Thirteen years ago, Patrick and I bought our first real home and moved in. I had always promised him that we’d get a dog when we got our own home. We brought Biscuit home on September 11, 2004. He’s a Snow White Tibetan Spaniel and rather fond of shoes, paper and wood. For a year, he chewed his way through our house, destroying window sills, base boards, furniture, tennis shoes, flip flops, expensive coffee table books, entire rolls of toilet paper. My boss told me that Biscuit was bored and lonely, and needed a companion. I told him that he was crazy. I needed another dog like a hole in my head. So…I looked at local pet rescue agencies and found a female Tibetan Spaniel at Atlanta Pet Rescue. We trekked en masse to APR to let Biscuit and the lady Tibbie meet. She had ZERO interest in him. Zilch. Feeling rather disappointed, we searched for another option. Standing amidst 40 raucous, barking dogs, Skyler looked like the chillest dog ever. He wasn’t jockeying for attention…he had a calm smile on his face and looked so happy. So we introduced Biscuit and Skyler…
The boys hit it off instantly. Biscuit is naturally submissive and ridiculously docile. Skyler had the domineering personality typical of chihuahuas (he was a papillon chihuahua mix, we think). We took him home and I went back to work for the remainder of the day. Fast forward to five o’clock…Andy calls me and asks if I had turned the new dog over. Erm, no. Andy told me that Skyler had giant swollen black testicles. He was supposed to be neutered!!! I called the vet in total panic. I assumed that he was going septic and/or had gangrene. She assured me that he was merely suffering from a post-op infection and that we could bring him in the morning for an antibiotic shot. I was certain he’d be in ICU by dawn. Skyler’s balls healed nicely after all. Unfortunately, he had contracted kennel cough and passed it along to Biscuit. Their first month together was spent miserably ill, sleeping in twin round dog beds, side-by-side, forming a very special bond.
I have so many stories about Biscuit and Skyler…it’s going to be difficult to condense 12 years worth of love. My heart hurts everyday because he’s gone now, but I have to record all of this, even the pain. It’s all part of how much we loved him.
Running away: Skyler was my Olympic runner. He could dart out the door if you gave him three inches of space. He’d be bounding down the street, jaunty tail fanning out behind him like a flag. I’m fast on my feet, and Patrick is like lightning, but Skyler was cheetah-on-a-rocket fast. You couldn’t catch him unless he stopped to eat, poop or snarl at another dog. For Sky, it was all a game. He’d turn around and laugh at you, eyes sparkling, chest heaving, before taking off again like Flo Jo. After nearly being run over by cars chasing him, we learned to just let him roam. His microchip saved him on several occasions.
Eating terrible things: Skyler spent an unknown amount of time as stray. Someone obviously cared for him as a puppy, but he escaped into the world and had to survive on his own. He was supremely scrappy and resourceful. Week old catfood, chicken wing bones, raisin oatmeal cookies stolen from a toddler, leathery, sun-baked bullfrog roadkill, an entire pack of Xylitol-laden chewing gum, steamed broccoli, giant green grasshoppers…the world was his buffet. We spent many a late night at GVS getting emetics and watching him yak up his strange meals.
Singing, dancing and paw pumping: Skyler had quite a few talents that we discovered in time. Cell phone ringtones bothered him and he’d sing and howl when certain tunes played. Canned Heat was his favorite/least favorite. I have a few videos and, boy, could he sing! When I’d come in the door after a long day, he was certain to greet me at the door, jumping up on his hind legs, dancing around and pumping his front paws. He taught Biscuit to pump his paws too; only, Biscuit does it when he’s laying on his back.
