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Pretty pretty princess

December 25, 2010, Crianza got a Christmas rawhide. She finished it in about two days.

I'm still in shock. Five days ago, I gave her one of the best tummy rubs and all out love sessions in recent memory. I spent nearly an hour petting her and rubbing her and loving her, especially her ears and head and neck, and she gave me tons and tons of kisses in return. She and I fell asleep together, with her on top of my head, my hand on her chest. Every now and then she'd wake up to get water, and we got into a lovely routine of moving out of the way for each other but making sure we stayed close to one another. And now she's gone.

Crianza will always be my pretty, pretty princess puppy. She was a girly dog from the get go. She pranced, rather than walked. She danced and spun and hopped in excitement. She had this beautiful, beautiful face, with a longer nose than most of the other puppies. And her fur fell in such a way that her eyelashes looked exaggerated. From the age of maybe three on, she had constant problems with allergies and other things that made her itch, such that she scratched off a lot of her cords and always looked a little ragamuffiny. At some point, she had these low hanging cords on either ear, and we started calling her the Hassidic puppy. But I never, ever saw her as anything but a pretty, pretty princess.

Crianza was quiet and reserved and serious, and she didn't warm up to other dogs and people as easily as some of the other dogs. She chose to quietly assess the situation before deciding whether someone was worthy of her, though she always politely said hello to the people that she met. She didn’t like people who were too aggressive or friendly with her, though. Her personality wasn't as dominant as some of the other dogs, and that made some people mistake her reservedness and relative quietness for shyness. At the ranch, she usually sat underneath one of the mission chairs in the kitchen. And she'd bark or growl at the other dogs from there. Often, people would sit in those chairs having no idea that she was there. But she loved the people she chose to love quite thoroughly, and she was always very, very sweet to them. Most of my friends knew her well, and she loved it when they came over. She got to see almost everyone on Monday night because we hosted our weekly geek night. She barked at everyone, and greeted them, and then she retreated to sit with either me or Graham.

As reserved as she was, Crianza never held back if she felt something strongly. If we asked her if she wanted to go outside, she’d dance and hop and spin. When she got to my parent’s front door, she would hop up and down on her front paws outside the door until she was let in. Along with two of her littermates, she had unusually good balance, and could stand on her hind legs for minutes at a time, dancing. Whenever she thought she would get to go on her leash, she’d bark and bark and bark, and hop and hop and hop, and sometimes it was hard to get her to calm down enough to put the leash on her. She couldn’t wait to GO! Crianza knew the sound of my car and Graham’s scooter, and neither one of us could sneak up on the house without her knowing about it. She’d bark like there was no tomorrow and keep an eye on us in the driveway. As soon as we got to the front walk, she’d zoom over to the front door to make sure that she was there to throw herself upon us the second we walked in and welcome us with the dulcet sound of her barking. The only time this ever was a problem was when Relampago’s tattoo was fresh on my right thigh.

Crianza loved to chase birds and squirrels. I got her a birdfeeder early on in her life, so more birds would come into the yard to chase. In the spring and fall, I’d leave the back door open, and when there were enough birds, I’d yell “BIRD!” and Crianza would go tearing out of the house to chase them, not having to stop to wait for me to open the door. Whenever we threw bread in the backyard, Crianza'd wait for the birds to amass and then run full on to scare them away. She never came close to catching anything, though her crying was somewhat pathetic when she occasionally treed a squirrel in the crepe myrtle. She also liked to chase frogs, hopping when they hopped. Right after Crianza got better from sick, Graham and I took her and Celosa to the park for a long, leisurely walk, and she spotted squirrels from paces and paces away, pulling at the leash so she could chase them.

