A couple of weeks before Artemis passed away, I was taking her to a veterinary acupuncturist to try and alleviate some of her arthritis pain and vertigo symptoms. We had tried most things: Adequan injections (a cartilage building medication), daily Rimadyl (an anti-inflammatory), and glucosamine supplement (which she had been on for years). Daily walks seemed to help, but the vertigo was getting worse despite giving her Meclizine, an anti-nausea medication that is often used for vertigo.
She had been to at least 4 or 5 acupuncture visits and seemed to be improving a little. The vertigo was a little less pronounced when we got home and for a couple of days after her treatments, so we increased the frequency from once to twice a week. The problem was, that I work 4 days a week, so one day a week I could go with her, and the other day I had to drop her off for the day. Thankfully, the vet clinic is also a kennel and doggie-daycare center (Best in State award winner for the past two years), and I could drop her off for acupucture and get complementary daycare until I could pick her up after work.
So on this one day, it was a Friday, I was dropping Artemis off and I looked past the receptionist and there was a sweet little black lab puppy. “Do you want to hold her?” one of the girls asked. And I thought to myself, “Well, of course I do!” and I think I said that exact thing out-loud, and I met Charlotte for the first time.
I left for work (I tore myself away) and went about my day and sort of forgot about the puppy, until it was time to pick up Artemis in the afternoon. I asked if we could go back to the vet clinic and talk to the vet, Dr Verona, to say hello. “Oh sure, no problem… go on back.” So Artemis and I walked to the back and there, once again, was the black lab puppy. She was snoozing on the floor by the couch in the clinic area, and I couldn’t help but pick her up and say hello again. She was also super sweet, because she was still drowsy from just being spayed that afternoon.
Artemis seemed to like her, and I really liked her, and I asked one of the girls, or the vet-techs as a group, “So, what do I have to do to take this puppy home?” And I almost couldn’t believe the words had just come out of my mouth, but I meant it. They looked at me… “Seriously?” asked Camille. “I’m serious.” And she said she would make a call, and she did right then and there. The call went to voicemail and she left a message for the adoption coordinator with a group called CAWS (Community Animal Welfare Society). The vet techs encouraged me to submit an application for adoption, and give the name of the puppy in the application (her name at that time was Dakota). I tore myself away from her (it was nearly 6pm and the clinic was closing) and Artemis and I left, hoping for the best.
I filled out the application immediately, and asked a couple of friends who have contacts in the local animal-welfare community to put in a good word or two for me if they had time (and they did).
The next day, I went skiing with my brother in Idaho (a two hour drive away from Salt Lake) and told him and his friend Tim about the pup on the chairlift. “Do you really want a puppy?” they asked me. “I really think I do,” I replied. Tim had a puppy (and an older dog) and was reminding me how much work it is to have a puppy. “I think I’m ready,” I told them. They seemed skeptical. Eight years with two middle-aged and now elderly Golden Retrievers and two cats in the house, and a puppy would definitely change the dynamic of our household.
But in my heart, she was already mine. I drove home and went to bed that night and asked the dogs, “Would it be ok?” And they looked at me with their soulful eyes, and they seemed to say that I could do whatever I wanted to be happy. As long as I was happy, they would be happy. Because that’s what elderly Golden Retrievers say to you, no matter what you ask.
I went running the next day with my friend Ann and my neighbors’ dog Watson (the two-year old terrier). I was talking about the puppy and telling myself, “It’s ok if she doesn’t come to us. If it wasn’t meant to be, it just wasn’t.” But in my heart, I wanted so much for her to come live with us. I wanted her to be part of our pack. And then, my phone bleeped with a text. It was the foster dad, telling me that I could come out to his house that afternoon to come meet her.
“I think I just got a puppy,” I said to Ann as I ran down the trail. I’m certain my pace quickened. I got tears in my eyes. I knew this was meant to be.
I drove out to the foster family’s house and held her. She was mine. And I was hers. My heart belonged to her, it was clear from the moment I held her.
As Artemis got sicker and weaker over the next couple of weeks, Charlotte (I switched her name from Dakota) hung close. She often curled up in bed with Artemis and I thought there really couldn’t be anything sweeter than this pup bonding to an old, dying dog. Artemis stayed patient with her, never nipped her despite Charlotte’s nips and ploys for attention, and I’d like to think that Artemis was telling us that it was ok. She would pass the torch.
A little over month after I came home with Charlotte and three weeks after putting Artemis down, I returned to the vet clinic to say thank you. I brought some small gifts for the vet-techs (little crocheted change purses that I make, because when I would sit with Artemis while she was getting her acupuncture treatments, I would often be working on a crochet project). Several of the girls told me that they had put in the good word for me to the adoption coordinator. “Really?” I said. “Thank you so much.” Apparently there were several people interested in Charlotte. But after they saw the bond that Artemis and I had, they knew that the match had been made and that Charlotte needed to join our pack.
I’m so grateful. I’d like to think that Artemis passed on a little bit of her sweet magic to Charlotte before she left this world. Lord knows, Artemis had the sweetest goofball grin. Let’s hope she took her love of chasing coyotes and deer through the foothills with her. Next week, Charlotte will get her final distemper booster and take her first outing on the trails. Time will tell just how much Artemis passed on the Charlotte in those final days.