Puking on my head: I still laugh out loud telling this story. I was home one day from work, sick as a dog, suffering from a sinus infection and bronchitis, laid out on the sofa like a corpse. Biscuit and Skyler were snuggled up behind me. Suddenly I felt a wet “SPLAT”! on my head and shoulder. I woke up instantly, hearing the blurp, blurp, blurp noises as Skyler heaved and prepared to unload more. My screams scared him and he popped up on the back of the sofa, where he proceeded to puke again. I yelled more and he jumped down onto the rug. BLURP, BLURP, BLURP! Boom! Right on the rug! Dripping with vile, goopy kibble, I bellowed again, and propelled Skyler across the rug (scooting him across like a shuffleboard puck) until he landed on the hardwood floor near the sliding glass doors. BLURP! I opened the door, deposited him outside and watched in disbelief as he dry-heaved. It took me an hour to clean up everything. Poor little guy looked so contrite. I think he was so sympathetic that he got sick to more fully commiserate with me. Or he snarfed his food down too quickly…
Attacking other dogs big and small (mastiffs, Doberman, etc.): Skyler only ever liked three dogs…Biscuit, Bella and Hudson Lou. He loved all people and only three dogs. As a stray, he must have used his hysterical behavior to deter other dogs from approaching him. He’d rear up on his hind legs, pumping and snarling. He was pure ferocity, all twelve pounds of him. Skyler would run up to the biggest dogs and jump right in their faces. He’d also terrorize the smallest four pound teacup poodles. I never knew how fierce the attack would be. He reserved his toughest fronts for the most gargantuan canines…the bull mastiffs and the Dobermans. Sky loved to run pell-mell into the backyard of the 150 pound male and female mastiffs, giddily riling them into a frenzy. The female dog was so big and strong that she could crash through a stained glass door. She could have swallowed Skyler whole. His second favorite dog to antagonize was the nearby Dobie. Skyler went right for the jugular…and almost reached his chest. Almost.
Befriending Bella and Hudson Lou: Skyler had an immediate repoire with Hudson, a second generation cockapoo. I think Skyler perceived him as a twin. Huddie was jumbly and gregarious, without a mean bone in his shaggy frame. He rocked a faux hawk and the sweetest smile. Skyler wasn’t so taken with Bella right away. She was a gorgeous golden retriever, long flowing locks and a goofy, harmless demeanor. She’d lay down and pee on herself when my boys approached. Skyler would snarl and jump on her. It took years before he realized that Bella meant no harm.
Finding friendly humans to rescue him: Skyler regularly escaped and seemed to have a knack for finding hospitality wherever he landed. Once he spent two nights away from home. We were massively worried, especially since coyotes regularly roamed our neighborhood. I put up reward posters in all the surrounding communities. I checked with our vet’s office. I was going to start calling shelters and animal control, when I got a strange phone call. All I heard, in a tiny voice with a soft accent, was “reward?”. I said “yes, do you have my dog?”. The response…”yes, reward?”. I could tell that I was definitely speaking with a young Hispanic boy. He kept repeating the request while I was trying to get an address so I could bring him his reward. Skyler had wandered into a nearby apartment complex. I knew that it was full of big dogs when we drove up because the barks resonated all around the dark parking area. Wandering to the back side of the building, we found the right door and knocked. To my surprise, an entire family, full of friendly, smiling faces, welcomed us when the door opened, including Skyler standing in the center of the crowd. The little boy came up and said “reward?”. I laughed and said, “yes, absolutely.” He couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8, very close to Patrick’s age at the time. His relatives didn’t seem to speak any English, and he only spoke limited phrases. I handed him his cash reward. He thanked me and told me “We fed him a lot. He was hungry.” To which I replied, “He always is”. The boy translated this to his family and they all started laughing. No one could believe that this slender, tiny, scrawny, 12 lb dog was always hungry. I thanked them all profusely and carted Skyler off in my arms.
Attacking cicadas: Biscuit and Skyler loved cicada season at Otter Creek. They would chase the wildly buzzing bugs all over the huge deck. They were too afraid to actually bite the loud insects, but they’d spend ages toying with them. I even have video (sadly I can’t post it here, but it does exist).
Eating grasshoppers: Skyler also loved to nosh on those enormous green grasshoppers. I saw him grab one in his front paws, rip the head off and snack on it like it was popcorn. Biscuit watched the entire scene, head cocked in curiosity. He never ate strange things like Sky.
Chasing Biscuit: Nothing excited Skyler more than tussling with Biscuit. He’d chase him all over the basement carpet, tearing around the quilting tables like two race cars. Skyler took particular interest in Biscuit after they had baths. He’d hump Biscuit repeatedly, which never bothered Biscuit (he’s a very docile, submissive dog).