Crianza would sit for hours in or on her big yellow chair in the living room, with her head facing the window, prepared to bark at anyone walking a dog or anyone looking otherwise suspicious. She was very worried when we rehabbed the fireplace and the chair moved a little bit. Security could be compromised if her station got too out of whack. Relampago taught her how to sound the alarm, and after he died, she took on the responsibility of protecting our home upon herself, as if it were a sacred duty. She was into sacred duties. She had a variety of different barks, and if she was on full alert, it took quite some time for her to calm down. I never minded, because that was her job and she was very good at it, but sometimes it did get a little out of control and she had to be reminded she lived with other people.

Crianza also liked to sit behind people's heads, on the back cushion, so you ended up with a pretty puppy draped around your shoulders. Sometimes she'd put her head on your shoulder, sometimes she'd kiss your head. She'd sit like that for hours, especially with Graham, and watch TV or a movie. She’d do it with guests she knew and trusted, too, and to anyone who sat in her chair. In fact, on Monday night, she jumped over me and hopped up on her cushion behind me, because I was sitting in her chair. I think I read at least two of the Harry Potter novels and countless other books with Crianza draped behind me.

Crianza was resourceful. When she was a baby, I called her Houdini, because she could get out of the bathroom. I’d close one door and baby gate the other, and she figured out how to scale the baby gate. When I closed the pocket door, she just banged on it over and over and over again until it moved enough for her to wiggle out. She banged on it so much that it broke, and I ultimately had to replace it. Ultimately, we moved to crate training. She loved her crate and deep into her adult years, she went there to be safe and chill out, especially if we were in the kitchen. Sometimes the door swung close in her absence, but she could open it by banging her paw on it and catching it on the ricochet and opening it the rest of the way.

Crianza did have a bit of a troublemaker streak in her. She was the only puli I've ever had that destroyed property. My favorite pair of shoes at one point, a necklace that I liked, the buttons off of several shirts and a favorite dress, the snap off of a nice pair of pants. She broke one of her canines when she was fairly young, and I used to tease her that she was a hillbilly puppy. She also stole stuff off the dining room table a few times, including a chocolate bar on one memorable occasion, causing her to have excess energy for hours and hours and hours. And she once stole a baguette and then had to steal it back from Relampago. And of course, there was the great drug terror of 2008, when she memorably got into 18 of Relampago’s heart medication pills, causing me amazing stress and panic. She was the only one of my dogs who ever had an issue with housebreaking, forgetting sometimes that she could just ask to go outside instead of using the kitchen rug. But she was always good about baths, fighting less than any other puli I’ve ever had the pleasure to bathe.

And Crianza had a bit of a daring streak. When she was just over a year old, she spent a whole day and a half working up the courage to jump off the end of the dock and into the pond. It was almost the end of the second day, and I heard a splash and saw this little black puppy trying to swim. It wasn’t the most elegant stroke I’ve ever seen, but she did it, and she got safely back to shore more or less swimming on her own, though I did guide her by putting my hands under her tummy, just in case. She also, as a young pup about Celosa’s age, ventured into the pasture to chase cows all by herself. But as daring as she was, she wasn’t particularly a country dog. She loved going to the ranch, sure, but she mainly enjoyed sticking closer to the comforts of the house. Once, when she was almost three, she she demanded to be carried halfway through a walk at the ranch. And she was never as interested in running into the pond and carrying on like Celosa and Relampago were.

Crianza was funny in the car. She liked to sit right next to me when I was driving, on the console. She would lean into me and put her nose under my right armpit, pushing up until I relented and put my arm around her body. And then she’d either sit looking ahead, lean up against me, put her head on my lap, or wrap her head around my arm so she was in what I called “flamingo” position. The poor passenger always ended up with a claw in the leg, because she used them for leverage. I really think that she fully believed that we wouldn’t be able to go anywhere unless she was helping me drive.

I never once worried about Crianza running off or running away. It simply wouldn’t occur to her to leave me or Graham. Once, the gate was accidently left open by the yard men and I had no idea, and she and Relampago calmly stayed in the yard (Zapata, a visitor that day, had to be chased down half a block). She’d sit sometimes on the front porch, leashed to the pickets, while I did yardwork.

