It was a simple question – “Do you use a pet sitter?”
I wanted to quip back in a humorous way but couldn’t figure out a clever remark that wouldn’t sound crass or make the questioner feel bad about asking. Our dog died about six years ago and there was no way my friend could have known that so some smart ass retort like, “Yes, we have found that dirt and lots of it keeps our Yeti in the backyard safe and sound.” It would have just come out crass and insensitive. And probably a bit confusing.
Instead, I told her that Yeti had passed quite a while ago and the only remaining pets in the house – Xander the Hermit Crab and Stripes the Betta fish – didn’t require any kind of sitting service.
It did bring back the memory of the day Yeti died, though. Oddly enough, I had just been thinking about her last night and all that happened that day.
Her full name was Yeti Cadesha Jones although we are never sure why – at some point we just started calling her that. The best we can figure, Yeti was a cross between a lab and a greyhound. She was black and barrel chested like a small lab but had the signature torso curve of a greyhound. She was very sweet and about ten years old. She’d been having trouble making it outside when time to go to the bathroom, so we had to move her out there.
It was the First of March and it had been an unusually cold February for Texas. Our kids were still very young – ages two and a half and not quite one – and I had just put them down for a nap. My husband had left to visit some friends and I went out to feed Yeti. I opened the back door and called for her but she didn’t come. I stepped outside, put food in her dish and kept calling. I went and checked her igloo to see if maybe she hadn’t heard me, but she wasn’t in there. My next thought was that she had somehow gotten out of the yard again but the gate was closed.
As I searched around the backyard, I was beginning to get a pit in my stomach. We don’t have a big backyard and it’s not like we have any trees or places to hide out there either. But she’d found a place. I saw her curled up on the side of the shed, in between it and the fence. At first, I felt relief that she was here. I called her name again and she didn’t move. I went up to her and put my hand on her rump to shake her but ended up screaming the kind of panic scream that only comes in moments like this.
I screamed louder and shook her harder but she was cold and stiff. She must have been gone for a while but I hadn’t been out to check on her yet this particular morning. My screams turned to cries of “no” and “please God” but she couldn’t hear me anymore.
I called my husband but he had forgotten to take his phone. She was much too heavy for me to try to move her from where she had crawled. I called another dear friend who just sat on the phone with me while I cried and waited for my husband to come home. I brought Yeti’s blanket over to her, covered her up and sat next to her until I heard my husband’s truck pull up. I couldn’t leave her outside alone, not like this.
I broke down as I told my husband and his face had the incredulous look of “what the hell?” mixed with a pain as if someone had punched him in the stomach. He was the one who brought Yeti home ten years before and asked if we could keep her – she was really his dog. This was going to be very difficult for him, too. The rest of the day happened so very fast.
Later, after we’d been able to bury her in her favorite spot in the backyard, my husband told me to look up at the sky. Wave after wave after wave of black birds were flying overhead. There must have been hundreds of them and they kept flying over our house.
The greyhound in Yeti had made her a runner and this was, to us, our sign that she was flying free no longer hemmed in by our small, fenced backyard. No matter how sad we were, she was telling us it was okay.
It was a sight and a moment I will never forget.