This morning I went to the back yard to check on Saiki, our husky-shepherd mix dog (Saiki means "talented feeling" in Japanese). She'd been breathing heavily last night and had a distant look in her blue eyes. I lay beside her on her overstuffed bed and petted her and just stayed with her for a long time. When I touched her cheek just now, she'd already gone.
Saiki would have been 14 years old next Sunday, April 1. As my husband said, she's been a part of the family for a long time. Just the day before, we had all gone on a walk to the park, and she had seemed to enjoy it, though she had to pause to gather her strength on the short walk back--which was unlike her.
Saiki was an alpha dog, and always ready to boss around any dog around her--except for those signigicantly bigger. For the great Danes, she'd assume the submissive posture. But even for Rottweilers, she'd attack. We loved Saiki, even knowing she could be a pain in the butt because of this alpha dog thing.
Up until the end, she seemed so vital, with no real decline or health issues in her 14 years of life. A sturdy, tough dog--and strikingly gorgeous--mostly black with ice blue eyes. She was always patient with our three-year-old, Jaclyn, who loved to put her head bands around Saiki's neck, and to cling to her overmuch. We tried to protect Saiki from Jaclyn most of the time. As much as Saiki bossed other dogs, she enjoyed people, who, I think, were both playmates and treat-givers for her.
Try answering a three-year-old's questions about death. But why did Saiki die, Mama? Why are we burying her, Mama? Am I going to die, Mama? I don't know. Because we want to honor her and remember her (we planted strawberries over her grave). And yes, my dear, we will all die someday.
Luckily, Saiki died the way anyone would want to go--at an old age, without failing in health, playful to the end. Then, one day, after your loved ones kiss you good-bye (not sure whether you were staying or going), you just pass on quietly in your own bed. It was a good passing.
We will miss you, old girl. Rest in peace.
And in a few months, we're going to have some alpha kick-ass strawberries to enjoy.