Crianza was a school marm that liked to maintain order, telling everyone else what to do. She's broken up countless play sessions, because the other puppies were too rowdy. My family called her the "fun police" and one of the signs that she was feeling better was that she broke up Chicken and Celosa playing early on during Thanksgiving. She loved playing with Celosa, but only on her own terms. She'd make Celosa do all the running, and she was very good at ultimately ending up with whatever the favorite toy of the day was. If she wasn't in the mood to play, you'd hear this low growl come out of her, and every now and then she'd loose her cool and snap a menacing bark. Fortunately, Celosa is a pretty even-keeled little dog, and she took Crianza's moods in stride. Once at the Christmas tree cutting party, she helped two 9 year old girls play soccer. Clearly they needed supervision, and she was the one to help them.

Crianza was always wary of strange dogs. When I took her to puppy class when she was a baby, she was scared of the other dogs in the class, even though they were all other puppies. Even when she was bigger, she was afraid of puppies. Big dogs made her uncomfortable most of the time, and due to a few incidents, she was terrified of Holden, from an early age. And she didn’t like Chicken from the moment they met, I suspect because Chicken was the first animal Crianza met that was cuter than she was (a puppy, to be sure, it was no longer the case when Chicken grew up). Because Relampago didn't like other dogs at all, we didn't go too much to the dog parks when she was younger. The first few times she went, three or so years ago, she was absolutely petrified, and she wouldn't leave my or Graham's side except to tell other dogs not to come too close. But over the years, she'd get more and more over her fear, and by the end, she was actually started playing with other dogs at the dog park. Sometimes she’d even go so far as letting the other dogs actually play without instruction, though most of the time she was really demonstrating her herding ability.

Crianza loved cookie dough, and hopped around when she saw anyone with it. She's stick like glue to whoever had some, praying and hoping and willing some to fall into her mouth. She was almost always rewarded. She was patient. She'd sit with perfect posture for what seemed like hours, staring at whatever it was that she wanted. She didn't squirm like Celosa did, or get bored, like Relampago did. She'd maintain her vigil.

Crianza also loved her moose and mouse. They were given to her when she came home as a baby puppy, and they were always her favorite toys. She’d hold them in her mouth and squeak for hours and hours and hours. And she’d always try to get someone to throw them for her. She could con Graham into it fairly easily, and when Celosa came, they’d play this complicated game of “I have the moose/mouse" for what seemed days at a time. Every now and then the moose or mouse would get injured and I’d have to do surgery, and Crianza would sit by my side, looking worried, until I gave the toy back to her, relatively unscathed.

When Graham moved in, she fell instantly and deeply in love with him, and he with her. She was fascinated with Athena the cat, but she absolutely LOVED Graham. She literally would throw herself on him, putting her paws on his thighs and telling him how much she loved him. He'd rub her back and neck, and she'd throw her paws on him again, telling him she wanted more. The first few months he lived with us, they fought over who got the pillows next to mine. She slept on his head more nights than not, and eventually they came to an arrangement so she slept right next to him. When she started getting sick, she moved back to the pillows over him, and she LOVED that we had a king sized bed at the ranch so all of us got the pillows. She followed Graham around all the time, never being outside the same room from him. She would lick his face in the mornings, making sure his forehead and eyeballs were clean. And he'd rub her down, telling her that she was such a pretty puppy and the owner of his canine heart. He bathed her, walked her, fed her, and made sure that everything was in proper order for her. She gave him every ounce of love she could muster for him.

