Mana was a good dog

(I always used to think pet memorials like this were kind of sappy; I think now I realize that they may be made more for the pet owner than the readers of the site.)

Mana was a good dog.

She was black with white patches and spots. She had nipples from when she nursed her puppies; when we first got her 4 year ago she was teats-a-dragging. Those got smaller as we had her. She liked peanut butter and most people food, but hated raisin bran and could take or leave dog food.

Whenever we came home she would come to the fence by the front door and whine to be let in; we kept her in the back bedroom and the backyard when we had a functional dog door, and in the backyard otherwise, when we weren’t at home. Her whines sounded like the dying pac-man noise. We’d come in and we’d open the door, and she’d bound in, full of energy, always so overjoyed and excited to see us.

She had a friend that we’d bring over every now and then — Smokey, a larger german shepherd, whose favorite activity was to sit on Mana. They would play morning and night, and exhaust each other.

We were worried when we first got her, because we had birds, and didn’t want a dog that would hunt them or otherwise “play” with them, but she was always so gentle with our birds. She discovered early on that their food was pretty tasty as well, and would often duck her head into their cage bottoms to get whatever food she could reach. The big grey would reach down and bite her on the nose whenever it was within reach; this didn’t deter Mana, though — the food was too tasty.

Eventually the bird figured out that she could call the dog over “Mana….Mana…” in her sweet little devious voice, and then could throw food out of the cage and watch Mana eat it. The tiels also learned this trick, throwing their food out of the cage and then cocking their heads to look down at the dog eating the food.

Once, Mana went running from one part of the house into the bedroom, and hid under the bed, which is where she usually went when she was scared or did something bad. My SO tried to figure out what had happened, and went out to find me, assuming I’d scolded the dog. She found the grey waddling self-importantly down the hallway instead; turns out the grey had flown down, Mana had gotten a bit too close, and got bit on the nose. Good Mana didn’t bite back — she knew she’d been scolded and went to hide.

Crotchety as she is, though, even the bird loved Mana. When we went on vacation, Mana was dog-sat by a friend (Smokey’s “parents”, in fact). The people who fed our birds told us that the grey would call out “Mana….Mana….” because she missed her friend. If the bird flew down to another part of the house where Mana was, even though we shouted “NO MANA!”, there was never a move towards the bird. Mana was always laying there nicely, not even looking at the bird.

Mana wasn’t perfect, though she meant very well. We had feral cats that were in and out of the yard; Mana would always chase them away with barks, runnning to and fro in the middle of the night. It woke us up, but she was keeping us safe. Early one morning, she went out to chase these cats, and managed to catch one; she had grabbed it by the scruff of the neck, and broke it; it was still struggling faintly when I found it, and made Mana drop it; I didn’t know what to do with it, and Mana picked it up again and shook it, and killed it. We felt really bad; Mana was just protecting her territory, but the kitty didn’t mean to do anything bad. We buried the cat and donated a laser printer to one of the local animal shelters, because we felt bad and weren’t sure what else to do.

Mana never liked going to the bathroom inside; however, she was also very pragmatic about it. She would bark and paw at the window or door asking to be let out, when we didn’t have a dog door available. If it was early in the morning and we weren’t up yet, and we didn’t answer by the time it became urgent, then she’d say “screw it”, go to the farthest part of the front room, and do her business. She always felt very ashamed of it, and we scolded her but always felt bad afterwards and cuddled her.

Once, when we were working for a dog-friendly but dying dot-com, we had locked her in one unused section of the office while we went to lunch. This was right when we had gotten her, and so were still trying to figure out her habits. This time we hadn’t planned her bathroom trip outside very well, and of course the realtor for the property had just arrived to show the unused, to-be-subletted office space to a prospective tenant. They went through the unused space, and finally came upon the part of the large hallway where Mana had decided she needed to go, and was in the midst of taking a royal dump. I don’t think that tenant sublet the place.

She was always very enthusiastic about walks; anytime we reached for the leash, she would grab the other end and hold it, and pull us — “oh, we’re going for a walk! yay!” We’d attach the end to her collar, and she’d grab the middle of the leash in her mouth and pull again, wanting so badly to go out the door and walk. She would always pull, no matter what — except when she stopped to inhale deeply of some odoriferous mark or other. We’d have to pull hard to get her going again.

This was fine except for when we tried taking her rollerblading with us. We used to go rollerblading around a few parks in the area; since she loved running, it was great — except when she found something she wanted to sniff. Being unable to stop, whichever of us had the leash would end up yanking her ahead when we got ahead of her at the limit of her leash.

Over the past few days I was laying tile in the back bedroom. We kept her out in the back yard, mostly, or inside but out of that room. She was so good and watched from the door; if she was outside, she’d try the dog door (that we’d blocked off) to get into the room, then would put her front paws up on the window and look in, always with that smiley, panting face.

We had an earthquake recently; outwardly she didn’t seem scared, but she came by to sleep with us and was shaking. She wanted so much to protect us and loved us. She would bark at strangers and the mailman (of course); she would growl and “boof” at people who walked by out at the curb. She would sleep next to us on the bed; lately she would sleep up on the couch above our bed, since it was warm. She would curl up on a chair outside if we were having a fire, and would sit in a small donut shape with her tail curled around her face.

She was so gentle with us; we could play rough with her, tip her over on her back, stick our hands in her mouth, and she put up with it. She put up with so much rough loving.

Every time we went to a restaurant and had leftovers, we’d bring it home, giving meaning to the words ‘doggie bag’, She was so grateful, but never quite lost her instinct to go take the food somewhere else and eat it. This was especially lovely when the food was something messy, like bacon or a cinnamon french toast.

