We met her and said "hello" the first time a little over 10 years ago when she was just 5 weeks old, and she was in the bed of a pick up with her brothers and sisters at a local tractor auction. We said our final goodbye to her today, in the bed of our pickup, at the vet office.
When we moved here, we wanted a dog to keep an eye on the property, keep coyotes away, and be a guard dog if needed. But we also wanted one to be nice to the kitties. My husband had always wanted a Catahoula. They are a hog hunting dog, and those he had known were very smart. So when we went to the fairgrounds that day, and saw the sign saying "Catahoulas for sale", we just had to go take a peek. As we watched the pups, one stood out. Not because of her color, as she was actually sort of bland as compared to her merle colored siblings, but because she was very sure of her self. She move the others out of the way to go get some food, but did not fuss or whine when picked up to be looked over. Something about her made us decide she was the one to bring home.
She was a hard headed, stubborn pup, which we had been warned about the breed. But she learned her duties very quickly. At 10 months old some wild pigs came on the property, and she took off after them and had one cornered. When it made a break for it, she grabbed it, and flipped it, but it got away.
She instantly took to the cats, and adored them. Thelma never met a cat she did not like, even though new ones were not keen on her until she kept wagging her tail, going up to the slowly, and showing them she was their friend.
At the vet, we did not have to take her inside the office. They came out to the truck for us. I've been in the vet when an owner had to bring in their animal for that final trip, and the emotions of the owners are what get to me the most. The pain they feel for their loss. I have felt that loss myself many times before, and will in the future. Anyone who has an animal will one day have to say goodbye, that last time. While we had both spent some time with her alone that morning, telling her secrets and sharing thoughts only she would hear, this was the final chance to tell her she was loved, and what a good girl she was, and that she taught Mardi well, and the kitties will be safe. And if possible, I just did not want it to be inside the vet office, when she was most comfortable right now, in the back of HER truck. I had paid for the service before the vet came out, so we could just leave when it was done.
We got her home, and let Mardi come over to see her. I had discussed this with some friends, and felt it might be easier for Mardi to actually see Thelma, sniff her, and realize she did not just disappear. Mardi really looked up to Thelma, and was still looking towards her for approval and doggy advice. But after she checked her out, she trotted off, and has seemed OK all evening. I never underestimate how much the animals feel and know about such things.
I had a friend tell me once that after one loses an older animal, the will often feel a sense of relief, or maybe a feeling of stress release. We are not always aware that we have concerns or worry about them. But deep inside, we do worry something will happen to them while we might not be home, or they will have something happen to cause them to suffer until we can get to them. This happens with old horses too. I have had horses I worried about, and when I lost him, felt that odd release of stress that I no longer had to worry about him. And, we had that with Thelma. Every morning I was a little apprehensive about checking her dog house until I saw her up and moving. But tonight, while I am still feeling sad from the loss, it is MY loss I feel. She is no longer in any pain or discomfort, and for that, I am relieved.
Sept. 6, 2000 - Jan. 24, 2011