I keep on wanting to find more things to tell you all about Crianza, to keep on writing, to give you more of her. I know that there’s some story I’ve forgotten, some video that I need to link to, some post that helps explain my pretty little girl better. I want you all to understand how much I loved her, how important she was to me. I want you to see that sweet smile, to feel that soft fur, to understand how precious her kisses were, to hear the nuances of her barks. I want you to be as full of love for that 27 pound body and personality as I was. I’ve looked at every photo I have of her, I’ve read every post I wrote about her, every chat and e-mail that has her name in it. In my digital photo library, no one has been tagged more than she has. I miss her so much and she’s only been gone 24 hours.

I’m still in shock, and I still break down crying. I didn’t think that she wouldn’t come back when I dropped her off at the vet’s office on Tuesday morning. I thought we were being proactive, preventing another round of hospital stays. She regained all that weight she lost. She was happy to engage in play with Celosa. She was even a little aggressive about food and attention and her place in the world. I thought we’d see her later that night, and I even posted in my facebook that she’d come home that evening. When I talked to the vet the first time, she sounded worried, and I started to be concerned. And then, the second time, when we got the diagnosis, I was shattered. But we were supposed to pick her up the next day. We were supposed to get more time with her.

We got the call at 7:30 yesterday morning that Crianza had died in her sleep sometime during the night. As soon as the phone rang, I knew what happened. No one calls that early with good news, and the most likely source of bad news was Crianza. And there was only one bit of bad news that was worse than that which we’d received the day before. Graham and I were still in bed, and Celosa was sleeping between us. Celosa was an angel. She crawled on my belly when the phone rang and gave me soft kisses when I got the news. Graham talked to the vet, who was crying too, and apparently the cancer was advanced all over her body. They think it was very quick acting cancer, and that she didn’t suffer. Since she was fine as recently as Sunday.

I was incoherent for most of the morning, unable to talk, unable to do anything. Graham had to make all the calls to family, and I was able to hold it enough together to call into work. Finally, my sister Claudia—who’d coincidentally taken the day off—came over and took me away for awhile. We ran an errand or two, I saved a wayward puppy from wandering in the street, and then she took me and Graham to the zoo, which was a perfect place because you can’t be too sad looking at a baby elephant . Claudia, who just went through this with Holden, was the perfect person to spend the day with. Jose came over in the afternoon, and Olivia called in the evening. I haven’t had the strength or energy to talk to non-family members, except my secretary who is a dog person and asked this morning. And my boss, who wanted to make sure that I was ok. Graham went to the vet’s office to pick up Crianza’s leash and collar and some of her cords—we’d asked them to do that for us—and he said that they were so kind to him. They told him that Crianza was loved by everyone who worked there, and that she died with people who cared about her. They even had a meeting earlier that morning to tell the staff that she’d died in the night, and everyone was very sad to hear it.

I know that Crianza is at peace. I know that I couldn’t prolong her life. I didn’t want her to suffer, and I don’t think that she did. She knew that she was loved, and in the time between coming home from her last illness to when she died, she was spoiled rotten. She ate, she drank, and she was merry. She got Thanksgiving, the Christmas Tree Cutting Party, a geek night or two, Christmas, and the ranch. She got cookie dough and bacon and chicken and pork shoulder and shrimp and quail and cheese. She chased Celosa and Chicken, and she growled at Zapata from under her chair. She went on a walk with just me and Graham and Celosa and Zapata. She came out to the pond to inspect the proceedings there. She got a king sized bed so she could take up all the pillow space she wanted. She spent six whole days at the ranch with us, and ten days with the two of us—almost non-stop. We both got alone time with her, showering as much love as we could upon her in the days before she died. And it would have been awful for her to come home and for us to wait around for her to die.

Crianza is with Chispa and Relampago and Holden now. Chispa never knew her, but she would appreciate Crianza’s sense of order. And she loves and trusts Relampago. And together they’ll keep an eye on me and Graham, and make sure that Celosa doesn’t get into too much trouble. And they’ll wait for us, because they love us even more than we love them, which is pretty damned unbelievable.

