Friday, March 29, 2024

Gratitude and Glimmers #82

I have put off writing this post for a month, probably because there is just so much to write, and I knew it would take me some time (and it did, more hours than I care to admit) but mainly because it would be so painful to write. Dayna gave me the idea to write it as my Gratitude post, because when you sift through all of the good (so much good) and all of the bad, it comes down to gratitude and love.

The love between a medium-sized Staffy-terrier mix rescue dog and her humans and fur brother.
May 23 - 27, 2021

This is a tribute to this wonderful little peanut who, much too soon, on February 26, went over the Rainbow Bridge. She taught us so much about patience and trust and compassion in the all-too-short time she was a part of our family. 

It was not quite six months that we had been without Rocco, our much-loved and cherished pibble, who appears throughout this blog from 2013 until 2020. Xena came to us from a rescue in Toronto, Stray2Play. They had named her Serena when they brought her into Canada from a partner rescue in San Antonio Texas, but we changed it. I thought we should keep it close to their name that she’d had for three months and hit upon Xena, and my husband said yes! aka Xena the Warrior Princess.

And she truly was both warrior and princess over the 2.75 years that she was with us. 

She was heartworm positive so part of our adoption agreement was making the return to trips back up to Toronto to finish her treatment. Despite being heartworm free from the summer of 2020 until the end of her life we knew there was some serious lasting damage, for whenever she ran a lap of our yard around the pool and flowerbeds, she would cough and gag, and sometimes throw up. However, it was a joy to watch her run that lap, occasionally lap and a half: eyes sparkling, a jowls wide, back teeth showing big grin on her face, tongue lolling out the side of her mouth, legs reaching like a thoroughbred grabbing for turf as she raced. 
Try as I might, out of the hundreds of photos and videos, I cannot find a video.

She and Rufus bonded first, and that bond was deep. He was her rock, and as long as he was by her side, nothing ruffled her; in fact she would often be the one in charge.  

It got so that in the evenings especially, she wouldn't settle until all of her pack were "in their SPAHHT", as we liked to quip, with a midwest US 'eck-cent': MacGyver on the couch, iPad in hand, TV on something calm like Bob Ross or Monty Don, Rufus and her taking turns from the IKEA Poang to one of their living room beds,
(or not taking turns!)

me, along with Bella, upstairs in my sewing room. Rufus tried hard to teach her to play, but it was only the past few months that she actually seemed to start to 'get' a game of tug. Toys never really interested her unless, in the early days at least, it was a Kong with a treat inside.

Not so much love was there between Xena and Bella, though Bella tried.
April 2022

It was actually pretty tense for over a year; when we did leave the house Xena was either crated, or when we started trusting her to be loose, then we'd block off the stairs to the second floor which is where Bella spends the majority of her time. Yet we got to a point this past year where Bella and Xena would both be on our bed at night when I read before turning out the light. And more than once, Xena went up to Bella and gave her a little kiss on the nose!
February 2023

Had she had more time, who knows how far she could've gone. 

She taught us about post-traumatic stress disorder. Her first two years were quite clearly horrible. Someone had 'really done a number' as our vet said, on her poor ears, chopping off the adorable floppy ears she was born with. I think that was why she hated the wind so much; she had no flaps to protect her ear holes.

‘Finding’ this small heart marking behind one ear was magical

She clearly had very recently had a litter of puppies; who knows maybe in her short approximately two years life before she came to Canada, she had had a couple. Were those pups killed? Taken from her too soon? Sold? We'll never know but an absolute terror of squeak toys happened about a year ago that had us thinking something terrible had indeed happened. She had two deep grooves in the fur and loose skin of her neck. That, along with a smart and graceful way of hopping over, to the point of a little front paws handstand move to ensure her back legs did not get caught up in her leash, made me realize she'd lived a lot of those years on a chain. For that reason, along with her sensitive throat and cough, we tried very hard to rarely put pressure with a leash on her neck. 

She was a 'flight not fight' dog, meaning when she was scared or upset about anything, she'd remove herself. Sometimes this meant taking off upstairs to my sewing room where one time she jumped onto the counter, kitchen-height, to the window; at other times, it meant scrabbling onto the couch back because that was further away from whatever had upset her than the seat! Never once did she snarl at, snap or bite any of us. Well, okay at Rufus, she snap/barked a couple of times because he was being a pest and trying to get her to wrestle by mouthing her legs, and she did snarl multiple times--sniff-- at poor Bella, but no aggression towards us. Even in the early days when she did not trust us, was very unsure of us, and still had her sort of squinty feral side-eye look, she low-growled once at me just once for sitting too close to her on the couch, and at Dayna once or twice for being too long inside her personal space bubble. After the trauma she suffered, this is not only remarkable but commendable. Probably her best friend other than Rufus was Riley, one of our neighbours’ dogs. She loved to goose him, we’d all laugh and I’m sure she chortled away in her doggie way. 

