Today, my dog Sasha passed away. She is the only dog I've ever had in my life, and biased as I am, I think it's safe to say she is now up in the creme de la creme of doggie heaven that they reserve for the best of the best pets out there.
There will be no right words to describe the sadness and loss I feel - the sense of yet another chapter of my childhood coming to an end - but I would like to spend this moment dwelling not on sadness, but on celebration of a wonderful animal who blessed my life for ten years.
I spent the better part of my youth wanting a dog. It took a family trip to Arizona and a long weekend spent with my aunt and uncle's wonderful Rhodesian ridgeback, Riley, to convince my mom that not all dogs drool and shed and are otherwise awful. I spent the entire car ride back to Kansas borrowing familiar tunes and rewriting the lyrics to describe why I wanted/needed/deserved a dog, and howling them aloud from the backseat. ("99 reasons I want a dog, 99 reasons that I want a dog..." You get the idea.)
The dog search process was long and arduous, but eventually the three of us - my parents and I - agreed on a breed. After falling in love with a friend's silver standard poodle, we opted for the same. Sasha was born in October 2000, a black ball of fur.
She loved learning tricks, wrestling, tearing stuffed animals to shreds, and playing soccer with me in my kitchen; I'd score by getting a deflated soccer ball into our mud room, and she'd score by grabbing the ball in her teeth and dashing into her kennel with it. After each point, we'd drop the ball again in the middle of the kitchen and start another round.
She was a smarty pants from day one. Eager to have a dog that might someday make it to the bigtime (this was pre-Youtube, but I had such aspirations for my puppy), I worked relentlessly to teach her tricks: the usual repertoire of sit, stay, shake, roll over, all that - but bonus ones, too, like wave, crawl, the infamous "back away" (see video below), and to ring a bell with her paw when she needed to go outside. Bright as she was, she started abusing that last trick in her teenage years...a squirrel outside in the yard, and Sasha would be rushing to go ring her bell.
Here's a couple of my little cousins playing with her at a family reunion years ago.
She was wonderful with kids - patient, friendly. She was a big fan of pulling her own stunts, though. Her favorite trick was with strangers at the dog park, trotting over with her frisbee or tennis ball and dropping it at their feet. "Aww, how sweet!" the stranger would think and bend down to pick up the toy. Just as their fingertips would reach it though, BOOM there was Sasha, pouncing back on the toy in a playful and defiant "Ha, gotcha!" sort of maneuver. She'd shake her toy ferociously back and forth in her mouth, drop it on the ground again, back up several steps, and sit innocently looking up at the stranger with her smiling eyes, waiting to do it all over again.
I've always had backwards pets, in that my cats are the cuddly, needy ones, while Sasha the dog was always an independent soul. She never slept on my bed like I always dreamt a dog would - but she did like to hang out. She always wanted to be in the same room as us, whether in her kennel, on her bean bag, tucked into a cabinet when she could still fit inside one, stalking the cat, or getting into some other kind of mischief.
Sasha saw our family through many transitions in our lives. She came on many road trips and family vacations; she loved traveling in the car. She knew three different cats that graced our family over the years. She's also seen me through three significant relationships; there are home videos of me and Mike playing with her as a young dog still, videos of Daniel doing tricks with her, and videos I made for Alan when I first met him and wanted to share with him from afar my beloved dog. She stuck with my dad when the other two ladies in his life moved out of the house, and carried him through what were probably some of the toughest times in his life.
Check out her mad skills: (okay, the "bow" is pretty half-assed, but cut a girl some slack; she was excited about those treats.)
She was truly an amazing dog. Thank you, Sasha, for a decade of delight, and may you rest in peace. I will love you and cherish your memory always.