For the last 12.5 years, I’ve been a Mommy. While my two-legged children were not born until 2006 and 2008 respectively, I consider the day I brought my two Basset Hound sisters home that hot summer day in 2000 to be the day I officially became a Mommy. I remember clearly the first time I laid eyes on the gorgeous brown-eyed puppy that would become my Shelby Girl. She was days old but already had the beautiful doe eyes and grace that would become her trademark. She wasn’t as immediately smitten with me as I was with her – when my weekly visits with her seemed to send her scurrying into her doghouse away from me, I considered taking the scrappy runt who always insisted on my attention and affections during those visits in lieu of the sweet, shy pup. The breeder suggested I take both pups out onto the grass to see how I bonded with them. The scrappy, outgoing runt was all over me, tons of energy, oodles of affection while the sweet, shy girl kept her distance, hesitant to show me much attention. It was the moment that I decided to take her sister – who would become known as my Sydney Bean – when that sweet girl walked over and lovingly placed her chin on my lap. Suddenly there was no choice in the matter – I was taking them BOTH home.
Twin bassets were quite the adventure and my sweet Shelby Lynne quickly showed us that despite her more reserved disposition, she was no pushover. She quickly established her alpha status in the house, resulting in more than a couple emergency visits to the vet (for her sister, Sydney, not her) and a final decision by our family to permanently keep the girls separated. Mini baby gates made a great solution and for nearly a decade, Shelby and Sydney cohabited safely under the same roof – Shelby taking over the kitchen, living room, playroom and dining area of the house while Sydney claimed the foyer and entire downstairs. While she couldn’t be trusted alone with her sister, Shelby was as gentle as a lamb with her Daddy and me – and the two little rowdy boys that we would later bring into her life. The photos I have of her standing guard at their playpens are some of my most treasured memories of their childhood.
The reason I call this blog Meet Shelby is because most people have heard me talk at length about my beloved Sydney Bean, who passed away this past May at the age of 12 but know little about our “other dog.” Sydney was a special needs dog with a menagerie of health issues – and all that extra care definitely helped nurture what was already a very strong bond. Before Sydney’s passing, I always assumed Shelby was Kevin’s dog – he spent most of his time in the living room or playroom area and I would often find the two of them snuggled up on the couch, snoring in tandem, with a sporting event on the television. After Syd passed, the baby gates came down and Shelby embraced her role as the sole dog in the house – a role she has embraced and flourished in. Another role she has flourished in during the months since Sydney’s departure? Being MY dog, my constant companion – my best friend. No matter whether I am making dinner, sitting down to eat dinner, working in the office, or giving the boys their evening bath, Shelby never leaves my side. Ever. She has been my saving grace since the sad loss of our Sydney – making sure that no matter how much I miss Sydney, I never, ever have to be alone. So many nights that I have missed Sydney, hearing the clickety clack of Shelby’s claws on the floor or the deep snores that only a Basset Hound can truly master – have made my grieving heart happy.
For all of the health issues that Sydney had during her brief 12 years, Shelby has lived a relatively healthy one. Save for a few urinary tract infections and a couple GI issues as a puppy, Shelby’s visits to the vet have been few and far between. Recently, when she developed signs of arthritis, a quick call to the vet resulted in a rapidly working prescription and a sense of relief that our graceful girl would rebound as quickly as she always has when health blips headed her way.
That’s why I was ill prepared for the chain of events that started last week. I noticed Shelby was limping around more, seemed anxious, was panting and was generally not herself. I also noticed her usually muscular physique looked frail and thin, We made an appointment to see her vet and were no sooner greeted with a weekend that involved bouts of vomiting and basset hound that would not eat even the tastiest treats offered her. Yesterday’s vet visit resulted in a call today that I should not have been surprised to get – but that broke my heart just the same. Our Shelby’s bloodwork was not good. Liver levels are all elevated – not a good sign – and if we can’t get her appetite back, her days may quite literally be numbered in the single digits. Shelby has the best veterinarian team ever so I have faith that we are doing all we can – but as I type this blog tribute, my heart is breaking. I hope to have some more good days and weeks to bond with my faithful friend – but am trying to prepare myself for the very real possibility of losing two beloved best friends in less than one year. With Sydney, we always expected the worst – her health condition just kept us all on guard with anything that went amiss – but to see my graceful Shelby girl, who just started showing a few grey hairs on her always beautiful face – is something I have not had time to prepare my head and my heart for. The silver lining I find in this unthinkable scenario is that if we have to say goodbye to Shelby soon, her decline will have been a rapid yet graceful one that echoes the graceful way she has lived her life. Unlike her scrappy, always vocal sister whose ears were always covered with water, kibble, and bits of whatever dirt and debris she ran those basset hound ears across in the yard, Shelby is and continues to be a lady. Those velvety ears are always clean and free of dirt or evidence of her most recent meal and her throaty, trademark howls were saved for only the most serious of situations (i.e to let us know that a trespassing squirrel in the backyard or remind us that her patient wait on the back porch was now over because of the raindrops hitting her head).
So, it seems important that I share Shelby’s story – and her important role in our lives. While she may have been more in the background than her more vocal and talked about sister, she has never loved her human family with any less than 1000 percent of her being. We love you Shelby. Thank you for teaching me how to be a Mommy – and reminding me that best friends truly come in all shapes and sizes.