My first glimpse of Ronin was in my daughter’s driveway in March of 2005. She was the cutest ball of white fur with a bright pink nose I had ever seen. Her fluffy white tail curled up over her back, and even as a tiny pup, she held her head up in a regal and dignified manner at all times. Tiffany’s then-boyfriend—whom I will refer to as the abuser—had given the puppy to her as a gift or a bribe to win her over.
Ronin, I would learn, was a very unique breed. Akitas originated in Japan and are one of the oldest known breed of dogs. Although she was a girly girl pup, they chose the male name of Ronin, which means ‘a warrior who had lost his lands’. Sadly, at the time Ronin came into her life, Tiffany was working 60+ hours a week and was never home to be with the puppy. So, the abuser took over the care of Ronin. I wish I could tell this story without talking about this horrible time or about him, but it’s such an important part of Ronin’s story and how she came into our lives.
During the next few months I witnessed the abuser mistreat and abuse this puppy in ways unimaginable. I don’t want to write about or remember all of the incidents because they are too painful. Disgustingly, and to my life-long regret, I did nothing about it. Mostly, because at the time, I also feared for my daughter’s safety. She begged me not to interfere, because that would only make it worse. For the rest of my life, I will despise myself for not doing something to stop the cruelty my daughter and Ronin suffered at the hands of the abuser.
When Ronin was almost a year old, December 31, 2005, she did what the rest of us were afraid or too ignorant to do…she attempted to save her own life. When the abuser was parked at a shop downtown. She jumped out of the back of his truck (where he made her ride) and literally ran for her life. He chased her in his truck through several blocks, across main street and to the base of a hill at the edge of town, where he lost her trail of blood in the bushes, a distance of about two and a half miles. Her paws were bleeding from running so far on pavement and ice. But, she escaped him.
Throughout the evening and late into the night my daughter and I looked for her, but we could not find anything other than the disappearing blood trail in the trees. I’m sure she was crouched somewhere out of hearing distance in the bushes, hiding and terrified. Maybe, she was still running for her life. We finally went home around midnight and vowed to keep searching at first light. We couldn’t stop crying as we imaged the terror and pain she was suffering out in the dark all alone. She was still a puppy…just eleven months old and she knew nothing up to this point but pain and suffering, except for the very limited time Tiffany spent with her and showered her with love.
Please understand that every time my daughter attempted to help Ronin, her fear of the abuser overshadowed her common sense. He had her brainwashed to the point she refused to let me or anyone else help her. I could try to explain why Tiffany was in this frame of mind, but this is Ronin’s story. My daughter has become a strong, brave, healthy woman, and we have all put this horrible time behind us.
Around three-thirty a.m. in the morning, my boyfriend, Albert, thought he heard whimpering. We went outside to check and Ronin was laying in my daughter’s driveway (Albert and I live next door). I hiked down through the deep snow and knelt at her side. She was shivering, wet, bloody and terrified. But, sadly, she had no where else to go except back to the same place where she had suffered such awful abuse. She looked up at me with trusting, pain-filled eyes, and it was at that exact instant I knew I would save this puppy no matter what the consequences were.
I slowly made my way up to my house with her; she could barely walk because the pads of her feet had been rubbed raw. For the rest of her life, her poor feet were extremely sensitive. Albert and I cleaned her wounds and that night I laid on the floor beside her as I planned how I would rearrange my crazy busy life to care for this magnificent animal, because she was staying with me. I vowed no one would ever hurt her again.
In the morning, I called my daughter to tell her I had Ronin. She informed me the abuser was coming to get her. His plan was to shoot her. He said she was worthless and couldn’t be trained. I could tell by the intense fear in her voice she would not be able to stop him. I will not go into the horrific battle that occurred over this amazing creature for the next several months, but the only thing that matters is I won, and Albert and I spent the next six years loving and protecting the gentlest sweetest most loving soul we’ve ever known. I did, however, also spend the next six years looking over my shoulder with the fear that someday he would fulfill his vile threats against Ronin’s life.
