Her real name was Bonnie. We called her Miss Piggy for the little snorting sounds she made when she trolled the floors for crumbs.
She came to us, underweight and neurotic, when she was nearly eight, after my favorite uncle died, and having been rescued as the breeding dog at a puppy mill only a few months before. She’d clearly had a traumatic background. So afraid, for instance, that a door was going to slam on her, we had to prop it open and walk away before she would venture through. Her terrors were so obvious that the vet prescribed Xanax on her first visit.
She spent her first weeks under our bed, refusing to be coaxed out. Oddly, she’d take a sock under with her. Bonnie would sneak out to eat and relieve herself only when no one was around.
Thus began the demise of our living room carpet.
Gradually, she came out of hiding to discover that people could be kind, that feedings would be regular, and that treats were divine. She emerged into her new surroundings with a gentleness that was touching. She was loved and petted endlessly by our five grandsons and she loved them, crumb-magnets as they were. She went from running from the sound of the doorbell to greeting visitors, angling for back scratches and belly rubs.
Miss Piggy was not much of an exerciser. She walked for business rather than pleasure and would do a U-turn upon completion. She wagged her tail at squirrels and cats. The very thought that she might indulge in something like a game of fetch was so ridiculous that we never even tried. Sometimes she’d follow Dearly Beloved around as he worked outside, or she’d lie in the sunshine while I gardened, but eventually, she’d dig out a little nest for herself under the deck or station herself beside the back door, awaiting reentry at the first opportunity. She was a fireside dog.
She had a presence about her. She was usually “Miss Bonnie” to those in the vet office. Bonnie loved car rides. If we went someplace without her, she’d wait by the door until we returned. She knew exactly what a doggy bag was.
Since she always wanted to be close to us, she was only a few feet away when she fell late Thursday night. Her legs splayed like those of a newborn foal whenever she tried to stand again. Her eyes were open, but unseeing. Her breathing was labored, her heart, racing.
We stayed with her through the night and took her to the vet at daybreak. She rested her head on my shoulder like an infant as I held her in my arms.
With dogs, the worst part of a stroke is at the moment it happens. It doesn’t affect their brains as it does humans, so recovery can occur if they can regain their ability to stand and if there are not other complications.
By chance, there was a veterinary neurologist in the veterinary office that day. He and our favorite vet examined Miss Piggy to determine her for any chance of surviving and regaining a good life. The tests revealed that her liver, kidneys, and heart were failing.
We stood on either side of her, rubbing her and whispering into her deaf ears, as she went to sleep one last time. She looked peaceful, which helped us a little. So did a sympathy note from the vet, reassuring us that we did the right thing at the right time.
Still, it’s been tougher than we would have imagined. The funny little dog who dug holes in the back yard had managed to dig a couple of big ones in our hearts.