Pawsing to Say Goodbye

She was my friend.  My companion.  A listening ear.  My first "child" (canine, that is).  She was there to wag her tail in the good times and to assume the role of furry Kleenex during the bad.  Everyone's sweetheart, there was not a person who met her that didn't like her.  Some even fell in love with her.  She was a trooper who, in the end, held out as long as she could so that we could be together one last time.

Marseille (mahr say') represented so much more than just a dog.  She was 10+ years worth of memories. A birthday gift for me of the greatest kind... a fluffy, slobbery, four-legged ball of love.

Her life encompassed a great number of things from accomplishments, such as winning the prize for "The Fluffiest Tail" at a 4th of July parade, to rescues like swimming to shore and alerting bystanders that a family member was in the middle of the lake struggling with an overturned kayak.  From blunders like running unknowingly onto freshly mopped tile and skidding into the kitchen wall to mischievous antics like crouching low, waiting for me to draw near and then zipping back and forth like a crazed sheep herder, Marseille's personality grew along with her infamously long fur.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again... Marseille was the canine equivalent of the late great Harry Houdini.  Appropriately noted as the "einstein" of dogs by her obedience trainer, there is no doubt in my mind that her dogged smarts enabled and perhaps even fueled her inner escape artist.  There was not a flip handle in the world that she couldn't bypass.  As a pup, she began by placing one paw on the door to push out while flipping the handle with the other.  Adding later to her repertoire, the old "one, two... paw on the door jamb, paw flip and pull in" stunt.

A part-breed of mostly Border Collie, she surely must have earned the breed's respect the day she showed her full-bred Border cousin, Randi (who picked out her toys by name), how to escape through a gate that had never even been a temptation before Marseille showed up and and shed light on the situation.  One thing I do regret is that I never bought one of those bumper stickers that states, "My Border Collie is Smarter Than Your Honor Student."

Da Doo, Run Run Run
Marseille loved what little snow we received in Texas and would run as quick as the wind at what seemed to me about two inches off the ground, in her graceful, zippy herding pattern.  We used to joke that we were going to buy her a few little white poodles so she could pretend they were sheep.  As a complement to their herding instincts, Border Collies in general are fairly keen in responding to pitches and sounds, specifically whistles.  Since Marseille was never formally trained to be a herding dog, I never would have suspected her reaction in this scenario:  One beautiful late summer evening, I looked out onto the golf course which stood behind our lot, and there against the purple and orange backdrop of a breathtaking sunset, I saw the shadow of my dog making a bee line for two helpless human figures.  Almost instinctively, I made a split-second decision to place two fingers in my mouth and whistle as hard as I could.  With nary a pause, Marseille turned "on a dime" and made a 180 degree dash for our house!  Her own mother could not have been more proud.

A Dogged Dog
She was tenacious and never, ever backed down.  Whether the "enemy" was the big black leash-less Lab down the street who threatened her as she passed by on walks or the skunk who sprayed her multiple times because she just couldn't "let it go," Marseille was one who would keep on keeping on despite the end result.  Sometimes that meant having her coat drenched in ketchup and washed several times, but she didn't seem to care.

The ultimate stand had to be taken when our then neighbors across the street placed three large, black wooden cats in their front yard around Halloween.  Marseille obstinately stood in the middle of the sidewalk, barking relentlessly at the "cats" until someone leaned over and whispered to her, "Umm, those aren't real, ya know?"

Best Friend
Though probably the most unlikely duo, Marseille and her best buddy, Nasdaq, often wrestled and played.  What's so special about that is that he is a Schipperke, who is about half her size and double her energy.  The best of friends, he was as gentle with her on the last day he came to visit, while she lay dying, as she was with him when they used to entertain one another at the apex of their youth.  In fact, her final feat of strength was springing to her feet when Nasdaq walked in to see her.  After a brief potty break outside, she came in, lay down and never made it back up again without being carried.

For a time, she played the role of an amazing mother to a German Shepherd puppy we adopted when she was two, who later grew to be a small "horse" and kept her company, as brothers do.  He passed away just a few short months before she.  It's hard to believe that two of the most special dogs I have ever known are no longer here to share their hearts and spread their joy.

