Saturday, May 9, 2009


Shika was the happiest dog in the world.

I've met a lot of them, lived with no few, and I'm very confident when I say that.

No matter what was happening, she was happy. If she walked out of a room and you walked out right behind her, she was thrilled to see you. When you got home, she was so ecstatic she could barely contain herself. If you were petting her, all was right in the world.

We never really knew how old she was. After my Oma passed away, my mother went down to Texas every weekend to help with the estate. She and my aunt were almost finished with it, and my mom was in the garage, sweeping it out one day when her chihuahua, Itzl, ran up to her, jumped up and tapped her leg, then ran, top speed, down the driveway. He did this several more times until she got the message and went to see what was going on.

At the end of the driveway, she found a tiny chihuahua. She was short-haired, brown and white, and in pitiful shape. She was more than half-starved, and she had bite marks on her head and her tail had very recently been bitten, torn, or cut off. This tiny little dog was huddled up and looked up at my mom, just hoping she wouldn't get hurt again.

My aunt tried to keep her, but she didn't get along with my aunt's dachshund. Attempts to find her former owner failed, even though she'd obviously been bred, and was still young enough to have more puppies. She was sweet and affectionate, if a little nervous--not shaky nervous like the typical chihuahua, but the kind of nervous you get in dogs who have had a rough time.

She and Itzl had gotten along very well, so my aunt met us halfway to Texas and we picked her up. Eventually, we named her Shika, which is Japanese for 'deerlike', and fit her extremely well. See?

Over time, there were lots of other things that I called her, and I can't explain most of them. Just the nonsense that slowly happens as names evolve. Shika-pika. Pika-pie. Porky. Porky-pie. Ok, I can explain the Porky thing. She made a real pig out of herself sometimes. And when she begged for food, she'd actually suck her tummy in to try to look skinnier and hungrier.

She was a wonderful dog. She wasn't at all like the typical chihuahua. She didn't shake much, she was very sweet and affectionate, she loved making new friends, and she was absolutely fearless.

We have an outside dog named Dogmatyx. He's half beagle, half Irish wolfhound. He's a big boy. She once charged out into the back yard and leaped off of the ground to snatch a treat right out of his mouth. That might be how she lost her tail.

She had this thing she'd do, where she'd walk and stretch, all long and just above the ground, lifting one paw, then the other, as high as they would go. It was hard to describe, but absolutely one of the most adorable things I've ever seen.

She would also do little spins and flips when she was running around and she was really, really excited about something. And she'd charge into your lap, body held low to the ground, just as fast as she could go so you wouldn't have a chance to stop her. If she wanted to be petted, she'd pat at you with one of her paws, and then if you were petting her and she wanted more, more, more, she'd start patting at your chest with both paws.

She had this look she'd get when she was being petted and she was really happy, with her little eyes mostly closed and her ears kind of lowered, and you knew that if she was cat, she'd be purring.

Sometimes, if I was sitting on the couch and kind of leaning over my lap, she'd come up and worm her way under my arm, forcing her way over to exactly where she wanted to be, just like this:

She was the only dog I've ever known who could smile. I mean, she'd pull up the corners of her mouth and for real smile at you, just like a person. She learned it after she'd come to live with us.

She slept most nights with me. She couldn't jump up into the bed by herself--there was something wrong with her hips. We think she'd been bred too young or too often before we got her, and her body was somehow damaged. So she'd follow me into my room, and I'd pick her up and toss her on the bed, and she'd run all around and rub up against me like a cat and be so very happy to be there. Or she'd come in after I'd gone to bed, and I'd wake up to the sound of her little feet scrambling at the side of the bed, and I'd sit up and peak over, and she'd be sitting there, wiggling all over with excitement. So I'd hold a hand against her back, and she'd sort of climb up all by herself. She'd crawl under the blankets or she'd run up by my head and want to crawl under by my shoulder. She'd curl up and sleep by my feet, where I'd accidentally kick her or squish her when I got up to go pee, or she'd sleep right beside me, stretched out between me and one of my body pillows, or with her little butt up against my side, stretched out across the pillow. A lot of the time, Keegan, my big orange cat, would step on her, and she'd growl at him.

When I showered in the evenings, I'd take off my clothes and drop them in a pile on the bathroom floor, and she'd curl up in them while I was showering. I'd have to chase her out so I could pick them up and toss them in the laundry in my room.

When she wanted to bark at something--and she really didn't bark very much--she'd run over or under anything in her way, including the cat. Keegan never really knew what to make of that.

She never learned how to play with toys, and never had any she really liked. Itzl, by sheer force of will, did teach her how to play. She would snarl and growl and look so fierce, and he'd pull on her ears or bite her legs and pull on them. She'd spin around in circles, and she had this weird way of running when she was playing, with her butt kind of curled under and her ears back, and she'd just look so absolutely happy.