Destroying Loofah dogs: I’ve bought tons of dog toys to please the boys, but their absolute favorites were the Loofah dogs. In case you aren’t familiar, they are long, skinny, soft dog toys that look a bit like Dachsunds and usually have one or two squeaky bits inside. They’d parade all over the house, fighting to have both instead of sharing. The loofah dogs would last a few hours, and then I’d find stuffing everywhere.
Smelling like a tortilla chip: Yeah, he smelled like a tortilla chip when he hadn’t been bathed in a month or more. I think it was the oils and lanolin in his coat. I miss that smell.
Looking like a Dr. Seuss Character after being groomed: I’ll have to dig up a photo depicting this. It’s hilarious. The groomer made his feet look huge, shrunk his body, left his head poofy and gave him a massively fanned out tail.
Traveling cross country: In 2015, I packed up my BMW 3 series, loaded up the boys in their seat belt harnesses and got them situated in plush dog beds in the black seat. We went all the way from Atlanta to San Diego and back, with stops along the way to visit family and friends. Skyler ran away in El Paso, making new friends with a military family on base. He endured gastric episodes every other day, with vomiting and diarrhea. I never could figure out what was causing all of his distress. It took months to slightly solve the riddle…he could no longer eat grains…just protein and veggies. In San Diego, my cousin Summer Lee took incredible care of him and helped him recover from his illness. She kept him at her vet office while her mom and dad took me sailing around Coronado. He and Biscuit would take turns sleeping in the car, so there was ever a watchful eye on me and the road. Skyler was always a great car dog, never whining or running around with stress. He’d curl up and get cozy. Even Biscuit seemed to relax and enjoy the ride. We were the Three Musketeers, braving maurauding motorcycle gangs, crackheads and goats head burrs (if you’ve never experienced one of these spiky monsters, consider yourself VERY lucky). And a wave on the beach that nearly washed us all away…well, Biscuit at least. I’m so thankful we had that trip together. So many special memories.
Nursing me through depression again and again: Skyler was the most empathetic little dog I have ever known. Scientists say that dogs can understand over 140 facial expressions that humans make, more than even other humans recognize. Dogs can also understand the tone of your voice and some vocabulary. Their sense of smell gives them an additional advantage in sensing our health and mental disposition. Biscuit is sweet and caring, but Skyler would always snuggle with me when I was crying. I spent so many nights on the couch, either weeping, overeating horrible things, or simply inert, and he was my comfort. He never left my side. Skyler knew that I was sick and suffering. He could smell the sweat, the stress, feel the sobs, the tears, my pounding heart. He was so quick to offer kisses. I’d have accepted them all if only he didn’t like to eat poop. He gave all his love to try to heal me. He got me though the worst times with his quiet love, whereas Biscuit would clown around to make me laugh. Together they were the perfect therapeutic combination. If you ever want to dig through my blog, you can find more stories from the trip.
You passed away on a Thursday, April 20th, in my arms. I spent the day with you, as I should have spent so many days. I held you in my lap and didn’t want to ever let you go. I took you to see Gran, and Bam and Papa. I asked Heather to come see you and say goodbye. Ali came over and sat with me for awhile too. Patrick had said his farewells before he went back to school. Papa teared up saying goodbye to you…he loved you so much. We all stroked your little head, your perfectly round noggin.
I didn’t want to let go of you, holding you in the blanket. Your spirit had already departed your tiny body, but I didn’t want to let go. I didn’t want to put you in a box and bury you. I can still feel you in my arms. I’ll never let you go, Skyler. I loved you every bit as much as Biscuit. I’m sorry if I ever played favorites. You were every bit as special, every bit as delightful, every bit as loving and wonderful. I wish I had loved you more, done more for you, doted on you as much as you deserved, taken better care of you. I did what I could with all the distractions of modern life, but I wish I had been less selfish with my time. I’d have reached for all your kisses, let you sleep in the bed with us, taken you for more walks, loved you more. We don’t realize how finite something so precious is until it’s too late and you’ve run out of time. Knowing that I was at least so incredibly blessed with your love is some consolation, but no other dog can ever replace you in my heart. I’ll never let you go, my sweetest little man.