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Princess Alba

a pitbull mix with her tongue out wearing a collar and a body harness
Alba at the beach in Pacific Grove

Last week, we said goodbye to a wonderful friend, loved one and teacher. We consider ourselves lucky to be able to call her all of these things because she was careful about who she considered family. We are pretty sure that before us, there were people who she counted on that abused her trust. We passed her trust-test and are all the better for it.

She taught us and reminded us of so many things about relationships:

Loyalty, having fun, being able to say no if saying yes does not serve you, letting go of what you can't control, standing up for principles, and knowing when to proceed with caution.

She was strong and could be stubborn but she was mostly sweet and accommodating, if people were decent and respectful of her boundaries.

It appears she'd been abandoned and that might explain why she didn't complain or act needy. We believe she was grateful to not just have a home, but a home where her pack had her back.

In 2013, a couple of wonderful, caring staff members from Animal Compassion Team (ACT), a local pet rescue center, found her on the side of the freeway with clipped ears and big patches of scabby skin where fur should have been. It was in the middle of a rain storm and when they drove by and saw her, they decided to take the next exit and loop back around.

We'll never know what she went through prior to being rescued, but the skin condition that causes her fur loss and scabs, is treatable with a daily pill. It's possible that her previous owners didn't or couldn't care for her properly, and they let her go so nature could take its course. If they were so cruel as to throw her away, their trash became our treasure! She was such a survivor and she deserved to be treated with as much love as we and the world could give her. 

Baths and thunder storms seemed to trigger the trauma of the rain storm she was rescued from. She hated even the thought of taking a bath. If the bath faucet was turned on, she was out the door before the first drop of water hit the surface of the tub. So, we learned to bathe her with love and sneak in an actual bath from time to time followed by treats. Rainy days were not great for her and she must have had a magic bladder because most times, she refused to go out to pee until the rain stopped. Rarely did she pee in the house and when there was a break in the storm, she would exit the house and spend what seemed like 5 minutes getting it all out. How did all of it even fit inside her?

She didn't like sudden loud noises and we learned to be careful not to startle her. Any sudden loud noise was always followed by us saying "Sorry Alba" whether she heard the noise or not. Thunder storms, July 4th and New Year's Eve could be explosion filled, anxiety ridden nights for her where we did our best to minimize what she could see and hear. We learned loud action movies on TV with fake explosions could effectively drown out and distract her from the real blasts outside. 

She didn't like crowds of people unless there were other dogs in those crowds."Dog people" were generally OK with her.

She trained us as much and maybe more than we trained her. We knew when she needed a sip of water, when she wanted a massage and when she wanted help getting onto the couch or to go out to the front yard.

She would walk the perimeter of the yard each morning like a detective canvassing a crime scene. Did any cats trespass overnight? What trees did the squirrels scramble up into? Where did Honey (her sister) pee?  So she could pee on top of it.

She liked playing with squeaky toys, finding the squeaker and chewing it out of the toy. She enjoyed laying in her living room bed and her sun-room Plufl looking out the window or dozing off for naps throughout the day. She was a finicky eater and she loved treats! Sometimes, we would use a shredder to shave sprinkles of her treats onto her food so she would eat it. I have tiny scars on my fingers from all the times I cut myself on the sharp edges of the shredder as I kneeled down over her bowl, shaving treats like a crazy man.

She used to get excited about going on walks until a year or so ago when she started going "Full Alba-Alba" on us. That's our name for when she would make it crystal clear she was not going to do something. She did this when she didn't want to go on a walk or go in a particular direction while on a walk and when she didn't want to eat her food, or go out for pee time, or take a bath. It wasn't a tantrum or a fit of any kind, it was simply silent, non violent, resistance. She would have been a great freedom fighter and could have taught Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. a thing or two about challenging the status quo. I can see her now sitting at the Woolworth's lunch counter in the 60's being told to "get out' or that she doesn't belong. And all she does is sit there refusing to move until she is picked up and goes limp as she is dragged out of the store.

We always personified her. We saw her as having agency and being deliberate and often we'd joke about what she'd do if she was in a particular situation or what she'd say if someone needed to be put in their place. Maybe that's why this hurts so much because she had this place in our head and heart that was so much more than just being a pet.

I miss her licks on my neck, my face and behind my ear. I miss massaging her and hearing her little moans of enjoyment. I deeply miss how she would hop up and run into the kitchen when she heard the squeaky door on the "treat cupboard" being opened. Recently, she stopped acknowledging the squeaky door and that's when we knew things were dire.

It was William who wanted a dog, and I resisted, for a while. I spent a lot of time on the road then, and didn't want or need another responsibility. He was home by himself when I was gone and we hadn't really made many friends yet and the ones we did have, had dogs. Our neighbors, Joy, Gerald & Lily, had 5 dogs and they invited us to ACT, the pet rescue center, to walk dogs with them. They introduced us to Alba who had been there about 1 year. She had been nursed back to health since they rescued her and all of her fur had grown back. William walked her. We went back another time and William walked her again. He ended up walking her many times until It was Valentine's Day of 2014 that I surprised him with the test adoption of Alba.

The plan was to have her spend the weekend with us and if all went well, we'd just keep her. If not, we could take her back. I remember that first Friday night when she growled and then barked while looking in my direction. It deeply concerned me that we had this strange dog in our house and just because we walked her a few times, it didn't make her actions any more predictable. I began to think about all the terrible pit-bull stories I'd read about and I suggested that we consider taking her back the next day.

William was not having it and when we tell the story of that weekend, he is quick to remind me that his concern was that I might need to be taken back, not Alba. She was here to stay!

I used to laugh at my friends who treated their dogs like family, until one day I realized my life revolved around feeding, walking, massaging, picking up after, clipping toenails of, brushing teeth of, cleaning ears of, giving medicine to and otherwise caring for and loving a dog. It took me a little while to love her like I do now, but as time moved on, I couldn't even imagine not being able to look at her every morning as her tail wagged and my heart beat a little bit faster.

She had a mellow, no-drama, everything is copacetic disposition. It's as if she practiced gratitude meditations before starting her day and sang Beyonce's (You Won't) "Break My Soul" afterwards. She made us so happy to be in her presence. We wanted to make sure she had everything she wanted and needed.

After we got her tumor diagnosis and decided not to have her undergo the very risky surgery, we gave her and the people she trusted a chance to say goodbye to each other. We spent her last few days making sure she was comfortable until she made it clear it was time for her to say goodbye to us too.

For 10 years of her life, William treated her like the princess she was. I soon joined the Alba fan club and I hope the home we created with and for her, made up for all the chaos she had to endure before she climbed, soaking wet, into the car of those compassionate ACT strangers who helped her begin a new life.

I am definitely a better human because of her and I believe William is too. As I type this last sentence, I am envisioning her shopping at Canine-Costco with a basket full of treats, tasting all the samples being handed out and enjoying all of the 0% chance of rainy days and baths that dog-heaven has to offer.

RIP, Princess Alba!

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2 komentarai

I am late in reading this post. My heart goes out to you and William. I've recently learned that pets are really family members and somewhat children we are entrusted with the care of them as they give their love in return. I'm sorry for your loss and pray you recieve heart healing as time grows.


RIP Princess Alba. You made this world a better place. 💜🙏

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