Saying Goodbye to a Special Friend, Russett

November 12, 2020

My early history with pets was really sketchy. My parents were allergic to a lot of things, including cats and dogs, so that was out of the question. So we tried a duckling, we tried goldfish. That’s all I remember, really. I mean, I always wanted one, but they died. Just didn’t have good luck. But then I met my now late husband, Michael, in my mid-30s, and sometime after we settled in Mill Valley, which was in 1981, he wanted to get a pet because he’d always had big dogs.

So through an acquaintance of mine, we found a golden retriever up in Middletown on a commune and picked Moses up who was one year old, and that was my first real pet. And it was so lovely. He slept by my side of the bed and he was very loving. We called him a leaner because he would come up and lean on people at 80 to 100 pounds to be petted. And he lived to be 13. And I was away teaching and he waited till I got back to pass away. Then many years went by and my husband passed away and I was living alone. So that was before I got sober. And I was walking one day at Blackie’s Pasture in Tiburon and I fell in love with this little toy poodle.

And I met the woman and we became friends for a while and she told me the breeder. So I contacted the breeder and they said they had a litter and claimed she was papered. Of course not. I asked her what color she was because I wanted a female and I needed a hypoallergenic dog, and poodles are that. And she said, “Oh, she’s the color of a potato.” And I said, “What kind of a potato?” And she said, “Oh I don’t know, a russet.” So I named her Russet. I went down to pick her up. I drove down to Los Banos. She fit in the palm of my hand. And she had dark reddish-brown hair, which what my hair usually is, so she was Russet. And I brought her home and I went through trying to train her. I mean, I did train her, but it was not an easy task.

Then I was drinking alcoholically at that point. And I went off to rehab, I got sober, then I hired a woman. She house sat and took care of Russet. Four months later, she would bring Russet up once a month. Well, I got back together with Russet and we had a lovely life. I moved to Novato where it’s sunny, but about six years in, seven years in, she got sick and was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney disease. Now she still lived another four or five years, but she would go through periods of intense illness where she was extremely lethargic and wouldn’t eat.

And then she was 11 years old and she went into one of her illness periods. And then I took her to the emergency room and they kept her and they said, “Really, we’ve tried everything we can do. Her stats are not good and they’re getting worse.” So I knew that it was time. They finally said she’s not coming home. So I went in in the morning, she’d been lethargic, not even getting up, and I spent an hour with her in the special room that’s furnished like a home and she just lay on my lap. And then at one point she reached out with one paw to my knee and the other paw and pushed so hard to get up and sat for the first time in two weeks. And she turned around and looked at me in the eyes and we sat there for a couple of minutes, just intense love coming through. And then she sort of sighed as if that was as much effort as she could put into it and lay back down. And they said, “Come back this afternoon and we’ll put her down.” So I came back with a friend and I went in and held her until the medications took hold. But because of that morning, it was the most beautiful parting.

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