Remember my dogs? Asta and Due (pronounced Dewey, which is Italian for sh**thead.) We can tell what kind of person you are, depending on which of the two pooches you prefer. Due is cute as a button, with soft red fur and little beady eyes. He barks a lot at nothing, and has a sort of steely, dim-witted determination that you can’t help but admire. Asta is the bigger dog, a pale golden doodle with soulful eyes. She’s both timid and loving, and likes to stick her head between your legs, with her nose sticking out the other side, thus blinding herself to your affection. I love them both, of course, but Asta is my favourite.


She is my dog of hope. We got her in 2006, the year after I went through cancer treatment. The boys were 13 and 7. We had had a dog before – Milo, a rescue dog who turned out to not like children much. We were lucky enough to find a good home for Milo, and felt ready to try again. We found Asta at a kennel in Mennonite country; She was one of two females in a litter of 11. Interestingly, the breeder herself was the mother of 9 boys and 2 girls: a breeder in every sense of the word. We picked Asta out, although she was identical to her sister, so maybe she’s not Asta at all, but rather Asta’s sister. Hmmm. Anyway, we named her Asta after the dog in “The Thin Man”, because Aidan liked the name.


Asta has led a quiet life with brief moments of glory. She was famous for a day when she appeared on the cover of the Toronto Star when a photographer caught her romping in the park after a record snowfall. She also appeared with me in an article in Canadian Living magazine. She caught fire once when she tried to eat some grease under the barbecue, and sparks fell on her head. She ran around the yard barking her head off, and we, not knowing what got into her, thought she’d lost her mind, and continued eating our chicken. She encountered a porcupine once, and got a face full of quills. She has never met a human she doesn’t like, except, interestingly, Aidan’s first girlfriend, a little minx from Australia who turned out to be a complete horror show. Asta wouldn’t even let her pet her. I have trusted her judgment ever since.

She’s an old girl now, but still full of vim and vigour, until last week, when we noticed that her jaw was constantly hanging open. She didn’t seem too distressed, but she had trouble eating, and was almost completely unable to drink water. We have been in and out of veterinary offices almost every day. She’s been poked, prodded, and had every test imaginable. We’ve been hand feeding her, and giving her water through a syringe, and waiting to hear the worst. A dog that can’t drink is in real trouble, and, given her age, we would have to think long and hard about anything as radical as surgery or prolonged treatment. I was filled with dread when I took her to an animal neurologist this morning. After much careful (and loving) examination, the doctor suggested that she might have trigeminal neuralgia, which … often goes away on its own. In three weeks or so. In the mean time, we just have to keep her hydrated. I texted the family right away from the waiting room, and kept it together until Aidan called me back to rejoice, at which point I promptly burst into tears. She’s our family dog, our forever pet, the physical reminder of my own health and happiness, and I wasn’t ready to let her go. I don’t know if I ever will be.

Stay, Asta. Good girl.


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