Throughout all of this, I’d ask Relampago to help me get through it. I asked him to help her in November, and he did. I asked him to keep an eye on her at the vet’s , and I think he did. And now, I think she’s out there to help me too. I think she woke me up to tell me goodbye, because at around 4:00 am on Wednesday morning, I was woken out of a deep sleep and couldn’t think of anything but her. It took me an hour to fall asleep again.

I miss you so much, Crianza, my pretty, pretty princess. Sleep well, and know that in your short life, you were beloved.



( 17 comments — Say something )
Jan. 6th, 2011 11:43 pm (UTC)
She was so lucky to have all you! She was an awesome dog to you and I am so sorry for your loss! All of you are in my thoughts.
I was and am still crying, hence this second post with proper punctuation and spelling.
Jan. 6th, 2011 11:53 pm (UTC)
That is a beautiful remembrance of her.
Jan. 7th, 2011 12:11 am (UTC)
A beautiful memorial.

I'm so sorry she's gone, but I'm glad you had her and that she had you.
Jan. 7th, 2011 12:43 am (UTC)
i'm so glad to read all this and feel more how wonderful adn loving and precious and loved she is. it's a beautiful memorial, and thank you so much for sharing it.

Jan. 7th, 2011 01:52 am (UTC)
so I can't see my monitor clearly enough trhough the tears to type much. but bless you for writing this, and all of you for the love and joy you shared.
Jan. 7th, 2011 02:09 am (UTC)
Just beautiful.
Such a beautiful, fitting, touching memorial.. thank you so much for sharing Crianza. I'm choked up and just in tears, and so happy that her last days were filled with spoiling and love.
Jan. 7th, 2011 02:16 am (UTC)
A beautiful tribute, 'stina. Hugs.
Jan. 7th, 2011 03:01 am (UTC)
One of the things that struck me hard with this wonderful recitation of your pretty princess' life was the itching that you describe. See...I'm in the midst of liver issues myself, and I've had terrible itching for the best part of two years now. It took a while to catch it in my case, too. And I KNOW what's going on (mostly) with me. Your poor baby didn't.

But she knows she is loved, and she waits for you along with the rest of the pack. I'm so sorry that you lost her for now, and that you have to wait for a while to get puppy kisses from her again. *hugs you gently* And Miss Shadow sends nose licks for you.
Jan. 7th, 2011 03:06 am (UTC)
Ah gentle hugs. Time with our beloveds is always too short.
Jan. 7th, 2011 02:51 pm (UTC)
You're a great writer Stina. All Dogs must go to Heaven.
Love Stini
Jan. 7th, 2011 03:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing what an amazing companion and loved friend she was with us. Your memories bring such life to the images you have posted of her. I don't know anyone who genuinely loves their dogs ( and are loved back ) so much as you and Graham. What a beautiful symbiosis you craft and nurture.

I mourn for your loss and you are both in my thoughts.
Jan. 7th, 2011 06:43 pm (UTC)
What a lucky dog to have such amazing people, and what lucky people to have such an amazing dog. My heart goes out to you and Graham.
Jan. 8th, 2011 04:28 am (UTC)
I'm so very sorry that you lost your beloved friend so soon.
Jan. 8th, 2011 10:08 am (UTC)
Condolence. I'll miss her too.
Jan. 9th, 2011 08:04 pm (UTC)
I'm so very sorry. My thoughts are with all of you. What a lucky dog she was to have you, and how lucky you were to have her.
Jan. 10th, 2011 01:56 am (UTC)
i have never met Crianza but i feel that i have known her through all your stories over the years. this is beautiful and i wish i could stop crying to say something more coherent. i am so sorry, honey -- she was so clearly loved and loved you back immensely.
Jan. 13th, 2011 01:32 am (UTC)
I remember how much she took to Chris when she was so little, and he to her, and he is not a dog person...
( 17 comments — Say something )


'stina is, surprisingly enough, a lawyer from Houston, Texas who rambles about quite a number of things.

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