Ronin might have needed me, but I needed her just as badly. She enriched my life in ways I didn’t even realize I needed. I hadn’t had a dog since my oldest son left home fifteen years earlier, and I didn’t want one because I thought I was too busy to have a dog. But, Albert and I changed our entire lives (and home) to make room for our new furry family member, and we never regretted one moment of this decision.
The first few months were a little rough. Ronin peed whenever a man came close to her (especially if he wore a baseball cap like her abuser). She went through a bit of an aggressive period, and everyone kept telling me I would not be able to handle her, and it had been a mistake for me to keep her. Because of her fear of men, Albert had to gain her trust. But he was abnormally (for him) patient and firm with her, and before long she loved him, too. But, she was my beautiful baby. She was at my side constantly. Ronin blossomed as a member of our family. She became the happy carefree puppy she was never allowed to before now.
We taught her to overcome her fear of water The abuser had held her head under water when she was a small puppy, so she was deathly afraid of water for several years. She loved to frolic in the nearby creeks and rivers. She had so much fun once she overcame her fear it was hard to imagine she had once been so terrified of even a small puddle. When she swam, her big white paws made her look like a polar bear in the water.
Like us, camping was her passion…oh how she loved to go camping. Albert and I thought it was so cool that we had a big white truck, a big white camper, and a big white dog. We called Ronin the camp guard dog, because she would always lie right at the entrance wherever we were camped and keep watch. Just several days before she passed away, I had been telling her about how excited I was that we would all be going camping in a few weeks. It was obvious she knew what I was telling her because she jumped up and down and ran to the door. I had to tell her, “Not yet!”
In the woods or in the desert she could be completely free, no leash, no fence, just total freedom. A cherished image that will be forever be in my heart is of her running along the cedar-edged ridgeline in Sand Wash at sunset. She looked like a massive white wolf; she was a free spirit in the wild. I believe she is running free and wild in Heaven now.
Ronin was stubborn, proud, loyal, protective, loving, and everything the books about Akitas talked about…she was 100 percent total Akita, except for the barking issue. According to the books, Akitas rarely bark, however, Ronin loved to bark at everything and anything. But, most of all, she was as dedicated to us as we were to her. I believe she knew we had saved her. I saw it in her big beautiful brown eyes when she looked at me, and she had the prettiest thick white lashes surrounding those luminous cocoa hued eyes.
Her gorgeous white coat was so soft and thick, I always wanted to snuggle with her, but she hated snuggling. She wanted to be next to me, but no cuddling allowed. She would let me fondle her ears, though, and her ears were so soft I could rub them for hours or for as long as she would allow it. A favorite sleeping position of Ronin’s was on her back and she loved to have her tummy scratched when she was in this position. For such a huge dog she was amazingly limber and light on her feet. The one thing she never did daintily was lie down, which she did with a big thud and a deep sigh every single time.
She hated most other dogs, but she especially hated little dogs. She tolerated Rocky, my son’s Rottweiler of the same age, better than any of the other dogs in the family. Rocky was sort of like her annoying cousin. I loved to see the two of them together because they were both so massive and impressive. I would call them Big Black and Big White whenever they were both with us. Ronin loved to tease Rocky and show him how she could outrun him. She would put her big bushy tail straight out behind her and start running like a racehorse in big circles around him. But, when she got tired of playing she would refuse to look at him and would turn away every time he came near her.
She would sometimes look at Rocky like she thought he was a ‘stupid boy.’ They once got into a fight in our living room and both of them rose up on their hind legs as they crashed against one another; it was terrifying because they are both so big and powerful. But, I think Ronin loved Rocky in her own way. Whenever she was forced to be around any other dogs, it was always extremely clear she was the alpha dog of the pack…always!