Speaking of joy, Marseille brought a lot of it into our home.  We even made up songs for her like "Marseille, You Don't Have to Put On Your Red Leash" (sung to the tune of Roxanne by The Police).  Not only did we enjoy her company, but our children did as well.  She was gentle, kind and always eager to "help" when needed.  Her self-appointed duties usually entailed licking the kitchen floor after messy toddler mealtimes as well as providing smiles to her littlest fans as they pet and interacted with her.  Her biggest fan was our oldest child, whose best friend she became when he, too, went through a bit of a bumpy patch in life.  No matter what time of day or night, she was always available for a hug, a "kissy" (i.e. lick) or a tummy rub, whichever made us feel better.

Knock Knock...Who's There? Garage door.  Garage door WHO?!
Whenever I heard the familiar rattling of dog tags and saw Marseille standing at attention, I knew that someone would be coming through the front door or most likely the garage.  In fact, this tenacious, vivacious, energetic sweetheart gave little indication that her last days were upon us until one day she unexpectedly did not get up to greet us in her usual way.

At the beginning of her life, Marseille had so much energy that one walk a day just simply wouldn't do.  So, she accompanied us on bicycle rides and loved every minute of her adventures around the lake.  She could no longer keep up with the riding in her old age, but she still had a spring in her step and a sparkle in her eyes when she heard the word "walk" or more specifically directed towards her, "walkie!" We could even tell she dreamed about running.  We used to sit and laugh as we watched our sweet puppy dog lying on her side, eyes closed, feet twitching and voice barking under her breath.  Chasing rabbits, perhaps?  We'll never know.

Back to the Beginning of The Future
When we first spotted Marseille at Operation Kindness in Carrollton, Texas, I immediately thought she was adorable and spunky.  After we played with her for a little while, we thought she was definitely the one, though she did seem a bit shy.  But, after we signed the papers and drove off with her in the car, she did something completely unexpected.  She passed wind... she "let one rip"... she tooted!  Right on my lap!  It was at that point we knew she had made herself feel right at home!

There were so many things about Marseille's personality and spirit for which we were thankful.  Yet, she hardly ever let a meal go by without letting us know that she was grateful as well.  After she was finished eating and drinking, she would lick her chops and walk up to one of us, like clockwork, and give us a lick on the arm, as if to say "Thanks for the kibble."  As with all family members, she had a few annoying qualities as well.  Yet, now that she's gone I can't help but miss looking out my kitchen window and telling her to get down off the retaining wall that holds up my flower beds or sweeping up gobs and gobs of fur off our tile floor.  And, life is just not the same without letting her in and out, in and out, in and out, in and... well, you get the picture.

The Inevitable Passage of Time
Ultimately, Marseille's body betrayed her as her diseased kidneys began to give out letting her and us know it was time.  Time to let go.  Time to say, "Goodbye."

And, though it was hard and gut-wrenching to let our friend, companion and over ten years worth of memories go, we were blessed beyond measure to have an amazing veterinarian who cared for her dearly.  Dr. B had loved on her through the years and had done all he could to help us keep our friend alive.  His final words had already been fulfilled in years past.  "I'll take good care of her," he said.  Those six kind words echoed in my mind as we walked out of the room where she had been sedated (prior to receiving her final shot - an overdose of pentobarbital sodium) and lying in my arms, long enough for me to hold her until her sweet sparkly eyes glazed over and her thankful, affectionate, licking tongue rolled out towards me indicating that every muscle in her body was relaxed.  She was resting.  Her labors had ceased.  She had had a full life and now it was time to go.

I did NOT want to say goodbye.  I still don't.  And, I'm not sure when or if I ever will.  Though not my preferred genre of music, the song "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye To Yesterday" by Boys II Men kept surfacing in my thoughts as we hoped each day that perhaps we would be afforded just a little more time.  Now, I take with me the following lyrics and look forward to remembering more of the former years than the latter tears, in due time:

"And I'll take with me the memories
To be my sunshine after the rain.
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday."

Adieu, sweet friend, adieu.  Rest in peace.

"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance, "

~Ecclesiastes 3:1-4


  1. Oh Ruth...I am so sorry. We are reading this with tears in our eyes. We loved your sweet Marseille...the girls had such a great time watching her last year, and Emma even credits her with helping to get over her fear of dogs. You are in our prayers...hugs to all.
    Love, Sloan


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