When you reached down to pet her, she'd never really meet you. She'd flatten herself out like she was genuflecting. When when you lifted your hand, she'd wiggle all over hand slap her little feet on the ground just like when she'd pat your chest to ask for pets.

If at all possible, she loved to sit in laps, and she'd curl up so tiny, you'd hardly know she was there.

When we got her, her fur was so coarse and wiry, but after a while with us, she was so amazingly soft.

She loved food, like any dog that's had to starve before. She'd eat anything at all, including french fries, pickles, and olives. I never knew a dog before who liked olives. She really loved bacon.

Once, while she was outside, she snuck into a neighbor's yard and found a half a chocolate chip muffin. It was taken away, since chocolate is supposed to be bad for dogs, and she was bitter about that ever since. Sometimes, she'd still go to that spot, hoping it would spawn a new muffin for her.

We made Indian tacos once, and for about a week after, I would notice that she'd spend a lot of time under the couch (which is actually a futon, so there's a lot of space under it). If the cats tried to go under there, she'd growl and bark and chase them out. I finally discovered that she'd managed to steal a frybread. It had been a week, and it was almost petrified, but she was going under there at night and working on eating the whole thing, and she was mortified when I took it away.

She always had plenty of food, but she'd always take more, too.

Just this weekend, I went out to Taco Bueno. I got more food than I needed, and had an entire taco left over. I broke it in half and dropped it and the wrapper on the floor so she could have some, then went to clean up the rest of the mess. When I got back, she'd eaten all it it by the lettuce--even the shell! She was only a four pound dog, and I have no idea how she could fit that much food into herself.

After her tail had healed, which took a couple of months, she started using it a lot. Even though she'd lost all but maybe an inch of it, she was amazingly expressive with her little stub. She didn't wag it like other dogs without tails--she didn't wag her little butt or the back of her body with it. Just that little stub would motor around, wiggling so fast when she was excited, and curled up high when she was happy, and down over her little butt when she was worried or upset or scared.

Not that she was scared very much.

She was terrified of being picked up, but she loved to be held. Just this morning, when I came out of my room, she ran up, and she'd actually stand up on her back legs as you picked her up to help you out. Then she leaned against my chest with her little head tucked under my chin.

She had this thing she'd do, where she'd sit on her butt with her little back feet sticking up in the air. It's hard to describe adequately, but it never failed to make me laugh.

She had terrible food manners. She'd snatch anything she could, anytime she could. She'd reach out and lick food on your plate, or steal bits right out of your hand. I said that she'd probably take a bite off of the end of your hotdog while you were distracted taking a bite off of the other side.

And gods, how she licked. Any exposed skin, any time. She'd get you so fast you wouldn't even realize it until you felt the wet on your arm or hand. She'd get your face, or your legs. If I was wearing a low cut shirt and picked her up, she'd placidly lick my chest until I'd make her stop. It drove my dad nuts when he came over to visit, and he'd always threaten to tape her snout shut. Of course he never followed through.

My mom asked me this morning if I wanted Indian tacos. I said sure, and she went out to buy the necessary ingredients. Shika and Itzl stretched out on the shelf in front of the window, on their red pillow, and watched all the cars going by, waiting for her to get home.

When she got home, they were so excited to see her that I went and let them out. I failed to notice right at first that she wasn't out of the car yet. I thought about calling them back, but decided against it.

I should have.

My mom got out, and she saw Itzl, but not Shika. She slammed the car door closed, and Shika tried to jump into the car at just the wrong moment. The door slammed on her head.

I heard my mom yell, "Shika! Oh god!" I ran out to see her on the road with blood pouring out of her ears, twitching. I screamed that we had to get her to the vet, my mom said it would be too late. We both yelled, completely uselessly, and I ran back inside to get a towel.

When I got back, my mom had scooped her into a box. There was so much blood on the ground. I've never seen that much of it, and I never knew it was so thick. There was so much of it in the box--Itzl was tossed into his car seat in the front, I sat in the back with the box, keeping one hand on Shika the whole time. She was so still, and she wasn't breathing, and I wasn't crying yet. I was just sure we'd get to the vet in time, and it would be ok. I think I felt it the last time her heart beat.

I ended up in the vet's, barefoot, wearing a nightgown with blood smeared all over it, with my hair unwashed and unbrushed. No purse, no wallet, no way to pay for it if there was a miracle and she was going to be ok. My mom and I stood outside of the room, watching through the glass, waiting for good news.

There wasn't any.

Shika probably died the moment her head was slammed in the door.

It's been less than two hours, and I just wanted to write this as fast as I could, trying to remember as much as I could.

Right now, I'm not ok.

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