Part 1 – The Story of the Photo Shoot – Leia and I did our shoot back in November or December of 2013. I had a snow day and called High 5 Photography in St. Marys. As luck would have it, Emily had an opening that day.
I remember it like yesterday. It was the first time I realized how old Leia was. I knew she was 14 in my head, but my heart still saw her the way she used to be. Leia loved to walk and would drag me down the street. Not that day . . . She walked a couple yards, and I carried her the rest of the way.
I saw more signs at the studio. Signs I’d seen with my father and his Alzheimer’s. Leia started pacing, like dad did. She wasn’t searching for scents. She was in a panic, trying to figure out where she was. She only calmed down when I held her, like I did in the picture.
That’s the day I found out Leia was old, that we didn’t have as much time left as I thought. I cried all the way home. It was only 10 minutes, but I spent it reliving what Alzheimer’s did to my dad.
People still saw the puppy in her, but look again . . . Can you see the gray hair around her eyes? I didn’t want her to suffer so I asked for advice. I wanted to know when to say good-bye. The vet said look for trouble seeing, hearing, and with bathroom issues.
I didn’t see it coming, but my friend Danelle did. She warned me. When she had bathroom issues in her crate in February, 2013, I knew it was time. I made the appointment to say goodbye.
The best thing I did that day was to tell Leia stories while I stroked her back. It helped. The worst – I didn’t let her have chocolate. It was her favorite thing to sneak. She only did it three times, but it always made her sick. Now I wish I’d made time to give her that one last treat.
Part 2 – How Leia Joined Our Family – I took this photo back on the first day of school in August of 1999. My kids were in 5th, 3rd, and Kindergarten. Leia was 4 months old. We’d had her for a few weeks. Our house was full of life – with 3 kids and a dog!
My husband lost a Super Bowl bet, so we won a dog! Not just any dog! We picked a breed that fit our family. We used one of the doggie tests I’ve written about. We took it a couple times to make sure we had good results. We did!
We got three breeds over and over again. The kids and I voted until we agreed . . . the Border Terrier won. We found our breeder in Clinton, Michigan, and in July we paid the dogs a visit. Puppies are always cute. I asked my kids to look at the adults. They decided Borders were just right for us.
We picked up Leia in August, and I remember the day she came home . . . the neighborhood kids were on alert and in our yard.
Poor Leia! She’d been living with 2 ladies, senior citizens, and now she was surrounded by kids. Oh my! They put her down the slide and introduced her to the neighbor’s cat. Within the hour she ran into her crate and refused to come out. The kids knew the crate was her sanctuary.
My husband, Mr. Non-Dog Lover, was the one who got her out. His secret – a steak bone. It was their one and only good moment in 14 years.
My kids had so many! Leia was FAST! I remember her standing, waiting between two bushes. My son and his best friend stood waiting to catch her. Sure enough, Leia squirted out, right between them, and neither kid caught her. When her kids were young, chase was Leia’s favorite game.
And if you wanted to see her doggy smile, just say the word walk, and she’d go crazy bouncing and barking. She only weighed 15 pounds, but she’d drag me down the street, choking the whole way. She was so happy to be out leading her human around! But her favorite thing of all time – taking her kids roller blading down the street. There was nothing better!
Part 3 – The Heart of the Family – No one will ever love you like your dog. She was my best friend. Leia was always happy whenever we came home. We might have been gone 10 minutes, or 10 hours. It didn’t matter . . . She’d bounce and bark with joy.
Inside or out, she loved to play. She’d chase kids, soccer balls, whatever moved! Leia loved tug-of-war. She’d never let go, even if we tugged her across the room. But her favorite kind of fun was licking any kid who landed on the floor or ground.
She slept in the kids’ rooms, but every morning I’d find her waiting for me to say three little words . . . Are you hungry? If she’d been fed, she wouldn’t move a muscle. But if not, she’d bounce and bark until I got the kids moving.
That was the starting point for her story. Leia was such a great character I knew she had to be in a book. I’ve been working on it since 2011, trying to get it just right, for my best friend.
Would you believe her character could be anything from a Great Dane to a Chihuahua? The illustrator gets to decide what she looks like. I hope my Leia is somewhere in the book. It’s why we did that photo shoot.
This was my favorite shot. We talked like this from the time she was a pup until the day she died. Leia would stop and sit. I’d lean over. She’d look and listen, sniff my breath to see what I’d eaten or where I’d been. Even as a senior dog, she kept tabs on me. I don’t think I’ll ever have a better friend. It’s been 8 years, and I still remember and hug tight the memories, of the way we were.
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!