Some time, I don’t remember when exactly, early in 1991, my dad brought Sarah home to live with us. She shipped in a cardboard crate with a blue blanket inside it, but, I am told, she rode most of the way on dad’s arm. It was, I think, a good thing that the previous year, he’d traded in his old Subaru for a newer one and switched to an automatic transmission. A few years later, she would wrap her leash around the handbrake, leaving a mark in it that lasted until I finally sent the car to rest in 2002. Westies were popular at the time, and Sarah herself had the distinction of having been born on Christmas day.
Sarah was an affectionate puppy. For years, I remember her always greeting me at the door when I got home from school, jumping on me and losing control of her bladder. We were new to dog-ownership and had our various ups and downs. Bred for hunting small game, Sarah had an insatiable desire to dig holes, and I recall that she once dyed herself orange for the better part of a year as she excavated a huge mound of sand we’d had dumped in the back yard to lay a patio behind the house.
For some time, she had some sort of skin condition, that caused her to tear out clumps of her own fur. Her habit of doing this at night while she lay under my parents’ bed eventually led to so much collateral damage to the carpeting that they replaced the floor in their bedroom with commercial tile. Later in her life, she took to sleeping in bed with my mom, and then eventually to sleeping on a mat at the end of the hallway once getting in an out of bed as the mood struck her became more than her hips could handle.
Sarah was for the most part a friendly, well-behaved dog, aside from her unfortunate tendency to snap when startled. She gave my sister a scar on her nose that I don’t think she ever fully forgave her for. Sarah became closest to my mother, and even as she grew old and tired, would usually rouse herself from a half-slumber to follow her from room to room. Once, she changed direction abruptly, and my mother lost her footing and twisted her ankle.
But all things considered, Sarah was a good dog, and we grew to appreciate her even more when, years later, my sister would convince my parents to let her get a second dog, a lab, who still hasn’t calmed down and can’t be left alone for so much as a minute. Sarah and Jamie got on well — we’re fairly sure that on at least one occasion, they actually collaborated to steal a ham sandwich.
When I went away to college, dad liked to tease her that I’d fallen down a well, a little running gag that he’d repeat every time I came back ot the home of my youth.
Because she was small, it was always difficult to think of Sarah as anything other than a puppy, even as she grew old and bouts of arthritis impaired her mobility from time to time. Cataracts took most of her vision, though you couldn’t always tell, except when she went running for the wrought iron gate my parents had installed at the end of the hallway to restrain the lab. Sarah could wriggle under it without much problem, but at a full run, she couldn’t see it until it was too late to stop, and she’d occasionally end up ramming it headlong.
About a week ago, I’m told, she collapsed after her morning walk and had to be carried in. She vacillated between better and worse for a few days, eating little and often too tired to move. Late Tuesday night, Sarah got down off the couch (My parents didn’t care enough about the furniture to keep her off of it until they bought new furniture a few years ago, by which time she was old enough that a policy change would have seemed cruel) and slumped to the floor. Her breathing slowed, and finally stopped. We do not think she suffered. Sarah passed away at about 12:25 AM Wednesday morning of a condition my sister called “Too Many Birthdays”. She was 16 years old, which, depending on who you go by, is either 77 or 112 in dog years.
They laid her to rest beside Jamie. I imagine that they are frolicking together and stealing ham sandwiches in whatever sort of afterlife is reserved for pets.
Sarah Jane Raszewski, December 25, 1990-April 25, 2007. You will be missed. Good dog.