Goodbye, Ashi, my love
June 13, 1997 – October 16, 2006
My beloved Ashi died in my arms after collapsing while returning with her Kong at a morning exercise session. Post mortem showed no conclusive reason for her death–she was amazingly healthy–other than one side of her heart being slightly thicker than usual, something which normally happens as a dog ages. The vet guessed that electrical charges to the ventricles might have been delayed through the extra thickness, so that the heart couldn’t pump the blood smoothly and stopped.
Ashi, I’ll never forget your birth. You were Glory’s first child and were actually born into my hands as she tried to get out of the whelping room, convinced that she needed to rush outside to have a bowel movement. The look on her face when you appeared was hilarious, but she immediately jumped back into the whelping bed and waited impatiently for me to put you beside her. She then cleaned you as if she’d done it a million times before, while you were protestingly doing your best to head for a nipple.
From the beginning, you campaigned to be the pup I would keep. You seemed to know that I planned to keep a Glory daughter, and already had a name picked out for one, preferably a sable. Two years earlier I had researched beliefs in angels for a class I had to teach, and had fallen in love with the names of the two female angels in the Magi tradition: “Ashi”, the Angel of Blessing, and “Armaiti”, the Angel of Devotion to God. I saved those names, waiting for a “keeper” who would fit them. You were not bothered by the presence of two other females in the litter; in fact, you seemed to enjoy the competition. You were always aware of my presence and moved heaven and earth to be with me. Once, when you were perhaps four weeks old, I had you and your littermates with me as I picked raspberries. My bucket full, I headed for the house to get another, thinking I was leaving all of you pups sleeping happily in the shade. You, however, awoke to find me gone and tracked me through two gates, up the deck steps, through the doggie door, and into the kitchen and then proceeded to let me know in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed to sneak away from you. You were that way all your life, extremely dedicated to me, always beside my side, trying to anticipate my least desire before I even knew I had one.
You woke me each morning at the first hint of light in the sky by bouncing up and down on my chest and barking into my ear, “Time’s a-wasting! We need to get outside and play.” I never had a chance to sleep in on a day off, could never convince you that we shouldn’t go out because it was blizzarding. Nothing would suit you except that I get up quickly and get outside so you could retrieve and retrieve and retrieve. We couldn’t cut your playtime short on bad days, either, so I often froze before you were satisfied. You would retrieve anything, regardless of shape or size or composition. You also would search for an hour until you found something I’d thrown. You refused to give up; rather, you delighted in the challenge. That’s what made you such a good tracking dog. You passed your search drive to your children and grandchildren, too.
You inherited your mother’s booty drive, and then some. Booty drive is the desire to possess something (the toy) and protect it from all comers). You always had something in your mouth, if a toy wasn’t available, you grabbed a stick, an old tire, a piece of Jolly Ball–anything that you saw. You then stood over it and dared anyone to try to take it away from you. It didn’t mater that they were 30 feet away and involved in something else, you dared them to try, growling and shaking the item at them, taking it closer as if to tease them unmercifully. The search and booty drives that you had so intensely and passed on are what makes great search and rescue dogs, and you have many to your credit.
You loved any kind of nose work–tracking, searching for things, anything. You also loved agility. Obedience was okay, not your favorite, but if I asked, you complied. You easily got your Tracking Dog title and were ready to try for Tracking Dog Excellent plus for novice titles in agility and obedience when you injured your right hind leg, were left with a permanent limp and thus unable to compete. Surgery to correct the injury was unsuccessful, and the injury slowed you down but nothing could keep you from enjoying life, which included lots of play with the other dogs as well as retrieving for me. You loved to wrestle and body-slam, especially with your daughter, Bunny, with whom you were best friends. None of your play was done quietly, either; you talked and sang and carried on so that no one ever doubted that you thought life was a lark, lots of fun, and great. Your happiness was obvious and contagious.
You generously passed on your great qualities to your kids and grandkids. You were a great mother and would adopt, nurture and take care of any individual of any species. You were convinced that none of my other girls could mother their puppies well enough and would lie outside the puppy room, giving advice and waiting for a chance to go in and take over. Whenever you managed to get in with someone else’s pups, you inspected each one, cleaned them up properly, and would have happily taken them for your own. Once the pups were old enough to meet the rest of the family, you were always a second mother, keeping an eye on them, delighting them as if they were your own.
You left me with two daughters, Bunny and Joyful. Bunny is spayed because of a bad elbow (which no one told her about) and is a great agility competition dog. She’d also like to do some nosework if I ever get the time. Joyful is over-the-top on scentwork and is a solid agility dog, ready to competed. I’m hoping to keep a Joyful daughter to keep your memory and genes strong.
Bunny was devastated when you died. She stood over your body when I left to get the tractor and cart so I could take you from the back play area to the car and head for the vet’s. She followed you and watched me load you, but she didn’t believe you wouldn’t come back. You had always been there for her. That night, and for the next week, she left her usual sleeping spot at the foot of my bed with her head on my feet, and slept instead in your crate. The morning after you died, when we went out for play, she refused to come with the rest of us but instead stayed by the house where she could watch for you to come roaring out of either the doggie door or from around the front of the house, Kong in mouth, ready to jump and play and run. She finally joined us, but continued to look for you. A month after your death, she is just now coming out of her depression and becoming her usual self.
I’m glad you died in my arms, just as you were born into them. I’m glad that death was quick and painless–a slight dizzy spell, a couple of gasps, and you died with your Kong still in your mouth. I really feel that you chose that way to die. A couple of months before you had injured your left hind leg the same way as your right one–a type of injury only super athletes (usually males) get. You showed signs of developing arthritis in your front feet from compensating for the rear injuries. I had been worried about you and wondering how I’d ever know if you were in pain, since your heart and drive were so strong to live and love and play at the drop of a hat. I had been worrying about my responsibility for your welfare. It was so typical of you to make things as easy as possible for me, but oh, do I miss you, Ashi my love.