Frida died Saturday afternoon. It was my fault.
You may or may not know I love animals. You may or may not know I've rescued several dogs from the street. Some I bring home, bathe and feed, take to the vet, get them their shots and basic medical care (including spaying or neutering). When they're in good shape, I look for a home for them.
I'm worse than any adoption agency in terms of selection, and I rarely find acceptable parents. That's why I've given away only two dogs, and why I've kept four.
Frida was our second dog, and the first one my boyfriend named. She came to us in November 2008, skinny and terrified of everything. She looked like a miniature strawberry-blond Chow Chow. We had no way of knowing how old she was. The vet guessed around four or five--she'd had puppies maybe twice, but her teeth were worn, and her chin showed a few white hairs.
Frida was a sensitive dog, very quiet, painfully meek. She must have known hunger, but she always waited politely for her food. Sometimes she wouldn't eat, but just as we started to worry, she'd start again. She gained some weight, built up some muscle. With time, she stopped flinching at sudden movements, and learned to play--apparently she'd never seen a ball, had never had one thrown for her.
She liked to sleep on top of flower pots, we could never figure out why.
My favorite image is of her at St. Jorisbaai, a semi-beach area where I take the dogs free-ranging. She'd pump her short little legs to keep up with her bigger sisters. The wind would flap her short ears, make the tufts of her tail flutter. Tongue lolling, racing back and forth, she was the picture of happiness.
A week ago she didn't seem to have much of an appetite. On Tuesday she didn't eat at all, and on Wednesday again--nothing. I took her to the vet on Thursday, and he said she had tick fever. Those hideous parasites are everywhere in this island, impossible to eradicate even with Frontline and weekly anti-tick baths. She got a triple shot of antibiotics as the start of a two-week course.
Bloodwork showed her white cell count was up; she was fighting some kind of infection, but there wasn't a fever. The vet said let's watch her over the weekend. If she didn't improve, we'd get more extensive bloodwork done on Monday.
But we were out of time. On Friday I had to force-feed the antibiotic down her throat because she wouldn't eat it, not even wrapped in a chunk of liverwurst. She did want water. Except she threw it up every time.
In the afternoon I called the vet, and he suggested we put her on an IV for the weekend. She'd get enough fluids (and the antibiotic she needed). On Monday, when the lab opened, we'd get more blood tests done.
I took her to the vet's office Saturday morning. She had no fight left in her, so the IV in her front paw went without a hitch. We put her in a plastic transportation kennel with a clean towel of mine. The vet shooed me out and told me he'd call later to give me an update.
When I saw her last, she was looking out at me from behind the metal of the kennel door, panting. Her eyes were wide and scared, and a little voice told me, don't leave--she's too sensitive, too weak.
I left anyway.
At four o'clock I got the call. At six we picked up her body, wrapped in the same towel (now soiled). At seven-thirty we shoveled soil on top of her, now wrapped in a clean sheet. I couldn't bear the thought of the dirty towel being her shroud.
I can't forgive myself for this. I'm trying, but... I can't.