We never walked her as much as we should have and she loved to go for walks. It was uncanny how she always knew I was planning to take her for a walk just by the clothes I would start to put on. She would begin jumping up and down and run in circles until I was ready to go. For the first few years, we could never let her off her leash when we walked her because she would run off and ignore us when we called her to come back. If there were strange dogs around, she would usually try to pick a fight and get us all in trouble. But, as she matured and grew older, she lost the urge to run off or fight, and was very obedient about coming back to us when we called her.
It was increasing difficult to leave her behind whenever we left the house. She would sit at gate and watch us drive away with such a forlorn look on her face my heart would break. Sadly, she spent way too much time alone, because we were always working or doing something she couldn’t do with us. It’s one of my biggest regrets with Ronin that she had to be alone so much.
Leaving her when we went on long trips was horrible. Albert’s brother would usually stay with her and she would refuse to come upstairs the entire time we were gone, which a couple of times were as long as two weeks. She did the same thing whenever I was gone. She would wait by the gate until I returned even though Albert was home. Every time I came home from work or anywhere, she would be sitting in the yard and the instant she saw my car she would race through her dog door and be waiting in the garage as the door went up. Then, she would run out into the driveway. I would put down my window and she would bark and jump up and down beside the car, while I talked to her as I pulled into the garage.
Albert usually gets home after I do, and as soon as she would hear him pull into the garage, she would stand at the top of the stairs barking and wagging that enormous white tail so hard through the air it sometimes looked like it wasn’t attached to her body. I just can’t imagine not having her lying at my side when I’m watching TV or on the computer, or having her under my feet at all times, especially when I’m cooking.
One of the hardest things in the the past few days since she’s been gone, has been going home and not having her there to greet me. The house is much too silent and empty without her there.
Ronin never had any doubt that she was the queen of the house once we got her. She had a huge basket of dog toys, two separate places to eat or drink water (upstairs and downstairs), a giant jar of treats on the top of the refrigerator, we added a large dog door so that she could come and go as she pleased, and her own little fenced yard (the fence went up after we got her) where she could hang out, and of course, endless love from Albert and I. She had only to look at me with those big beautiful eyes and I could not say no to her.
She lounged on the couches, loveseats, beds, wherever she pleased, and left massive amounts of fluffy white fur when she moved. If someone had told me seven years ago I would have a huge dog shedding all over my furniture and leaving muddy paw prints everywhere, I would have told them they were crazy. But, for Ronin, all the rules changed and my only goal was to give her the best life possible. I couldn’t take away the abuse she had once suffered, but I could make sure she never doubted how precious she was ever again.
She loved to lie on our bed and look out the window. From there, she could watch the main road in our subdivision and she could see who was walking down the street. Then, she would race down the stairs and out through her dog door so she could bark at them as they walked past our yard. I called her the ‘nosy neighbor’ because she would go from window to window in different rooms to keep an eye on our neighbor’s houses.
On a regular basis we would buy her a new toy with a loud squeaker. How she loved the squeakers! She would squeak a toy for hours (and drive us crazy) or until she finally bit a hole in the squeaker. She was constantly pulling a toy out of her basket and tossing it into the air so we would throw it for her. Throwing a toy for such a big dog in our tiny house was not the best indoor activity, but she didn’t care and neither did we. After retrieving the toy she would bring it back to us and then refuse to let us have it back, so a game of tug-of-war always ensued. She cherished her toys, and not once did she ever chew up or destroy one of her toys intentionally.
She did, however, destroy many food containers in her never-ending quest for food. We would give her empty milk containers (the large plastic ones with a handle) and she would throw them around and jump on them until the lid popped off and the container was completely flat. It was not unusual to come home and find a plastic jar torn apart that had once contained nuts, candy, jerky or cookies…anything we had forgotten to put away where she could not get it.
A couple days before Thanksgiving last year, I placed a half frozen turkey on the counter and went off to do something else for a short time. Ronin managed to drag the eighteen pound bird through her dog door and out into the yard. She had eaten over half of the turkey by the time I realized what she had done. Eating was her passion and her obsession. She was a shameless beggar. Her face was always hovering as close to the food as she could get away with. We spoiled her and gave her bites of our food and way too many dog treats. For such a huge dog, she was so gentle and dainty whenever anyone would give her something out of their hand.
