Tribute to Olive

Tribute to H.R.H. Olive

            There is a cycle of love and death that shapes the lives of those who choose to travel in the company of animals. It is a cycle unlike any other. To those who have never lived through its turnings or walked its rocky path, our willingness to give our hearts with full knowledge that they will be broken seems incomprehensible. Only we know how small a price we pay for what we receive; our grief, no matter how powerful it may be, is an insufficient measure of the joy we have been given.

                                                                                --Suzanne Clothier

Olive with heart rock

           There was Princess Grace of Monaco and Princess Diana of Wales, and then there was Princess Olive of Roseland, Virginia. My princess. At least that's what I called her in our later years together. Yet Olive had always been the Princess. She knew it; it just took me some time to realize it.

           Olive came to me as an adult rescue who'd been turned away or given back from several potential adopters already. It was my sister, Amy, who rescued Olive from her foster family when Amy saw Olive wasn't getting the digestive enzymes she needed and was literally wasting away. Olive was so thin by then she couldn't stand up, but neither could she sleep, and she'd lie on her side and simply stare into space. My sister took her in but, because she had so many dogs already, she asked if I’d take Olive. I had lost my male dachshund, Flash, the year before. Amy insisted Olive was not really a long-haired dachshund but rather an apartment-sized saluki, or simply a saluki with short legs (although I avoided the subject of short legs around Olive.)

           Perhaps what clinched it for me was when our animal communicator back then told me what Olive had to say. Before taking Olive from Amy, I had listened as Rebecca told me Olive thought she was a second-class citizen. She was always fed last, and never treated like the other dogs. That was just how it was, she said. She wasn't complaining (just as she would never complain at the end through fluids and syringes, weakness and nausea). But rather just stating how things were. Her words cracked open a space in my heart, and I knew then I would take this dachshund and not only show her what it felt like to be loved, but also to be treated with fairness and equality.

          What I think I understand now, and it took me until the end to see, was that probably Olive had been returned from family after family simply for her love of hunting. Apparently, she would escape her small suburban backyards and run off in what I assume was her quest to fulfill her dachshund nature and hunt (in the absence of badgers) various rodents. Or anything. Once she brought back a slice of pizza.

        Yes, Olive loved to hunt—and what a huntress she was—always staying out longer than any of the others, dragging herself in after hours, a green apparition covered in burs or a black, bedraggled creature, soaking wet from morning dew, and looking more like a sewer rat than a Princess. And because of her great love of the hunt, our home was perfect and I think she finally knew she had found a place to stay forever.

          I will never know Olive’s complete history, but my strong hunch is that she had started life as a puppy mill bitch—which would explain why she forever sought the outdoors, always looking for a little patch of sun or earth on which to flop.

          Puppy mill bitch or just unwanted dog, I think by the end, Olive had come full circle. Instead of being fed last, Olive was given her food first, up on a chair above the others, as only befitting of a regal Princess. And at night she slept beside me by the pillows.

         Olive was unique in that she was an all black dachshund, which meant she never showed up well in photos—usually just as a little black blob next to the beagles whose tri-color gave definition. And she wasn't an in-your-face kind of dog, so not always given the strokes and attention from visitors the others received. Unlike some dachshunds who can be snippy to people or other dogs, Olive was friendly and welcomed each new encounter. She wasn't afraid in foreign situations so, out of my pack, she was the one I would proudly lead through the pet store, or the one I’d smuggle into Whole Foods, incognito in the mesh bag that I’d once used for Lauren, Flash and Chance.

Throughout her life, Olive had her challenges, beginning with her lack of digestive enzymes, (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, or E.P.I.) for which I had to supplement her every meal. She developed bronchi issues and she had a chronically bad shoulder that the vets had me treat with Novox and crate rest all winter long. It was my great desire to cure this shoulder before spring so that my Princess could hunt. And hunt she did all spring and summer. But the Novox was most likely what killed her, destroying her kidneys silently without me knowing until Olive began showing signs and drinking more frequently.

The years had passed so quickly. I don't know where the days and weeks and months all went. Seven brief years together, and then just like that, she was gone from us—as quietly and effortlessly as she had slipped into our family, joining us seamlessly without drama or fanfare.

         Now, I walk around, forever looking for my little black and furry fourth.

         She left such a light foot (paw) print—perhaps because she asked for so little in life. Just that she be given the freedom to hunt. Not that her small form didn't leave its mark, such an elegant presence now gone. Of course, it did. Even with three others, there is an emptiness that echoes in our home. And I wonder how is it that such small beings can leave such giant holes?

        My time with Olive has been much too short. She was always a perfect dog, never asking and certainly never demanding anything (unless you count the occasional shove of muzzle up under my hand when I stopped rubbing.) She was smart and good and painfully accepting of what came her way, which was never more exemplified than at the end when I would shoot a syringe full of medicine into her refined little mouth, and stick her two and three times a day with the needle that delivered her fluids.

