Friday, October 30, 2009

Darla, The Best Dog Ever

Twelve years ago, Jason and I were newlyweds and, like many, desperately wanted a puppy to test out our future parenting skills on. I somehow found an old lady who rescued young motherless pups, nursed them to health, then found homes for them. We went out to see what she had, and were taken by a group of Cocker Spaniel mix puppies. The fattest one we saw did not match her brothers and sisters, who were black and looked like purebred cocker pups. This little girl was tan, looked more like a hound, and wriggled her way to the top, taking us immediately with her big brown eyes, puppy kisses and cuteness. A week later she was weaned and I rode home with her in my lap. We had to stop half way, though, for Jason to take a turn.

We got home and placed her in the grass. She was so little, she apparently hadn't learned to walk well, and also had never been in grass, so wasn't sure what to think of the stuff. She quickly got the hang of it and bounded around, tiny little cropped tail in the air, crouching low to pounce. We already had a cat at that point named Spanky, so we decided to call our fat little sweetie Darla, to keep the Our Gang theme going. That night we settled her into her crate downstairs for bed. You can guess that outcome. She slept in bed with me for many years to come.

Darla quickly became the neighborhood favorite. Everyone would stop and "awwww" over her. She was always happy, somewhat precocious, but never truly bad. Well, we did have to replace an entire condo full of carpet thanks to her chewing "phase," and I did find out the hard way more than once that WD40 removes ink stains from carpet (she had a taste for Bic pens), but overall, she was a snuggle bug.

There was no mistake that Darla was a happy dog. She loved everyone. Her tail was too short to adequately wag enough to let people know this, so instead she wagged her entire body. And if you gave her a hug, she would reward you with a fantastic "love grunt' (uuummmppphhhh) and a full body lean (her version of a hug) to let you know she was reciprocating the love. She'd sigh with contentment under my feet as I'd rub her back and work at a desk. She'd romp along side me at the river. She loved to travel (well at least until one fateful day when she fell out of the car - another story for another time), and especially loved weekends with Jason's family, where she would be fed a steady diet of roast beef, mashed potatoes and the occasional McDonald's cheeseburger, which Jason's dad would drive out to get, exclusively for her. She was spoiled rotten, but gracious enough to return the favor by spoiling us with her love, too.

Through the years Darla was my steady and constant friend. When I had a miscarriage, no one could comfort me the way Darla did. I cried and cried with her patiently licking my tears away. When I was pregnant with the girls in later years, she would lay her head on my stomach and listen to her as long as I would allow her to. When I brought each girl home home, the first thing I did was let Darla sniff the baby from head to toe (I think my mom was mortified) - thankfully she gave her approval of each one. When we lost family members she let me cry  on her. When I was angry she'd endure my rants about the injustice I'd been served. When I was happy she'd waggle along with me.

When Darla was about six, she lost her eyesight. It didn't stop her. She still chased bubbles she couldn't see (a favorite pastime she and Katie had developed). She "chased" sticks not knowing where they landed, and bounded across our terraced yard without fear. She ran into walls, doors, refrigerators... but she'd always pick herself back up and keep going, wagging and wriggling all the way. She had a tireless spirit that infused our home with happiness, even on the darkest days. She kept my feet warm. She kept my heart happy. She soothed my soul. She was one of the best friends I will ever have, canine or human.

Over the last several months, though, Darla began to lose weight. The lumps that were previously benign throughout her body began to take on new, hard shapes. And then Wednesday I noticed a spot  on her belly, and it looked really bad. I took her to the vet and they confirmed my worst fears. Cancer had taken over. We brought her home, made her comfortable with pain killers and I tried to decide when and how to let my dear old friend go.

I spent the last two days agonizing over the decision. I talked with Katie, dealing with her very adult questions from her that I have no clue how to answer adequately. I tried to put things in terms Sadie would understand. I fed Darla every scrap she could possibly want. We snuggled. I got some kisses. I even got a love grunt. But the spot was getting worse rapidly. So today I told the girls we needed to say goodbye. I dropped them off at my parents and headed out for the hardest trip to a vet anyone ever has to make.

I carried my old friend into the vet's office this afternoon, and couldn't keep it together long enough to even tell them what appointment time I had. Tears streamed down my face as I held her, shaking in my arms, until the receptionist could figure out who we were - I didn't have the words for it. We found our way to a room, the doctor reaffirmed that this was the time, and I held her in my arms as she slipped peacefully away. I brought her home, Jason helped me dig a grave, and we laid her to rest. I. Am. Heartbroken.

I wish I could write a beautiful, more fitting tribute to Darla's life - a life that touched my heart and soul to their very core. But I guess that, in itself, is a tribute. That a furry friend could be such a huge member of the family. That she touched our lives, especially mine, so deeply. That she made our lives so much richer simply by her presence. I will miss her so very much.

 Darla, 1997 - 2009

A Parting Prayer
  - © Brandy Duckworth, 1998

Dear Lord, please open your gates and call St. Francis
to come escort this beloved companion across the Rainbow Bridge.

Assign her to a place of honor, 

for she has been a faithful servant
and has always done her best to please me.

Bless the hands that send her to you,
for they are doing so in love and compassion,
freeing her from pain and suffering.

Grant me the strength not to dwell on my loss.
Help me remember the details of her life
with the love she has shown me.
And grant me the courage to honor her
by sharing those memories with others.

Let her remember me as well
and let her know that I will always love her.
And when it's my time to pass over into your paradise,
please allow her to accompany those
who will bring me home.

Thank you, Lord,
for the gift of her companionship
and for the time we've had together.

And thank you, Lord,
for granting me the strength
to give her to you now.


  1. Oh Kim, I'm bawling for you. Clearly you loved and she knew how very loved she was in return. I wish you didn't have to make that trip to the vet alone, but I'm so glad you got to hold her as she slipped through. I will give you real hugs this week, but please know that we're thinking of you until then.


  2. Scott Kincaid2:10 PM

    We will miss Darla too!!! It always sucks when this time comes and we are nearing our oun time with our first "Daughter" Zoe. We cry tears with you Kim...

  3. I'm so sorry Kim. I know how hard that is. I'm sending you healing thoughts and cyber hugs. Until next week... then I can give you a real one.

    Thinking of you and the family,
    Christy xooxoxoxoxox

  4. Anonymous9:18 AM

    I am thinking of you at this time. Ironically, we had to put our beloved cocker down on Saturday, from a quick onset of congested heart failure. He was our first child as well, and the love he gave was amazing and unconditional. I am sure Lex and Darla are playing in the fields together and feasting on lots of scraps!! xoxo

  5. I'm so sorry about your doggie. We lost our dog to cancer earlier in the year also. SO very hard. (((HUG)))