An epic event in Ronin’s life was an extremely close encounter she had with a bear right in her own yard. According to Akita history, they were originally bred in ancient Japan to hunt bears. About four summers ago, Ronin proved she had not lost the instinct that had been a trait of her breed centuries earlier. Two of my older grandchildren were out in my yard and they started yelling at me to come out and see the baby bear digging in the trash at Aunt Tiffany’s house next door. My first thought was if there was a baby bear, there was also a mommy bear. I tore out of the house with Ronin right on my heels. When we ran out into the yard, Ronin and I spotted the bear at about the same time. To my horror, it was not a baby bear, but a full grown brown bear. She/he was standing on its hind legs and tearing through Tiffany’s trash container.
Everything happened so fast…I started screaming for my grandkids to get inside the fence, since they had wandered out of the fence to get a closer look. Ronin began barking and growling as she ran straight towards the bear. In disbelief I watched as she started climbing up the 5 foot chain link fence that borders our yard. The bear’s attention was diverted from the trash when she heard Ronin barking and in a flash the bear charged up the small slope that separates my daughter’s driveway from my front yard.
With its head lowered, the bear crashed in to the fence. Ronin, who was almost to the top of the fence by now, was thrown to the ground. But, unafraid, she jumped right back on the fence and began climbing up again. I am not sure why the bear suddenly lost interest—maybe it was all the screaming from me and the kids and my oldest son who had now joined the group—but, whatever it was, the bear abruptly turned away from Ronin and ran back through Tiffany’s driveway, across the road and out of sight. I managed to get Ronin away from the fence and hold onto her.
I have absolutely no doubt Ronin was protecting us and would have taken on that bear (who was at least three times her size) if she could have gotten over the fence, but thank goodness, she didn’t. The spot where the bear charged the fence with its head is still indented to remind us of the day when our fierce, fearless ‘Bear Dog’ showed us just how incredibly brave she truly could be.
When we got Ronin over six years ago, we already had a six year old calico cat named Kali who ruled the house. She hated Ronin; actually, she hates all animals, and most of the time, she hates us, too. Kali set out on a mission to run this big white nuisance out of her house. There were some scary episodes when she would jump on Ronin’s face and try to claw her to death, but Ronin outweighed her by almost a hundred pounds and would shake Kali off with ease and chase her through the house. It was not unusual for lamps to be knocked off tables or curtains to be torn down during one of these crazy escapades.
But in spite of all this, Ronin desperately wanted to be Kali’s friend, even though that would never happen. She would sit as close to Kali as she dared and whine and wag her massive tail as Kali growled and hissed. We had to put in special cat doors and keep them separated as much as possible. Ronin never missed an opportunity to gulp down Kali’s food if we forgot to close the door to the laundry room where we fed Kali. Whenever Ronin was outside or downstairs, Kali would roam around the house, and would even roll around on Ronin’s toys as if to prove to her she could do whatever she pleased.
Ronin got into the habit of trying to sneak up the stairs in an attempt to catch Kali in action. She would press her body tightly against the inside wall of the staircase and walk very slowly and cautiously up each step. But, she could never make it to the top without farting, which would alert Kali that she was near. It was hilarious! There was just something about walking up the stairs that always made Ronin fart every time. Sometimes, she would actually look back at her tail-end with a totally disgusted expression on her face. She was so cute running down the stairs, too. Her big fluffy rear-end would sashay from side to side and I would call her ‘wiggly butt’.
I always refer to both Kali and Ronin as ‘The Pampered Pets” because they live the life of riley. When we first got Ronin I used to envision sitting in my big chair with Kali in my lap and Ronin at my feet. Only last week, that dream almost came to be. I was lying on the couch, Kali was perched on the back of the couch and Ronin was lying in her usual spot in front of the couch. If not for Kali’s constant hissing, it was almost perfect, but it would never happen again.
