I didn't know that even after a year, it would be so hard for me to write this. I didn't know that after a year, it would still hurt like this. It's not as bad as it was, of course, but I still miss our loyal girl who was with us for 11 rock and rolling years.
From the first you showed strong will and character. I remember when we picked you out, one of ten in your litter, the only one of the five girls who took interest in the ball we showed you. I remember when we brought you home and you met Aslan, our golden retriever and your best friend. I can still see the concerned look on his face as you took over his bed, his toys and his life. Not that he really minded. He loved you as much as you loved him.
Mom says that she never raised a pup as difficult as you: you tore up the sofa, ate the phone jack off of the wall, tore your leash out of our hands and teased us running around the neighbourhood, climbed onto the desk to get at the paper in the printer because getting into the garbage was too easy, jumping or knocking down gates meant to keep you in... You were a holy terror. But it didn't matter, because you were our holy terror and your little pranks just made you more endearing. After the fact, of course.
You always had so much energy. You were the ideal hiking companion. I remember our summers in Tadoussac when mom would take off with you and Aslan and we wouldn't see any of you for hours. You were so funny, carrying sticks twice your length around in your mouth, whining when the logs you had grabbed were too heavy, but never, ever giving up. You were the stubbornest, toughest girl I've ever known.
You were also an amazing water dog and retriever! You'd fetch anything, sticks, balls, us... Swimming was always interesting with you there to "rescue" us. You'd never tire, even when you were old and long days of rescuing would leave you limping. Your love of your ball ensured that even though at 9 or 10 you were the oldest dog in the dogrun, you were also the fastest. No one could ever catch you, if you didn't want to be caught.
I think that that's why your death came as such a shock. The suddenness of your illness and the amount of energy you had right until the end despite partial blindness and slight arthritis fooled us all into thinking that you were indestructible. Maybe if we hadn't thought that, we would have called the vet sooner. You had us all fooled, there, hiding your pain until the end, chasing skunks even though you must have been in more pain than I can imagine. It wasn't until that last day that we really saw how sick you were. I'm sorry, puppy, for not seeing that sooner. I'm sorry for not noticing that you were hurting, or realizing that with your symptoms, I should call the vet immediately. I try to tell myself that it wouldn't have done any good, but there's always that little bit of doubt in my mind that won't leave me alone.
I'm sorry, too, that we didn't offer you a better life. You were never really meant for the city, especially after Aslan died. You were always too afraid of everything and everyone, you would have been better somewhere bigger with less scary stimuli, especially in your older years when you were going blind. Maybe it was selfish of us never to let you move to the country with a better family, but we could never have let go of our baby girl. Even when you died, it was hard to let go. You don't know how many sleepless nights I spent hoping that it was all a terrible nightmare and that my darling little girl would come back. I read everything I could get my hands on about parvo and memorized the list of symptoms that you should automatically call the vet about. I couldn't believe that you were gone and that I'd never see you again. I still miss you, sometimes, especially when I see a pretty lab go by.
I want to thank you, though, because I'm sure that you're the one who made sure that I found your cousin Louka at just the right time. It was pure chance that brought us into the SPCA that day, looking to meet another dog. I didn't even see him next to the dobermann that was jumping out at me barking angrily. But you whispered into your mommy's ear, didn't you? You told her to go get me, that he was the one. You would never have accepted another canine companion apart from Aslan in life, but I think that you chose your successor wisely. He will never replace you, baby girl, but I love him with all my heart and I thank you for bringing him to me.
It's been a year and we still love you, Gaia, I hope that you'll always know that and that when we finally cross the rainbow bridge ourselves, you'll be there, tail wagging to greet us.
I love you always,