         The day after I understood that I would have to euthanize her before the week’s end, I sat with her and read to her from Joyce’s, The Dead. I share now the following passage that Olive edited only slightly:

            One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly (i.e. hunting) into that other world, in the full glory of some passion (i.e. rodents), than fade and wither dismally with age.

          When the last breath is taken, we may ask ourselves why the world doesn't stop, how can the flowers keep on blooming and the breeze still blow? How we retrace the last steps taken and wonder if we could have done things differently. We replay our memories over and over, wearing the groove deeper and deeper until in some cases it's all we remember. But I still have three mouths to feed, and walk and love, and though filled with sorrow, I take refuge in that which is familiar: the filling of water, the cooking and feeding, the doling out of treats. It's just that now a dignified dachshund is gone, our world off balance.

         But even when the breath stops, we do not cease to be, for we go on living in the hearts of those who loved us well. And even now, it is not her end moments—weak and exhausted, but still accepting of her fate, valiant and dignified to the end—that I remember. Rather, what I remember is a joyous Olive, the beautiful, black huntress who would grab her toy when I came home and race outside. The Olive who ran back and forth from me to the gate when I was about to let her loose to hunt. The Olive who would run and drop to the ground, rolling over a couple times in pure “joy of being” before bounding back up and running on when we all sat outside together on gentle, sunlit Sunday afternoons.

Olive rolls in pure joy of being with her toy squirrel

On Monday 27 August, three days before the vet came to euthanize Olive, I had a session with Patty Summers, our communicator. Patty confirmed how bad Olive was feeling and that she knew what was going on, but no surprise, she said Olive wouldn’t mind one last hunt. And so on that hot, humid afternoon I sat out sweating and waving away insects as Sasha, Olive, Isabelle and Sparkle all hunted around the front fields. Then, one by one, they came back: Isabelle first, plopping down beside me, content to sniff the air, and then Sasha to do the same, with intermittent explorations hoping to find hidden kibble in the grass. Even young Sparkle came back, panting hard, to lie down by my side.

But no silky, black dachshund.

I was growing worried. Had she collapsed and died out there in the fields? But I had to trust my intuition. I knew my Princess. I knew where she was and what she was doing and, more importantly, I knew what she wanted. Although nervous, I had to give her what she had asked for.

And finally, up from the tall grasses where once she’d been gored by the deer, she staggered, wobbling side to side. Up, up she came dragging herself, to collapse near us on the cut grass. I ran to her, relieved. “Olive! Oh, Olive! Did you see a lot of things?” I asked her as I always asked, stroking her sun-warmed body. And she wagged her tail back and forth against the soft grass telling me that she had smelled a lot of things. I told her how grateful I was that she had shared part of her life with me. I told her what a great hunter she was. And I told her I loved her.

On our last night together, I held her in my arms as I sat outside in what is now Olive’s chair. Dusk fell around us and I felt her sniffing the air. I marveled at her little sides puffing in and out, how very fragile she seemed that night. “Oh, Olive,” I said again. “How very, very much I love you.” I wiped at tears in my eyes and thought to myself, and how very, very much I am going to miss you. We all would. Perhaps Sasha most of all. Sweet Sasha who had watched her beloved Flash, then her mentor, Chance, and now her best buddy, Olive, all leave her behind.

As I try now to reassure Sasha, I also try to reassure myself. Because I think Olive will never be far from the funny little family and home that gave her love and the things she had always wanted. And now when I look out to the fields, I see before me a joyous black dachshund, toy in mouth, rolling on her back in the soft autumn grass.

I think in the end she knew how much I loved and respected her, and I know now that she loved me, too.

           Soar high, Princess Olive of Roseland, Virginia. Hunt those rodents in the sky.

Note to readers: I still have Olive’s digestive enzymes refrigerated and in good condition. If anyone has a dog or cat with EPI and needs enzymes please let me know and I will send them. These are Pancreatin 6x from Enzyme Diane.

Also: If anyone is dealing with renal failure with an animal companion, I can strongly recommend Chinese herbs, particularly Ba Wei DiHuang Wan or Rehmannia 8. If you Google Rehmannia, you will see a host of information. This combination of herbs turned Olive around. Her creatinine actually lowered, something that is unheard of in dogs with kidney disease. The Chinese herbs are able to increase blood flow. Even when almost all of the kidney has stopped functioning, a number of nephrons may still be able to work with adequate blood flow. Unfortunately, Olive was given other medications afterward that further damaged her kidneys to the point of no repair. I would not advise ordering Chinese Herbs off the internet even though prices are cheaper, because you won’t know the source of the herbs. I would advise seeking out a vet who specializes in Chinese medicine. In Olive’s case, the vet recommended Rehmannia 11 and I still have some remaining if anyone would like these. They won’t expire for a while. Olive would want to help as many critters as possible. Feel free to email me at Kay@kaypfaltz.com and I will send them.

Olive running and rolling with Sasha as Isabelle looks on askance. Bottom: Sasha, Olive, Isabelle and Sparkle hunting together in the fall.