As for health issues, Ronin had very few that we were aware of other than having several seizures in the course of the past several years. Our vet told us to keep track of them, and although they were terrifying to her and to us, they never seemed to last long or occur too often and they didn’t seem to affect her in any way once they were over. After she was diagnosed with lupus last fall, which is common to her breed, the medicine she had to take was making her even more ravenous than normal and she started putting on weight. We had to put her on a diet, but she continued to gain. It was heartbreaking to deny her anything.
We had only taken her to the vet because we thought her nose was sunburned. Her pretty pink nose started turning black and she got some weird looking scabs on the top of her nose. I never felt Ronin’s life was threatened by the lupus and our incredible vet, Dr. Susan, was certain once we figured out the correct dosage of medication for this disease, she would probably live a long full life. It was difficult at times, because the medication also made her constantly thirsty and pee uncontrollably. She would not always make it outside in time. I never wanted her to feel guilty so I tried to never make an issue of cleaning up after her, but she was such a proud dog and it was obvious she felt ashamed whenever she had an accident.
The last couple weeks of her life, Ronin developed a couple of open sores on the lower part of her back legs. Albert had taken her for a walk over the weekend and noticed the sores were looking infected. She also did not seem to have the exuberant amount of energy she always had on walks. Usually, whenever she was on the leash it was all we could do to keep up with her because she always wanted to run. This time, she walked beside Albert or only a couple of feet in front of him. He cut the walk short and we decided to take her back to the vet the following Monday. It was about this time we noticed she was doing some really heavy breathing after running up the stairs and several times we jokingly called her our “heavy breather”. But, she was still a happy, playful, seemingly healthy, girl. I never thought for one instant our precious time with her was rapidly coming to an end.
At Pet Care Clinic they took some blood tests and discovered Ronin’s liver enzymes were dangerously high, so they added a new lupus medicine and antibiotics to the prescription she was already taking. We didn’t even think to mention the breathing issue because it seemed so minor at the time. Although, after Ronin was gone, our vet s Ronin had to be sedated so the two wounds could be stitched close. The bottom parts of her legs were wrapped with gauze and colored tape and we thought she would be fine in no time.
We didn’t even think to mention the breathing issue because it seemed so minor at the time. Although, after Ronin was gone, our vet said it wouldn’t have mattered, I will still always wonder if things would have had a different outcome if we had paid more attention to the breathing problem and brought it to our vet’s attention sooner
Her leg wounds kept bleeding and we had to take her back to the vet four times in the next week to have the dressing changed on the worst of the wounds…the one on her left hind leg. Finally, on her last weekend, we bought our own gauze and tape to dress the wound with so that we could do it ourselves since the bleeding did not seem to be stopping. We didn’t realize this was probably a deadly warning sign. On Sunday, March 11, Albert and I had some errands to run in town. When we left, Ronin seemed fine, but as usual, sad we were leaving and not taking her. It would be the last time she waited at the gate for us to come home. We were gone less than two hours and when we returned we were facing the beginning of the end.
Instead of running ahead of us to beat us upstairs, Ronin stayed outside and laid down in the yard against the fence. This was so abnormal that I stopped to wait for her. She seemed to be breathing extra heavily and made no attempt to follow me even after I called her. I asked Albert to come back to check on her and he managed to coax her into the house. We all went upstairs where Albert noticed her bandages were wet from lying in the grass and there was more bleeding. We decided to change them as we continued to monitor her strange breathing. Immediately after we had changed the dressing on her legs, she went into the guest room and threw up twice. It was a massive amount of food…way more than she had eaten that day or so it seemed. She tried to hide it from us by lying in front of it.
We began to worry she had eaten something poisonous, but she had not left the house and there was nothing she could have gotten into in the yard. As the evening progressed we realized something more serious was going on. Instead of trying to stick her face in our plates during dinner, she laid by the front door, still breathing strangely. We could not get her to take her medicine, which was wrapped in a small piece of hotdog. She usually devoured this treat without chewing. She would not move from the rug at the doorway. We determined we would take her to the vet first thing in the morning. I was certain she had a bad seizure she couldn’t seem to come out of this time. The way she was behaving was similar to the way she acted after a seizure, only this time it was much worse and the symptoms were not going away.
