My dog of 15 years has just died. Aza was a Christmas gift to my parents from all three of us kids.
I remember the day clearly. I had come back home from my junior year at RPI for Christmas. We had conspired via E-mail to get my parents a dog. You see, our last dog, REX, died suddenly from a brain tumor. A new dog would be just the solution!
My brother and i would buy the leash, collar, bowls and dog food. My sister would buy the dog. From a shelter, of course.
It was a tan & black puppy, no more than a few months old. A half German Sheppard, half mutt mix, cute as can be. We show up at the door together on Christmas Eve. It's night time. The bell rings and the door opens. We all yell "Merry Christmas!" together and present our parents with their new addition to the family.
My dad was surprised, and my mother refused to believe it was real. She didn't want him! Too much responsibility, she said. To much work! She spent the next few days loudly complaining, and not-so-secretly hoping this was some sort of a prank that would be gone in the morning.
But it wasn't. Papa named her AZA, after a Polish princess, and she was here to stay. By the time New Years rolled around, Aza was part of the family.
My dad always had this strange notion that the dog shouldn't poop on the lawn. He was adamant about it, even going so far as to install an electric fence with a shock collar! She should only go to the bathroom when walked.
For the most part it was effective, but when nature took hold, and Aza just had to go, even the electric fence wouldn't stop her. She learned to run right through it, do her business, and then run right back out.
She wasn't much of a fetcher, but she was really a great companion. She loved to hang out with you and just sit where ever you might be. And she loved getting her hind legs scratched. Laying on the couch with my hand out, she would walk by it, slowly, allowing me to scratch her back moving to her hind legs, to right were her tail was. The she would circle around for another pass, again and again, just to get that sweet spot scratched.
She barked only if the doorbell rang, and absolutely LOVED people. Other dogs, however, not such a big fan. Whenever Aza was on a walk, and you passed by another dog, small or big, she would lunge out barking, and try to eat them. Whole, of course.
And the walks. Day in, and day out, every day, my parents loyally walked Aza. Twice. For FIFTEEN YEARS. Obviously she loved it. And, honestly, it was terrific for my parents as well! It was good exercise and it got them out of the house.
You really don't know friendship until you've had a dog. Aza was always there for you when you needed to snuggle, or a hug. She was always available to cry on. To run outside and chase you when you were happy. To listen to everything you needed to say. She never interrupted you, nor criticized your point of view.
She was a true friend. And without a doubt, she was my mom's best friend.
Towards the end, she started to get paralyzed in the back legs, and had extreme trouble walking. She lost bladder control, and would pee wherever she layed down. She was an inside dog all her life, but my parents had to eventually keep her outside. I made sure to give her extra love and lots of scratches whenever i would visit with the kids.
I used to think that heaven was just for people. That dogs didn't have souls. If there was ever a dog that could change my mind about that, and show me the true definition of love, it was Aza.
You will be missed, my old friend.