Getting that beef treat from Karen at the end of the walk made it all worthwhile 

She was headstrong, as bully breeds are. Having been picked up off the streets as a stray in San Antonio, we know she had street smarts and indepedence. Several times if she was tired of being on the deck with Rufus and wanted into the house and we didn't let her, or if one of us was in the front yard and she wanted to be there too, more than once did she jump over a 3.5 foot high gate on our upper deck, to yes, the stairs leading down to the lower deck, at other times she launched herself over the 4.5 foot high gate of our fenced in back yard. Did she run off? Nope. She would either run to us and whoever we happened to be talking to, usually Karen, above, or to the side door of the house or the front steps, and make it very clear she was coming in, no ifs or buts. How she didn't injure herself with those leaps, we do not know, but maybe they did take a toll on her ACL... Yet despite these few fence jumps, there were hundreds of times where she was content to be in the yard or on the deck, in a patio chair, which tells me she was happy with us.
August 2023

She taught us about quirks, and once again we found ourselves conjuring up her backstory. Her fosters told us they noticed she had a thing for vans and trucks, especially white ones, and we also found she was fascinated with the work-type cargo trailers and garages. Maybe she was a guard dog at a little garage/mechanic shop, maybe she was in charge of 'gettin' varmints' (she had a very high prey drive), or maybe she was a travelling dog in a big semi or one-ton dually work truck. Finally this past year that fascination with white vans and trucks had dissipated, though not with cargo trailers.

Flowers bling courtesy of Dayna 

She loved her routines too, as most dogs do, but for her it meant stability, and we gave her that in spades. I still miss our morning routine at the patio door before I let her out in the mornings. Rufus would go first, and then she would bow in down dog as I rubbed her belly from her armpits back to her thighs. She'd stand back up to let me massage the length of her spine starting at the base of her tail (how she loved that, sinking down in certain spots with an 'ooh' emotion, and then I'd massage her shoulders, working up her neck (those gorgeous beautiful soft wrinkles, I so miss), then along her jaw, at which point she'd lean, usually into my left hand, in bliss, as I worked into her ears and over her eyes with her good morning massage.

And then off! she'd run to do her business, usually finding where Rufus had peed, so she could pee on top of it. This morning massage did not come easily; she did not like to be touched and even to the end, she would usually flinch at our first touch, yet another sign of the trauma she obviously suffered at another despicable human's hands. So this massaging, barrel-style body hugging and head and butt massages were so very meaningful and we never took one of them lightly, because she let us in: me, my husband, Dayna, Brady and one special neighbour, Marybeth, who she adored. Marybeth was the first person other than my husband and me, who could pet and pet her.

She was so smart! We'd only touched the beginning of  what she would have been able to do, I'm sure of it. I taught her several tricks, much faster than Rufus, who still can't get how to sit up on his back legs! She'd sit, sit up, shake either paw, lie down, leave a treat I placed on her paw and not eat it until I said okay, roll over (though I realized this freaked her out a bit, so I didn't insist on it), gently take a treat from Dayna’s mouth…

If she wanted the Poang, she figured out how to get Rufus out of it: sashay over to MacGyver, all wriggly and cute, whereupon he'd start petting her, she'd be sure to give a couple of her oh-so-precious butterfly kisses, and boom, out of the Poang jealous Rufus would hop, to get some loving too, and BOOM! Over to the Poang she'd go and hop so gracefully and then plop down with a little hmph sound, content. Got Rufus every. single. time.

She had a way of getting me to stop sewing, MacGyver to stop reading something on his iPad, or Dayna, when she stayed here to look after them while we were away, to stop working and ‘pay her some damn attention already’ with the same ruse: get all wriggly, paw the person if necessary, stretch up to give them a kiss and the sashay her butt towards them for a little butt rub.

Many travels did she go on with us, and did she ever travel well, further supporting our 'trucker's dog' story of her previous life. She was a little too much of a good traveller though because she was fixated the entire time we had her on, first of all, our white (ha) truck, and then our Ioniq 5 SUV, which, she figured, was not allowed to move out of the driveway unless she was in it. I still find myself picking up the car keys as quietly as possible, cringing if they jingle, because I know she'll come flying, anticipating a car ride. I miss that.

Clockwise from top left: Port Perry, London, ON, Windsor Bright Lights, Lake Scugog, ON, Soring Hill, TN, and West Shokan in the Catskills, NY,   

And of course, she went several times over the river to Detroit, specifically Royal Oak, for football, backyard BBQs or just because.

She loved food, putting on weight from just 43 pounds when she entered Canada in March 2021, skin and bones, to a healthy 63 at her September 2023 vet visit. There wasn't much of anything she wouldn't eat, though spinach leaves was one. The stem? No problem. Leaf? Hard nope. All of our dogs have loved the spine of lettuce, especially of Romaine, and she would come running as soon as I opened the crisper drawer in the fridge. I miss that too. Rufus waits to be served, lol.