With my pillow and a blanket, I curled up on the couch in the living room for the night. I didn’t want to be too far from her if she needed me. I had no sooner settled down on the couch when she was at my side, lying in her usual spot on the floor. I thought this was a good sign. I rubbed her baby soft ears and spoke to her as she stared up at me with those beautiful trusting eyes. It was painfully obvious she was miserable. As the night progressed, I realized she was getter worse.
Albert and I kept giving her water, which she would gratefully accept as we held her water bowl under her head. She appeared weak and she couldn’t seem to lay down all the way. She was in an uncomfortable crouched position and her breathing was very labored. Occasionally, she would start to nod off and she would quickly raise her head up again and look to see if I had noticed. It was apparent she was trying so desperately hard not to show any weakness and it just broke my heart.
A couple of times she tried to lie on her side, but she couldn’t catch her breath and she would resume her upright position again. I guess this was the only way she could breathe. Maybe we should have called the vet even though it was the middle of the night, but I guess we thought getting her there first thing in the morning would be enough. Regrettably, we waited helplessly by while she suffered through the night. I spent part of the long night lying on the floor beside her, and as I look back now, I realize we had come full circle. I spent the first night she had come into our lives laying on the floor next to her and I spent the last night she was in our lives laying on the floor next to her.
Albert took Ronin to the vet first thing Monday morning because through all of this I have also been dealing with family health issues and work issues, so I was afraid to take the extra time off from work unless I needed to. Forever, I will regret not going with him that morning. Ronin managed to make it down the stairs on her own, but laid down at the foot of the stairs and started to throw up again. There was no food this time, just a yellow liquid. I knew she was really ill, but I still never imagined she would be leaving home for the last time that morning.
I watched them drive away in my Blazer (it’s easier for her to get in and out of than Albert’s big truck) thinking she must really be sick because she was lying down and that was something she never did when she was in a vehicle. Normally, she ran from window to window and never even sat down even on long trips. I had a moment of panic as they drove out of sight and the thought passed through my mind that she might not be coming back home. But, I told myself that was ridiculous…just yesterday afternoon she had been running around the house and the yard, even playing with her toys. There was just no way she could be that sick that fast.
Less than two hours later, I received the call from Dr. Susan. I thought she would tell me Ronin was having an allergic reaction to the new meds, a bad seizure, or she had something lodged in her throat…anything other than they had discovered a huge mass in her lungs, which was why Ronin could not breathe. Although Dr. Susan did not say the word cancer, I knew she thought it was, and when she said Ronin was suffering. I also knew what she was suggesting without her even having to say it. I remember calling Albert and my children, but I don’t remember driving myself to the clinic.
Once Tiffany, Albert and I were there, we were told Ronin had a fever of 104.5 degrees, then shown her x-rays—one lung was clear and filled with air and the other one was almost completely shrouded by a white mist, which was the mass. Then, we were told the options, which were not really options at all…prolong her misery and take her to a specialist in Denver for surgery, but it was doubtful she would survive, or we could end her suffering now. I couldn’t believe this had happened in only a matter of hours, but Dr. Susan explained how dogs will try to hide their suffering from their loved ones until they just can’t do it anymore. It’s a pack instinct, and there is no doubt in my mind that my proud alpha dog had been as strong and brave as she could until her poor body just couldn’t do it anymore. How long had she been hiding her pain from us and how long had we been oblivious to her suffering?
I wanted to take her home for a couple of days, to have time to adjust to the unbearable thought of losing her. I wanted Dr. Susan to come to our house to euthanize her when the time came, because I wanted Ronin to be at her own home when she left this world. Also, I knew once I had her at home I would never be able to bring her back to the clinic knowing what was going to happen. Dr. Susan listened to my ranting and uncontrollable crying, and never tried to talk me out of anything. She said we could spend some time with Ronin now and decide what we were going to do. I guess she hoped I would realize what had to be done now and not prolong the agony Ronin was in. The care and tenderness shown by Dr. Susan and everyone at Pet Care has always been unparalleled.
