I always thought Franklin, at age 14 1/2, would go before Artemis. But as it turned out, Artemis, age 12 was the first to go. She did have a rougher first few years of her life, I’m sure, with her first “family” who decided to abandon her at the county shelter at the age of 4 because they were too busy to care about her on their Christmas vacation only an hour away. I always worried what would happen to Artemis when Franklin passed away. She was always so loyal to him, indeed they were loyal to each other, but Franklin seemed to take the lead in the relationship, unless it was to chase wild animals in the mountains, which is where Artemis excelled. Artemis hung on what Franklin was doing, and I worried how she would fare if she didn’t have him to look up to.
I almost didn’t get her: Franklin and I visited her in the county shelter one Wednesday while she was in quarantine (she’d been found “at large”). The two seemed to get along just fine, but by the afternoon, I was rationalizing reasons why I didn’t need another dog. I called back Thursday morning and said I wan’t going to take her. I went skiing to clear my head, and by the afternoon, I thought, “What am I thinking? I totally want this dog.” I called back to the shelter and the phone clicked over to the emergency number because it was after 5pm. I would have to wait until the next day when the shelter opened at 10am.
When I called back Friday morning, the representative said, “Oh, I think that dog is already adopted out.” What?!? How could this be? I was sure I was the first to call on her that morning. As it turned out, I was the one whom they were referring to, and the dog was still available. I went down that same day, filled out the paperwork for adoption, and was ensured that Artemis would be mine as soon as she had gotten spayed. When I walked into the shelter to sign the paperwork, one of the receptionists said to me, “You know, that dog’s family is stuck an hour away in Logan and can’t pick up their dog.” All I could think was: what the hell? Who would leave their dog in the shelter for two damn weeks. That family didn’t deserve to have this dog. She’d gotten out of a neighbor’s yard, got knocked up (as we found out with the spay, she had 10 pups in her belly), got left at the shelter for two weeks, and I, a total stranger looking for a retriever as a friend to my own Golden Retriever, was the only one who cared enough to inquire about her. I thought to myself, “Screw you, lady, this dog belongs with me.”
After a rough spay surgery and aborting 10 pups, Artemis had a hard time coming out of anesthesia. She wouldn’t wake up, and stayed at the shelter all day. At 3pm, shortly before the vet left for the day, I went to pick her up and she wasn’t walking. The vet helped me carry her to the car. I was on-call for work as a nurse in the ER that night, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go in. I gave Artemis some sub-Q IV fluid and got her to get up and pee by about 10pm.
When we woke up in the morning, she had green snot dripping out of her nose, was sneezing, and her breath was so bad that I joked that it could have knocked over an elephant. Kennel cough. I called the shelter back and said I’d take the antibiotics they offered me if she developed symptoms.
The antibiotics couldn’t be given on an empty stomach and Artemis had no appetite. I had to puree food in the food processor and feed her with a large syringe. Franklin just looked at me through the entire ordeal (which lasted about 10 days) like, “What the hell did you bring home?”
Artemis got better and through the years she and Franklin became best friends. She became my best friend, too. We had so many adventures together. Through everything, Artemis was a typical bad yellow dog: chasing herds of deer and pairs of coyotes across the foothills every chance she got. While we were in Wyoming on a work assignment, I actually ended up going to the gun store and buying a relatively inexpensive shock collar to try and keep her from running off: or at least from chasing cattle across the grasslands or birds into the road. She successfully drowned her shock collar into submission by swimming with it in a muck-bottomed pond. Probably the only positive thing about her being so bad was that she always made Franklin look so good. As she was running away from us across the hills, Franklin and I would just look at each other as if to ask, “Why does she do this to us?”
One Christmas, as she chased the mule deer through the snow in the foothills near Pocatello, Idaho, my brother watched her and said, “How far is she going to run?” I was thinking “Wyoming” but I replied, “Until she comes back.” She was gone for about 20 minutes before she decided it was a losing enterprise and came back.
Franklin was with her until the end, steadfast by her side for the last two days when she couldn’t get out of bed anymore. We had been dealing with a steady decline due to vertigo (which I blame on her chronic ear infections from neglect the first 4 years of her life. I was able to get the infections under control with diligent ear-cleaning after about a week) and arthritis. The combination of vertigo and arthritis must have been scary and painful for her. We tried anti-inflammatories, narcotic pain medication, nausea medication, and acupuncture to alleviate symptoms, but eventually all those years of going “all out” caught up with her. I liken her persona to an NFL player: always in the game with her head down, able to ignore all distractions to focus on her goal, and never feeling pain until she was old and retired. She had an amazing drive to do what she wanted.
I’m grateful that Charlotte, the new pup, got to meet her and spend time with her even if only for a couple of weeks. The two got along like true kindred spirits: Charlotte often resting next to Artemis in bed or between the two retrievers in the final days. I only wish they had had more time together.
We are getting by, holding vigil for Artemis while trying to settle into a new daily routine. Franklin tolerates Charlotte and I think he will definitely teach her a thing or two (hopefully not how to steal unattended treats out of humans’ jacket pockets). Charlotte, at 11 weeks old, has already learned how to escape from her kennel despite various closure-systems, and rings a bell on the back doorknob to let us know when she needs to go outside to go potty. Franklin is ever-faithful to me and I think he knows that being faithful to me entails being tolerant of the pup whom I seem to be somewhat attached to at this point.
Next up: What’s in a Name, How Artemis got her name