When my fur baby Inca passed away, I wrote a post about it. Not here, at the other blog. Inca passed suddenly, in my mind. One day she was there – boom, gone.
Now that Tuscany has passed away, it’s her turn for a post. I thought I was sobbing heartily when Inca died, but oh – I did not expect this. Someone needed to prepare me better for dealing with death.
Miss you already, bubba girl. I hope you’re bothering your sister in heaven now, because I’m sure she’d expect nothing less.
Tuscany was always a tubby little creature. We got her at 4 weeks old (“she’s still a baby,” my mother cautioned me, “so we have to be extra careful with her, okay?”) and I was instantly besotted. While Mum chose the name – a good thing, because I intended on calling her Princess; Tuscany was a name that would endure long past the baby rolly-polly stage – she was meant to be mine.
And oh, she was gorgeous. Little puppy legs barely carried her away from Inca’s lengthy strides. Running away was something she did a lot; Inca had decided this new puppy had stolen far too much attention from her and she was most unimpressed. She was always a glutton, always. It was as though she knew she was joining a Chilean family, and that she had best prepare her stomach for the leftovers.
I’m thinking back on it all now, and all these fun little moments pop up. I remember the smell of her as a baby, when I, still a child, would clumsily hoist her into my arms and parade her around the back garden, Inca sniffing at my heels. Christopher and I would plonk her on skateboards and gently push her around the yard, which she willingly did. If she was lying down, anything was okay.
We took her to the beach, and on her little puppy legs, stumpy as anything, she was a bit perplexed. Everything was noisy, everything was big, and Inca was being swallowed up by waves. She’d also puked on the way (and ate it; waste was never a word Tuscany employed), so no doubt was quite confused by the whole scenario. I wanted to go into the water, tugging her with all my might. Dad quickly got her used to it by picking her up and tossing her gaily in the ocean.
She loved water after that.
When I was little, hanging outside with my dogs was a given. I’d go out in my school uniforms, fling myself onto the grass and be smothered by puppy, inhaling their intoxicating puppy smell (the one my mother now smells on Miski and denounces as foul) and giggling at being licked and nipped and loved. Tuscany was always a sucker for toys. She would find anything she possibly could – whether it was on the ground or in Inca’s mouth – and play for hours on end, chewing endlessly. My hair was one of her favourite things, because I’d tug away in agony and she’d think we were playing tug-of-war. Mum refused to let me outside when I was home alone, because Tuscany was so used to the hair, and to compromise I cut my hair shorter.
Dad used to play soccer back in those days, and whenever a ball had lost its… ball-ness? Whatever made the soccer balls function appropriately, anyway – when it had lost that, it was given to Dad to present to Tuscany. For a few hours, the ball retained its shape as she and Inca swatted it around the yard; the fun over, she’d sink her fangs into the leather and the new game would begin. She’d systematically shred these balls to pieces, looking inside periodically for the balloon inflating it. Every time, Dad would go and remove it, and Tuscany would run around the yard, face stuck in ball, as she frantically tried to find the balloon she knew was there.
The clothesline was Tuscany’s personal toy store, and Mum soon realised the Hills Hoist could no longer hold her blankets – Tuscany had figured out how to maneouver them off there and chew them merrily. After she ripped a nice hole in one of Mum’s older sheets, she begrudgingly gave it to her. Tuscany would drag this queen-sized blanket all around the yard, tripping over it as she presented it to me, never letting it go. (Drop was another word never used by Tuscany.) “Go get your blanket!” we’d shout, and off Tuscany would trot to find her blanket in whatever corner she’d hidden it.
She, too, had puppies; Inca was more of the den mother than Tuscany, but she tried very hard at it. Preparing for her puppies to arrive, she dug a hole. I found this hole when hanging washing up in the carport (Mum’s post-Hills Hoist solution).
“Hey, Christopher,” I called. “Look. Tuscie has a hole.” Tuscany stood next to me, wagging her tail happily.