Neither Tiffany or Albert tried to talk me into anything and I will always be grateful to them for leaving the final decision up to me. Ronin was my girl. It had to be my decision.
I had been in this room before when I had two beloved cats put to sleep years ago. They were both over fifteen years old and had lived long happy cat lives. The room was basically still the same…comfortable seating, a big plush bed on the floor with a blanket. I had sat on that bed at two different times and cradled Brandi, and then several years later, I had held Shadow in my arms when they each had taken their last breaths. I couldn’t look at that bed or imagine I would be reliving that nightmare with Ronin today.
When Ronin entered the room, she was wearing her purple collar with colorful butterflies I had put on her that morning (she has many fashionable collars and leases) and her big bushy tail was wagging back and forth when she saw Albert, Tiffany and I waiting there for her. To me, she seemed so much better and I was sure she would be going home with us today in spite of the things Dr. Susan had just told us. She walked past us to the door at the other end of the room, as if she was hoping we were leaving, but then she turned and came back to me. I sat down on the floor and she laid down beside me and put her head in my lap. I could see the pain in her big brown eyes. It felt as if an arrow ripped through my heart. She sighed heavily and her lids started to close slightly.
At this time her breathing seemed normal. We talked to her and told her how much we loved her for about twenty minutes, but she barely moved. I was still thinking I was going to take her home, until she started to throw up more of the yellow liquid. She could barely catch her breath afterward. Her breathing became erratic and heavy again. She hung her head down and would not look at us. And, I couldn’t avoid the enviable.
How does one make the decision to end the life of your best friend? Again, I kept wondering if this could have had a different outcome if we hadn’t ignored the heavy breathing the past few weeks. Did I fail Ronin when she needed me the most? I will live with this terrible guilt for the rest of my life. I have loved all of my animals, but Ronin is special, and my love for her is special. I never doubted how much she loved me, either. My life has been filled with so much disappointment, sorrow and unhappiness for the past few years, but no matter what mistakes I made or the stupid things I did, Ronin was always there, showering me with constant, unconditional love. She never judged me and never made me feel like a failure in spite of the way I have screwed up my life. So, how could I let her continue to suffer?
An area had to be shaved so the needle could be inserted because of her thick fur, and as they were shaving the little spot on her back leg with an electric shaver, she raised her head up and looked curiously at them for a moment before resting her head back down. This would be her last gesture. Ronin brought me more joy than I ever imaged an animal could bring into my life, but her life was gone only an instant after the needle was inserted in her back leg. Her head rolled unnaturally to the side as her neck went completely limp. It seemed surreal she was gone in barely the blink of an eye.
We stayed with her lifeless body until the technician came to get her about 20 minutes later. I could not bear the thought of leaving her alone on the cold hard floor for one second. She looked so beautiful and peaceful. I laid her head between her paws. This was a pose she often laid in and I always thought she looked so cute in this position because she looked like she was thinking about doing something mischievous. Sometimes when she was lying like this she would sigh heavily as if she was bored. But, now her silence cloaked the room.
I rubbed those unbelievably soft ears for the last time and kissed her several times on the head. I buried my face in the thick lush fur around her neck for the last time. I touched that big bushy tail that will never wag wildly again and took a last picture of her. I marveled again at how incredibly beautiful she was…truly the most splendid dog I have ever seen. I pray I will carry the memory of those last touches and images with me forever. I will be eternally grateful that this remarkable creature was in my life for a time, although it was not nearly long enough.
Ronin is being cremated and her ashes will be returned to us soon. I look forward to having her home again. She will remain with me forever…in spirit, in my heart and wherever life takes me.
January 2005 – March 12, 2012
(Updates in the comments)