person.” I have no idea if she kept her word to her ex-husband, but she placed an ad offering Caramel for free. I answered the ad and soon learned that she had recently met someone on-line and had quickly formed a romantic relationship with the new person. In fact she was planning to move in with her new-found friend and leave the state the next day. She said that if no one took Caramel she was going to surrender her to the local animal shelter in the morning.
Maybe it was the desperation of the moment, I don’t know, but we wrote down the directions to the woman’s apartment and went in search of Caramel. After about an hour we finally found the apartment complex that the woman lived in and tentatively knocked on the door. We could hear a dog barking from the outside. A few seconds later the door opened. A dark-haired woman in her 50’s answered the door while holding on to Caramel with a leash for dear life. Caramel was literally jumping at least four feet into the air to greet us. We stepped into the tiny apartment and saw that the woman had, in fact, told the truth about moving. The place was empty except for Caramel and three huge cats. After a brief introduction we told her about our three boys and she was more than eager for us to take Caramel. She also tried to persuade us to take two of her cats, too. Feeling as if one pet at a time was the best course of action to take, we agreed to take Caramel only. We left a mere five minutes later with what would become a new best friend for our sons.
The ride home could not have been more chaotic. I quickly began to wonder if we hadn’t made the biggest mistake. She barked continuously all the way home. She had at least an inch of cat hair all over her. Every time she would try to get out of my arms cat hair would fly through the air and make me sneeze. We finally made it home with a very anxious dog. When she first explored her new place I watched her carefully. I began laying out rules for her. No jumping on the furniture, no jumping on the beds, no using the bathroom inside the house, no tearing up our things, on and on….I rambled them off to her. I believe she understood at least half of what I said. We would soon find out that she was the smartest dog any of us had ever owned.
Without going into a long, drawn-out story, Caramel changed our lives for the better. Within just a few hours she had made herself at home lying on her favorite spot on the sofa. She helped change the life of my oldest son by helping him gain confidence in himself with her at his side. She became his best friend immediately. Life was truly chaotic at times with three boys and a hyper Jack Russell in the house, but we all adjusted and came to look forward to seeing her every time we left and came home. She would sit on top of the sofa and watch us through the window when we left the house and she would happily greet us at the door when we came home. She loved to chase after a ball and had several stuffed toys that were hers. For some reason she always wanted to tear out the eyes of the stuffed animals. Eventually we began to spend more money on her and think of her constantly when away from her. She was the consummate therapist for my son when he faced problems at school. She was the ever-ready playmate for my younger sons. Caramel could absolutely drive me insane when she would constantly bark and whine during a thunderstorm. And, she could be so sweet when she would try to comfort me when I was sad or sick.
A couple of weeks ago she began to show signs that she was not feeling well. At first her symptoms were like those of a cold. I didn’t really think anything about it other than she would get over it like we humans do. She would still play and was eating normally. A few more days passed and she began to stop going to the door when she needed to go out. My son’s carpet became her new bathroom. I became very upset over that and was not always patient with her. For a few more days she seemed to be getting better until last week. I noticed that she was shivering one day and having no clue about her health just thought she needed a light blanket on her. The worst came to pass three days ago when she stopped eating and drinking water. I became worried and thought we needed to take her to the veterinarian, but we needed to wait until payday to take her. That afternoon I bought her a can of cat food to entice her to eat. She perked up when she saw the can. She was so excited as she began eating the occasional treat that I gave her. After that she played for two hours solid. She acted like her old self and we all thought that she was going to be okay. Right before I went to bed I found where she had vomited all the cat food she had previously eaten just a few hours before. That was not a good sign. I made the decision that I would take her to the vet the next day and figure out later how I would pay for it.
Around five in the morning I woke up to the sounds of Caramel pacing in my room. When I turned the light on I noticed she was walking funny and in circles. When I called her name she turned her head towards me and staggered forward almost falling down. My husband was already up and had been up with her all night worried about her deteriorating condition. I quickly realized that she was going to die. I woke up our oldest son and told him that it would be soon. By six that morning she could no longer hold her head up or see us. All of us were awake by that time. Each of us held her and told her how sorry we were for all the times that we were impatient with her or all the times that we could have been better towards her. None of us had ever mistreated her, but there were times when each of us had lost our patience with her over her tearing up a toy or using the bathroom inside the house. Around seven in the morning she passed away as we held her. All of us deeply mourned her passing. My oldest son decided that he wanted to give her a fitting funeral. We all got dressed and drove up to the mountain finding the perfect spot to bury her. We had wrapped her in a sheet and placed her on the most beautiful spot we could find. Since there was really no place to dig an actual grave for her we erected an old-fashioned cairn for her. We cried a flood of tears and said a prayer. As we looked around at the beautiful setting of the place a welcome peace settled over all of us. It was as if the sacredness of the place was telling us that it was alright to leave her there, she would be well-cared for in the next life.
Three days later and I’m sitting here writing this with tears of sorrow spilling down my cheeks. I’ve cried more over this dog than some of my family members who have passed on, I hate to admit it, but it’s true. Every time I go into the kitchen to fix something to eat I look down expecting her to be there waiting for me to give her a treat. When I leave the house and come back home I look for her to be waiting for me at the door happy to see me. When my sons are at school she was my constant companion following me from room to room. Now the house is empty and silent. How does one ever get over the loss of someone they loved?
We’ve decided that we are going to try to sell our house and move into another one. There are so many memories here, good and bad. We have decided that we want to move out of the city so that one day we can have as many dogs as we want. I’ll always remember the good that Caramel did for my boys and always be grateful to her for the happiness she gave to them. I like to think that Caramel, being one of God’s creatures, has gone back to him since He created her. I like to think that maybe she’s in a better place where there is no sickness, no pain, no loneliness, nothing bad. She is gone from this world, but she lives on in our hearts and memories forever.