I look in Midnight’s favorite resting places expecting to find a black hairy dog snuggled up, asleep. She’s not there. I open the snack jar waiting for her to hustle into the kitchen for a crunchy bone. Nothing. At 4 p.m. she expects a cup kibble in her bowl. She’s not there to remind me.
On July 5, 2001 I found Midnight in a city park, lost and alone. Unexpectedly she died last month. Age slowed her down. Cataracts clouded her eyes. She lost the spry step of her youth but she was in reasonably good health for a senior dog. Then one day she refused breakfast. She could barely stand. For the first time ever, she wouldn’t take a snack. Frantic, I called the vet’s office as soon as they opened. Bring her in around 11 a.m. even though we’re already booked. I knew I could count Pecan Grove Veterinary Hospital. I had breakfast plans with friends so before leaving I made sure Midnight rested comfortably on her bed. I patted her head and said Dr. Edwards would make her better. Two hours later I came home and burst into tears. She was already gone.
If the county shelter had evening hours in 2001, I would have dropped her off there. At the time I had at least five rescued dogs. I really didn’t want another one but leaving her in the park wasn’t an option. In fact, she ran around with another dog but due to my disability from a car accident I could only capture one of the strays. I felt bad leaving the other.
Midnight seemed in reasonably good shape. After all my dogs sniffed each other Midnight scooted through the doggie door. She seemed bewildered as if to say, where am I? I said I’ll try to find your home. In the meantime try to eat. She ignored the food and water I put down. Eventually everyone settled down and we all slept.
Micro-chips were not popular then but I checked anyway. She did not have one nor did she wear a collar with an ID tag. She was not spayed. Petfinder.com and Facebook were not available so I placed an advertisement in the lost and found section of the daily newspapers. Yes Phoenix then had two dailies. Several people called but the descriptions did not match Midnight. It was July and our rescues and shelters were full. Black dogs are most often euthanized. She ended up being rescue dog number six. Well maybe seven, I’m not sure. I made an appointment to have her spayed and vaccinated. I applied for a dog license. She was now mine.
Midnight romped around the house and the backyard with whatever dog wanted to play. Most often that was either Dharma the Dachsund or Luke the terrier/boxer mix, also a therapy dog. The trio chased each other in and out the doggie door with such force that the door needed replacing several times. Cranky Judy was content to watch from her bed. Life was hard on Judy and she didn’t enjoy playtime as much as the others.
Over the next seven years a steady stream of unwanted dogs shared Midnight’s space. There was one fang Fred, an old dog with a single tooth, whose owners stranded him at the county shelter when they refused to pay his impound fees. Casey the Dachsund lived for only a year. Her owners ditched her when she developed heart disease. Dolly with the bad teeth lived maybe a year or so. Ziggy haggard and blind enjoyed about two years before she left this world. Flash probably spent all his time in a backyard. His nails were so long they resembled coils. Clinic staff kindly clipped them off before I took him home. Grandpa George joined me at an adoption event. Lucy the toothless Chihuahua lived for six weeks but at least she died surrounded by love. Oscar the old boy was left outside all the time. A neighbor rescued him and asked me to take him. How could I say no?
Every Friday night for years I took Midnight to a local dog park to meet with friends. We sat in a circle, talking while our dogs ran around the park. Delirious with excitment, Midnight could barely wait for me to leash her when I pulled into the parking lot. I swear that dog would chase tennis balls for hours.
My life with Midnight changed in 2010. We moved into a trailer park losing access to the outdoors. The house we shared went into foreclosure. My roomate lost her job and her health. That ended my animal rescue too, nearly breaking my heart. But at least Midnight and I had a place to live. At first she missed the backyard and the doggie door but she adjusted.
Paying all the bills on my disability income was a burden I hadn’t faced in years. I always shared expenses. Now there were months when I wondered how I could pay the rent. At the kitchen table with tears streaming down my cheeks, Midnight always sensed my sadness and sat by my side, licking my hands. I promised her if I had to live in a tent down by the Salt River I’d never surrender her to a shelter.
I tried to make her life special. I couldn’t afford premium dog food but she ate two meals a day. She always had snacks in the closet. I made her eggs once in a while. At Christmas I took her to PetSmart for a photo with Santa. Actually I did that with all the dogs. She had a comfy place to sleep and her water bowl was always clean and filled.
In the days after she died, I couldn’t stop crying. I wanted to hug my loyal loving companion one more time. I wake up some nights expecting to find her sleeping in the bathroom, one of her regular spots but she’s not there. I expect her barking when the neighbor comes home. Midnight is not coming back.
I haven’t been without at least one dog in my life since 1986. Animal rescue has been part of my life since 1989 so I knew where to look for a new friend. Merrick, a 12 year old Chihuahua mix, needed a home. I don’t expect him to replace Midnight but I’ll love him just like I’ve loved all the rescued dogs in my life. Thanks Midnight for 12 fabulous years and welcome Merrick to my life.