March 1st is Butterscotch’s Gotcha Day, the day we went up to my dad’s home in upstate NY in 2010…in March…to pick her up and bring her back to live with us. Driving through the Adirondacks to nearly the Canadian border at that time of year can be dicey, but we were fortunate. We were fortunate with Butterscotch too. She is a gem of a dog.
I was doing a little research on the term “gotcha day” and discovered that it was originally used to denote the day that a child was adopted into a new family. I also found that the term is controversial in some circles because one family’s gotcha day is another family’s lostya day. Butterscotch’s gotcha day with us was her lostya day for my dad, and it was hard not to feel sad about that.
My dad loved her so much. She was, in many ways, his lifeline and companion, especially after his wife died. Butterscotch used to sleep in a crate before Jeanne died, but when Jeanne was gone Butterscotch slept on the bed with my dad, and she was the thing we most often talked about by phone.
When Dad went into the hospital in late February 2010 we knew that he was not going to be going back to his home, way out in the country away from everything. He had many health problems, and was starting down the road to some dementia. An independent living place was already reserved for him. I had promised him that I would take Butterscotch when the time came, so up we went to get her. Because Dad was in the hospital he could not say goodbye to her, something that left me feeling sad.
Butterscotch had only met us once and so I wondered how she would be when we arrived to pick her up, but Butterscotch loves anyone who will rub her belly. Actually, unless you are a groundhog, she loves you automatically. Even in the vet’s office she rolls over and invites the vet to give her a belly rub. So she had no trouble at all coming home with us. We stayed overnight one night at dad’s house, and Butterscotch even slept with me. She’s easily one of the best car traveling dogs I’ve ever seen.
She was also sick, though my dad didn’t know it. I realized it within half an hour of meeting her, and called my vet for an appointment from my dad’s house. Butterscotch had and has Cushings Syndrome, which responded beautifully to medications once she was diagnosed. Over the next year we took the excess weight off of her, and she has been one sweet and happy dog for the last five years.
A few months after my dad moved into his independent living place we took Butterscotch back up to see him – in the spring, thankfully. He was so glad to visit with her, and I felt better about taking her away without giving him a chance to say goodbye.
Butterscotch has been one of the world’s best dogs, and we love her dearly. She is now nearly 15, and still has her Cushings, as well as some pretty substantial arthritis. She is also deaf, or nearly so. Our entrance into the house or even a room doesn’t cause he to wake up anymore. She has aged quickly in the last six months in particular, and cannot get up on furniture anymore, and can rarely climb steps without help. She sleeps a lot these days, and the snow and ice, which she has always loved, has been pretty tough for her this year. She is not terribly steady on those old legs now. She doesn’t much like being by herself if she knows we are home anymore. If she is downstairs and we are upstairs she barks short staccato barks, almost like a smoke alarm that has a dying battery. She’s really good at playing the sympathy card, and she knows we will come to help her to either get up on the bed or come up the stairs or whatever else she might want or need.
We were talking the other day, Marley and I, and we both know that the number of days ahead of her are getting shorter. We are glad that, for now, she manages what she needs to manage. She’s still got a good appetite, and likes a short walk each day. She sleeps on the bed every night and is quite content to just be with us, and who could not love that? It is hard to think of her not being with us, even though we both know it is coming sooner than we might like. But we try not to dwell on that. We’ll just enjoy her one day at a time, and lift her butt up on the bed or help her up the stairs or whatever else is needed for as long as that works for her. And when the day comes – may it be a long time still – we will imagine her with Dad again, climbing up on his lap in their favorite chair for a nice long cuddle. They wold both like that very much.