She did not like cold weather, so I bought her a couple of coats, one of which I had to take her out of the car and into Pet Valu to try on when it was 33℃! She never balked, and the girls in the store loved her. The best coat she had all too short of a time was her fuzzy pink one Dayna bought her for Christmas. Her first winter with us I bought her some pajamas (see below) that were a tad too small but she did wear them, just not the back legs, and they helped keep her warm in the house in winter. Dayna also bought her and Rufus each a set of pajamas that fit better which she wore the past two winters from time to time. 

We tried hard, but nope, she was not a water dog, though the very last time we had her at Point Pelee, she did go in up to her elbows! Again, I feel she would have learned to like the water had we had more time, but she was content to walk on the beach and watch Rufus swim out for sticks.

Those of you who follow my blog know the history, and how we struggled since January with her heart and breathing issues, the ACL tear, and then multiple complications post-surgery. Her poor heart and lungs could not take all that extra trauma.

January 2024

We still are in a bit of disbelief that it all went downhill so fast. We miss her every day. Our lives will never be the same, which is a cliché, but it is a true one. We are so much richer for her love and trust in us, we are better humans, more compassionate and accepting of others.

We are so very grateful for her presence in our lives, short as it was. She gave us so many laughs and smiles, and left lasting marks on our hearts (and on our chair legs).


  1. What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful girl. Sending you all a lot of love.

  2. Zena, you were so loved and so missed, those years of maybe cruelty and neglect, the short time in your new loving home gave you that safety and family time. Sandra, you will have a huge hole , but this tribute shows your love, patience, and all else you gave to Zena in the short time. For those of us who love, time is always too short. XXX <Jean.

  3. Beautiful tribute. And, a lovely piece of writing.

  4. Oh, Sandra, I'm so sorry to hear about Xena. You made each other's lives better - she really thrived with your loving care. This was a wonderful post about her!

  5. What a great love story. So sorry for your loss.

  6. Oh Sandra, I’m so very sorry for your loss. It is one of the hardest times to get through when we lose our much loved pet as they are family. I shall miss seeing her going around our block for walks… sending hugs…

  7. Made me cry, remembering my three rescued dogs and one lovely cat. Lucky and Samson were literally rescued from the street. Lucky had been hit by a car and was just sitting in the middle of a very busy road. Samson was found while my son was walking his dog and followed him home. He was basically all matted and feral. He bit me several times. He was so scared. I have no idea of his story, but he was so lovable. I have holes in my heart for these wonderful pets, all gone now. I am too elderly and fragile now to properly take care of another pet and I love hearing of others stories. I know how you feel and your story was amazing and so heart felt. The photos make me feel almost as I knew her. Thank you for taking care of and loving her.

  8. Xena sounds like such a lovely dog, and she was lucky to have you - as you were lucky to have her. I know you will miss her terribly, but there will be smiles too as you remember her. Hugs!!

  9. Thank you for taking the time to write this beautiful tribute, Sandra. She was blessed to be with you, and you certainly loved having her. Cherish all those precious memories!

  10. I'm so sorry for your loss Sandra. You were the best momma Xena could have ever had - and I'm sure that she loved the love you showered on her.

  11. Such a wonderful tribute, Sandra. How lucky Xena was to have you all. xxxx

  12. What a lovely tribute of love from both of you and her to the both of you. She will be missed for sure. It never ceases to amaze how a precious animal can change ones life.

  13. You rescued this lovely dog from whatever horrors she was living, and she repayed you with love, happiness and wonderful memories. It's always so sad to lose a beloved pet.

  14. A loving heartfelt tribute to a truly special girl! Hugs to you and MacGyver and Dayna too! It’s so hard!

  15. Thank you for taking the time to write such a loving tribute to Xena. I know how much effort you made to give her the best life possible. Your patience and love made her last few years a blessing, both for you and for her. I bet Rufus misses her, too. Bella probably not so much. Sending virtual hugs to all of you.

  16. What a wonderful tribute to your baby. Rescue dogs are the most loving and protective I too have found . My deepest sympathy loss of your dog.

  17. A beautiful and very moving post Sandra. I am so sorry for this enormous loss.

  18. What a wonderful tribute to Xena. I know she was well loved and that you made her life so beautiful. I am so sorry for your loss...all of you. It is so hard, they become part of the rhythm of the day and meaning in our lives that no one ever imagines. Thinking of you all...but knowing she is running free and without the worries and anxieties that were a part of her life.

  19. What a lovely post, a tribute to Xena. She was a beauty, and I'm so very glad she was with you for her last years. My heart is breaking just a bit, knowing how hard it is for you two and Rufus. You gave her a good life, and she loved you for it. Hugs.

  20. Hi Sandra, I'm so sorry about Xena. It's always heart breaking when our fur baby leaves this earth. Gratitude is a good place to be. Take care.

  21. Oh Sandra, what a beautiful tribute and you gave Zena hope, love and taught her to trust.
    She was an integral part of your lives and we’re so sorry for the heartbreak all of you are experiencing. Big hug, Liz& Dante.