Sticks was an awkwardly built, wiry haired white dog. She was about sixty pounds, with all of her weight in her sizeable trunk and nothing in her spindly legs – ergo her name, her legs were like sticks.
She lived in the house across the street from us when we first moved into the top half of a house on a hill. We’d found an apartment that would accept our dog and had a lawn for mom’s garden. There were signs that we would be happy there, with the smell of honey in the air, and the flowers starting to bloom in April. There was the librarian at the local library who smiled at me for no reason other than that she was a nice person. And there was Sticks, the calmest dog I’d ever met. I was used to black haired dogs, depressed dogs, angry dogs with psycho-social disorders.
Sticks wandered down her driveway towards me and she looked like a ball of white steel wool. She wobbled a bit, but she never barked, and she almost purred when I scratched her head. She was sunshine. Not the bright hot sun that burns your skin and wears you out, but like the soft rays of early spring on your face.
Sticks’ mom was in her late eighties or early nineties, medium height, white hair, and a little cushioned. She spoke with a German accent that made me unsure what she was saying. She lived alone in her house with Sticks and wasn’t up to taking her out for walks, and picking up poop, but Sticks was so well loved that neighbors pitched in, including me.
A few years later, I noticed that I hadn’t seen Sticks in a while. And then we heard from her owner’s daughter, that Sticks’ owner was in the hospital with end stage cancer. When we asked about Sticks and where she would go, we were told that Sticks had been put down, because she couldn’t live on without her person.
I couldn’t speak. I was so angry that no one had asked us if we would take Sticks in for her final years. I could have found a way to lift her up the stairs into our apartment if her arthritis made it too hard for her to climb. But no one had asked me, or warned me, and now Sticks was gone.
I never knew how old Sticks was, or what her health problems might have been. It’s possible that she was on her last legs, just like her owner, but that’s not how the story was told. I’ve never heard of a veterinarian euthanizing a dog because her owner was dying. And Sticks was so sweet, and loving to strangers, could it really be true that her life wouldn’t have been worth living without her person? I don’t know. But the story haunts me.