This post is long overdue. I've been writing it in my head since December 8, the day we had to put Trinket down after she seriously injured her remaining front leg somehow.
Trinket was about eleven and a half years old when we said goodbye. She managed to get through the last five years missing her front left leg, having lost the limb to osteo sarcoma. A brave and patient dog, she endured months of chemotherapy and two years of follow-up medical treatments and tests to be sure the cancer didn't come back. The fact that she did survive well past the expected year following the diagnosis was simply amazing, and placed her in the rare 5% of dogs that enjoyed longtime survival.
We first came to know this wonderful Newfoundland dog when I brought her home on a "trial" basis. She was three years old, and belonged to a distant relative that loved her very much but was unable to devote the time and attention to her that any dog deserved. It was an act of love on Marci's part to give Trinket to us, and I know it was a hard decision on her part. Knowing I didn't have full buy-in from Tom, I went and got her anyway.
Things didn't get off to a great start. We were living in Frankfort, Illinois at the time, with our original two Newfies, Shadow and her daughter Savvy. Shadow was a very apparent alpha dog, and Savvy didn't take kindly to Trinket's apparently play for "beta" status. Within minutes of her arrival, Savvy and Trinket were going at it in a major way. It actually took both Shadow and me together to break up the fight. Over time, all three dogs learned to get along, although for months it was an uneasy peace between Trinket and Savvy.
When I took a job in Madison, and moved to a temporary apartment while we were deciding whether to make the full move to Wisconsin, Trinket came with me. She often accompanied me to the little ad agency where I was working, and she became an office celebrity. She was so gentle, and had such a great disposition, that even people who didn't really like dogs seemed to like her. She and I walked Madison's State Street at lunch, and hung out at the Memorial Union terrace at the University of Wisconsin on Friday afternoons in the summer. I'm not sure which one of us loved that more.
Unlike Savvy, who also lost a leg to bone cancer, Trinket was diagnosed early. That probably saved her and allowed her to live a full life, albeit one missing a leg. She adapted quickly, and in a lot of ways it seemed as if she didn't know she was missing anything. She could move pretty fast when she felt she had to (like when she knew she would be getting a bath, or she was offered a ride in the car). She even caught the occasional mouse, something I wouldn't have believed if I hadn't seen it on more than one occasion.
As Trinket got older, and slowed down like any old dog, we continued to make accommodations for her as necessary. When she could no longer jump into the car, we'd give her a boost. When she could no longer get up on to the bed, I'd lift her. Every night, without fail, she asked for -- well, demanded -- a pig's ear treat. Her sidekick, Bosco the mutt, would stick by her side, knowing he'd get some of whatever she was able to cajole from us. He looked after her, cleaned her ears, played with her, and would come running whenever he heard her bark.
Trinket was inspirational. That's the best single word I can think of to describe her. She adapted well to being abruptly removed from her original family, and after a few skirmishes with Savvy, fit so well into our Newfie pack that most people figured she was one of Shadow's puppies. When she lost the leg, she just soldiered on as if nothing was different. When Shadow and Savvy were both gone, and Bosco joined the family, she didn't bother with any alpha behavior; she just rolled with it.
It's been an odd month around here since she died. Her passing was totally unexpected, as she was fine at 4pm and in a world of hurt at 6pm. We can only guess that she either did something to the remaining front leg in a fall, or that maybe the cancer had come back and weakened the leg to the point something broke. Either way, we knew we owed her a quick and pain-free end. Our wonderful vet, Elaine, was here at 5:30 the next morning and shortly after, Trinket was gone. We buried her at sunrise next to Shadow and Savvy.
Independent from Trinket's death, through an odd set of coincidental circumstances, Gracie joined our family just two days after Trinket died. A month earlier, I had set up a visit with someone who was trying to place an adult Newfoundland. Tom was rightly reluctant to bring another dog into the house while Trinket was still with us, but he agreed that we could at least meet Gracie. Suddenly, Trinket was gone. After some soul searching, we decided to go ahead with the visit. Sappy as it sounds, we wondered, "What would Trinket do?" We decided Trinket would like us to pay it forward. We should give her spot in the family to another Newfie who needed a new forever home, just like we did for her eight years earlier.
I'm not sure if this is an upside or downside to adding Gracie to the mix just two days after Trinket died, but doing so left us little time to mourn and to dwell on the loss. Make no mistake; the loss was huge. But we had a new dog to socialize into the pack. Gracie was not and is not a replacement for Trinket, but in some ways she is kind of a tribute to how important a place Trinket held in our hearts.
I miss Trinket. I especially miss her late at night when I am in the den reading. That's the time she'd look at me, waiting for her opportunity. As soon as we'd make eye contact, she'd bark. I'd try to ignore her. She'd keep it up, knowing eventually I'd cave and give her a pig's ear. She loved those things. And I loved her.
[Photos, from top: This spring, pausing before chasing some chickens out of the hedge. Christmas 2010. My study buddies, Bosco and Trinket. Trinket with Gigger, our miniature donkey, in one of my favorite pictures. Gracie on the study buddy couch. Video, below: Trinket loved to go for rides in our old convertible. This happens to be from what I believe was her last ride this past summer.]