Laney was probably the most unlikely dog I’ve ever owned. Not because she was an Italian Greyhound, I’d already had three others and was used to their quirks, in fact loved them, but Laney was an outstanding example of a neurotic dog, and I chose her.
My then current IG, Allegra, had died of cancer and I vowed I wasn’t getting another dog. I had two, a German Shepard puppy who clients of mine could no longer keep (they’d probably run out of chair legs for her to chew on) and an English Cocker who had appeared in the middle of the street one day, had come home with me and never left. I had a full time job, a new granddaughter who I wanted to spend as much time with as possible, and was struggling to get my first Ellen McKenzie mystery in print. I didn’t need another dog. Then I went to a dog show. The class was best of breed, the category was toy dogs, and there was an IG I immediately fell in love with. All the old longing for one came back with a rush. So, when my vet called to say a woman in our town, who bred IG’s, had to sell off some of hers because of county kennel restrictions and was I interested, I was. I scooped up the baby who, for some reason I can’t remember was with me, and we were off.
It was obvious the breeders weren’t anxious to part with any of their dogs, but the lady pointed out three females she was going to sell. I sat down in the middle of her living room floor, the baby on my lap and was immediately surrounded by small dogs, all wagging their tails, all seemingly delighted we’d come, all vying for a change to lick the baby. All except one. A pretty little caramel colored dog circled the outside of the pack. She retreated if a hand was held out to her, instead she stood in a corner and shivered. That she wanted to come over was obvious, that she was terrified to try it was equally obvious. Guess which one came home with us.
Laney was terrified of everything. I thought she was going to have a heart attack in the car going home. Trucks passed us and I could almost see her pale. I made sure the gate was closed when I pulled into our yard as I was sure I would never catch her if she got loose. The other two dogs circled the car, barking a greeting, but she didn’t look convinced it was safe to get out. When she did, she stood still and shook. The only way I could get her in the house was to open the back door, put the other two away, leave a bowl of food where she could see it and hide. Finally, she came in far enough that I could get behind her and close the door. It took a long time before Laney would come in any other way.
However, bit by bit, she calmed down. She and Shea, the Shepard, formed what was to be a life time bond, and she and Ira, the cocker, were almost as close. People took a little longer, but gradually she let me touch her without flinching. We graduated to her sitting on my lap each night to her burrowing under the covers on my bed. I sighed a little at that, but it gave her comfort and she continued to share her bed with me (I’m pretty sure that’s how she saw it) for the next twelve years.
Laney never became a brave dog and she never became one of those dogs who love everyone. However, she adored my mother who lived next door to us and learned not to run and hide whenever a visitor came; she learned that the mailman was her friend, that going to book signings and sitting on my lap wasn’t so bad, that going on book tours was kind of fun, that elevators came to a stop safely, and that she could stay in a hotel room if she had Shea with her and my nightdress to lie on. The circle of people she loved expanded to encompass a lot of my family, our vet and his family who lived next door, and Tina, a special family friend who took care of her and Shea while I spent a month in the hospital recovering from a leg amputation. She especially loved the baby who had now grown into a lovely budding young lady, and her brother who couldn’t remember life without either her or Shea.
Laney had been slowing down for some months. She had a hard time jumping on the bed, slept a lot more than she used to, wasn’t so sure she wanted to go in the car which she now enjoyed and no longer pulled out the toys from her basket. Her time was getting near, I knew, but couldn’t bear the thought. Our vet took blood, prescribed pain medicines, said we had her stabilized but she was now fourteen and the ravages of old age can only be held at bay so long. I hoped they could be held off a little longer as I was leaving for Spain and Portugal on a long planned trip and, although my daughter and the children would stay at my house with her, I worried. Go, they all said, she’ll be fine. About that, I wasn’t so sure. That she would be lovingly and tenderly cared for I didn’t doubt.
I had been gone a week when I got the phone call. Laney had passed away in my granddaughter’s arms that night.
I miss her. We all miss her. However, I think about all of the years we had together, the adventures we had, most of them adventures she would just as soon not taken, but she learned to enjoy them, to enjoy us, to enjoy her life. I will think of that through my tears, and smile.