He came over, one of Tuscany’s slightly deflated soccer balls in hand. “Wonder how deep it is,” he said. He kicked the ball down there, and Tuscany bolted after it. She disappeared completely from view, and we exchanged glances. A couple of scuffly noises, and Tuscany returned, climbing face first out of the hole.
“Mum!” we shouted. “You’ve got to see Tusc’s hole! It’s great! It’s so big she can turn around in it!”
We demonstrated the trick to Mum, who was suitably unimpressed, and she promptly filled the hole in with bricks.
Tuscany’s puppies were gorgeous little creatures, but when we visited Tuscany at the breeder’s, she was quite different to Inca. Inca’s reaction to us was usually, “Can’t talk have babies must care.” Tuscany’s, on the other hand, was, “MOVE ASIDE, PUPPIES, MY FAMILY IS HERE TO SEE ME.”
(Incidentally, we saw one of Tuscany’s puppies the other day at the beach, all grown up. He looked exactly like her, only boofier, and confused Miski no end.)
The big girl has always, always been there for me, through the worst my depression could fling at me to the happy moments where I’d creep outside and whisper my secrets to her. She’d snuffle her way onto my lap and lick my face free of tears, or thump her tail emphatically as I giggled into her fur. The fur which always drifted on the wind like a thousand dandelion fronds, and yet she always stayed as furry as could be.
We’d go swimming, and no matter what, Tuscany would go on alert the moment I went under a wave, relaxing the moment she saw me surface. She did this til her last day; I jumped in the pool and instantly she sprung to attention, looking for me through the fence, and waiting til I climbed out to pat her.
She looked after little pup, too, patiently teaching her not to bite, how to curl up for warmth, how to play with toys, how to walk gently on a leash. She was always there for tummy rubs, presenting her at one stage silky smooth fur for pats. By the end, her fur was matted and coarse, but she still proudly showed off her tummy.
My mother said to me last night that she stayed alive for this long – for nearly 16 years – because she was looking after me, making sure I was going to be strong enough.
If you knew Tuscany, you knew her as the dog who had no knowledge of personal space, who was always wanting cuddles, and who flung her dinosaur tail around with great enthusiasm. And, sadly, it was her tail that started going and eventually made her unwell enough that we had to say goodbye to her. I watched a video of her last night, and her tail swept the floor as she gallumphed across the yard. By the time she went to sleep, she had less than half of it left.
But saying goodbye was shocking. I spent the day with her, moving my computer outside so she could curl up under my feet and get a back rub all day as I typed. She was given a spectacular feast of Mexican beef, one of her favourite things. (I later confessed to my mother that I’d gotten it out of the freezer and given it to the dog, because her last meal needed to be awesome and we could eat cheese on toast later, and she smiled and said that was the right thing to do. Scolding avoided.) She got tummy rubs, saw the chickens, played with her family, had naps. She was slower than she used to be, but my brain was going “look, she’s fine, she’s so fine. She doesn’t need this.”
Miski licked her goodbye frantically, whimpering as we took her to the car, and I felt like a filthy murderer, taking my best friend to die.
When it came time for her to pass away, the vet stretched out a green blanket on the floor of the room, and settled Tuscany and I there together. She laid down, her head on my lap, and I scratched her ears and cried. Even in her last moments, she was licking me and comforting me, telling me with her big brown eyes that it would be okay.
It was over, so so fast. It looked like she’d just dozed off and I couldn’t stop howling.
When Chris and I were younger, he had some bad news about a friend passing away. His response was anger – actually, more fury – and at the time I couldn’t understand it. But over the deaths of these last few years, I realise it’s a reaction we share. I’m angry about this, that Tuscany had to go in this way.
But I am happy, because I was there. The one thing I wanted was to be there when my baby girl died, and we were there together.
Mostly, I just miss her. I’d give anything, anything, to have her back with me forever. But. Life sucks that way, doesn’t it.
So I’ll just remember her on this stupidly rainy day, as my little pup sits outside eating a bone, and I’ll remember my gorgeous best friend with the heart of gold and the endless miles of fur.
Tuscany Rani Summer
01 March 2000 – 07 October 2015.