We first saw her walk out from under a car near our home – a grease-smudged ball of fluffy whiteness. She was, hands down, the cutest puppy we had ever seen – a tiny thing with little ears, button eyes, and curly tail – a stuffed animal come to life. Her cuteness was almost unbearable.
We asked her owner – a mechanic under the same car – if she had any brothers or sisters. He had bought her on a street corner in San Francisco and didn’t know. The following day, overrun by her puppy energy, he offered to sell her to us. I bargained her down to $35 and then brought her home as a surprise for Loveleen. We had a dog!
Almost instantly, she captured our hearts. When it came to picking a name, it came to me in a lucid ‘aha.’ My special “pet” name for Loveleen was “My little babushka.” I called her this with much much love and to give it away to this little puppy was no small sacrifice. Sensing her importance to us, the name was bestowed on her… our little Babushka.
Babushka was indeed a terror as a puppy, relentlessly yanking on my pant legs and Love’s skirts. She came with us everywhere – even to my construction job. Her first trip in the back of my truck made her pee, poor thing, but soon after she came to love her windy chariot.
At the time, I didn’t like leashes. To me they represented control and ownership, and I wanted Babushka to feel free and independent. There were times, I’ll admit, when I screamed out in terror when cars came a little too fast or a little too close, but her childhood was truly fun-filled with adventure and freedom.
As a tiny puppy, we never really imagined she would grow to become a big dog, but in her “teenage years”, those little bent ears stood up, her snout popped out and she grew. Our little toy became a big toy – now with wolf-like features.
Years later we had her DNA test done and discovered she was an equal four-part mix of Chow Chow, Alaskan Malamute, Akita, and Komondor. That combo, when flooded with love, is how you make a Babushka.
The reason I’m writing this is because today, fourteen years later, our little Babushka has moved on. It was hard to know then just how much of a part of us she would become.
Some fun Babushka stories…
One of the first astonishing events in her life happened when we left her in the back of Loveleen’s Karmann Ghia one day to quickly go into a store. When we came back, I noticed a wet paw print on the seat. I looked around to see where the wetness had come from. Did she pee in the car? After lots of looking, we found the near impossible. She did indeed pee. She had gone through a mesh net between the back seat and the trunk area into a jar that was tipped at an angle on its side. The jar was filled with pee without any spillage. Not bad for a 3-month old puppy! Good girl!
Another miraculous event happened that I shudder to even mention. One day, Loveleen had tied her on the driveway to the back bumper of my truck. It didn’t occur to her that I might drive off without noticing she was tied there, but that’s exactly what happened. I had to leave in a hurry and drove off unaware. Even worse, at this point, not only did we leash Babu because she had become aggressive toward other dogs, but we kept a full body harness around her to keep her from choking herself any time she lunged.
I had driven about two blocks before a neighbor waived me to stop and I looked back in cold horror to see Babu’s empty harness dragging from her leash.
By this time, Babu had become such an integral and beloved part of our lives. It’s hard to convey how much of our love we had entwined with this little being. The image of what may have happened to my angel was more horrific than I could ever express. I turned the truck around in horror to face whatever destiny lay waiting. When I got home, there she was! Alive and well, standing with Loveleen in front of our house, wagging her fluffy tail. I ran out to hug her and to receive her long kisses – both of us knowing just how close a call it had been. Loveleen had watched in terror as I drove off with Babu running behind my accelerating truck. That the harness miraculously slipped off her is something hard to explain. As I held my baby girl in deep gratitude, a praying mantis came from nowhere and landed on my hand. Grace. True story. Thank you.
But the biggest miracle by far was that for fourteen years we were all able to share a deep and priceless bond of love. I won’t lie. We’ve been good caretakers. Babu got her walks every day – she was showered with love and treats, and sometimes went for hikes through the redwoods or rolling hills. But what we’ve given to her can never compare to what she gave to us. Babu was a part of our lives. A big part. But we were a much bigger part of hers. She loved us profoundly. Wherever I went, she would follow. Whenever I looked up at her, she would be watching me. Whenever we drove home, she would be waiting, always overjoyed to see us. Her love was extraordinary.
One of my favorite things was getting kisses from her and looking into her innocent eyes while she kissed. Oh my lord, what a precious being. Knowing that she was dying, I made sure to do this often. Though it may sound odd, Babu and I would stare into each others’ eyes while she kissed me – sharing together an exchange of love – two beings radiating all of our love toward one another. The love that flowed was universal and overflowing. In love, we were true equals.
Babu was blessed to live a healthy life, though her last month was hard. Most everything began going wrong. Diabetes. Kidney disease. Liver disease. Infections. Seizures. Loss of mobility. No appetite. Through it all, she stayed loving.
We did everything we could. If she was to die, we wanted it to end on the right note – in harmony with the beauty and joy of her life. Deciding when to let go is a decision I wish on no one. That we were able to compassionately make this decision is something most take for granted for animals, though it’s a nearly taboo subject for people. This is something that ought to change. It is said that one’s state of mind at the moment of death sets the course for what comes next and is therefore of utmost importance. What matters most is that one’s mind is with love.
Knowing in our hearts that it was Babu’s time, Loveleen drove my truck as I lay with Babu in the back – my arm over her fluffiness, our heads pressed together, feeling the tremendous loss that had arrived. It was in the back of my truck that she was laid to rest. I could feel her pure white spirit surround us. Minutes later, a young dog appeared on the hill above us – a fluffy white dog with a puppy energy and an eerie resemblance to Babushka. It sat and looked at us as if to say “I am here. I’ve crossed over. I’m OK. Life goes on.”
All animals – every one of them – are our kin. We need to respect and treat them as such. Thank you, little Babushka, for all of your love and protection. And thanks to all the beloved beings of the world. Happy 14th Birthday on this Valentine’s Day. We’ll love you forever.