If we left her inside the house when we were going out for a short period, half an hour or less, she’d always get into something. Once she got into a box of raisin bran — the bag goes ‘crinkle’, and crinkle means food, you see — opened the bag, scattered it all throughout the house, and didn’t eat any of it. Raisin bran, apparently, is not food.

Another time, we left groceries on the counter, including a jar of peanut butter. Our lovely dog managed to pick out the jar of peanut butter, leaving all the other groceries untouched, got it down, opened it, and ate the entire thing. She did love her peanut butter.

She was always resourceful when it came to food, sometimes to her detriment. Shortly after we first got her, we started remodeling the kitchen, and pulled the refrigerator out from its normal spot. Unfortunately, Mana found the one piece of at-some-point-it-was-food that had been there for 2 years and ate it. That combined with a uterine stump infection meant she was defecating blood for the next few days, and throwing up anything and everything including water. After a trip to the animal ER to get her rehydrated (where we discovered the ER not to take her to, unless we wanted every unnecessary test known to man), several courses of antibiotics, and lots of sleepless nights, she got better. We almost lost her, and were lucky a second time.

She was found wandering and pregnant early in her life by Animal Control; she was due to be put down during the days when the head of Animal Control was a euthanasia-happy nazi, because she was “unhandleable”. Oddly enough she was a few days away from delivery; of course she was “unhandleable”. The wonderful people at the Humane Society found her on one of their Animal Control runs and took her in; she had nine(!) puppies, all of which were adopted within a week of becoming available. That’s when we were lucky the first time.

She was always a bossy dog; if another dog didn’t let her tell them what to do, she wasn’t pleased and would try to lay down some smack. This was true at the dog park, and true when we tried to find her a companion. If another dog wasn’t polite doggy-wise, she’d get on them and insist they defer to her.

I kind of wish we’d gotten one of her puppies; off and on we’d been looking for a second dog to be a companion to her, but she never seemed to like anyone that we tried her out with at the humane society. One of the recent adoptable dogs looked like her puppy; we thought about going to try and get it but didn’t. I suppose it’s for the best; if we’d had that puppy that one might have escaped and gotten killed as well.

I keep telling myself that nothing I did is to blame; nobody is to blame. I should have fixed the fences; I should have taken her with us to the fireworks; I should have gone back to get her when we still had time at the park before the fireworks; we should have left her inside instead of in the backyard.

But I didn’t think of any of this. The fireworks started, and she forced her way out two rickety gates that didn’t stand a chance against a frightened dog, got out, wandering during the worst traffic day of the year, and got hit in a road down in a canyon. The only consolation I have is that it might have been quick.

We — us and all the friends of ours who gave up their night to help look for Mana throughout the whole neighborhood — buried her in the front yard; tomorrow we’re going to get a tree to plant there, so she can fertilize it and be recycled into something else. We do this with all our pets who pass on; Affrika the cockatiel who fell and was played with by another dog; Watermelon, Cadfael, and Richildis the guinea pigs who died of old age; Whirlygig the timid lovebird who was continually beaten up by the meaner lovebird Rill; and Cheeks the crippled cockatiel who was so full of love and song and also died of old age.

Affrika pushed up the most amazing array of flowers, and continues to make everything in her little area grow so much better than anything else in the yard. Mana will make the tree we find for her the best, biggest, most healthful tree we have.

I wasn’t a dog person before Mana. She showed me how much fun it was having a four-legged furry thing to come home to, that was excited about you no matter what, that sensed when you were sad and came to comfort you.

Cheeks was a bird who was crippled early in life; he couldn’t walk and was scared of people, trying to bite when they got near. He was padlocked in a cage and kept in a garage, only occasionally having the cage brought outside. We asked if we could take and try to rehabilitate Cheeks; the owners gave him up, a bit reluctantly. We brought Cheeks home, and gave him a nice cage, some toys. He was apprehensive at first, but eventually one day allowed us to stroke him; once he figured out it felt good, he loved getting head skritches. He even figured out how to skritch himself, rubbing his head against a branch in his cage. Crippled though he was, he managed well enough, and always sang the most beautiful songs; we tried to teach him Tequila, and he got the first few notes right, but then took it and ran with it, making up his own song after that.

Cheeks only lived for a year and a half after we got him; he was very old, and one day he died of old age. We think he was 15 or 20 years old. We like to think that he had the best years of his life with us, though.

We like to think the same with Mana. Kind people rescued her from the evil Animal Control people (who are thankfully no longer at Animal Control); before that, she was wandering around in open space. We like to think that her years with us were the best of her life, where she didn’t want for anything, and had a family that loved her, even if one member did occasionally bite her on the nose. We love Mana very much.

I’m very, very sad that Mana’s no longer with us, and know that I will need some time to grieve. But someday I would like another dog. I’m a bit apprehensive; I know that no other dog will be quite like Mana. But even if not, we’ll find a dog that will, like Mana, be uniquely ours. If we’re lucky, that dog’ll even be able to pick out the peanut butter from amongst the other jars of tasty groceries, open it, and eat it all.

2 thoughts on “Mana was a good dog”

  1. Thank you. It will be important to have all this. Thank you for everything this past 10 hours or so. Thank you for everything. Thank you for loving her so much. Thank you for loving me. I am sorry.

  2. Though I didn’t know Mana very well or for very long, I still remember that afternoon we left my house to spare ourselves from the Iliad (sorry dearest) and went to your house to paint. When the paint ran out and you had more chores and I didn’t, I took your beautiful dog for a long walk. Actually in the beginning she walked me. We went to the dog park and she just loved the open space. We got back to your house and boy was she tired. Farewell Manna.

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