Tuesday, July 31, 2007

In Memory of Tesla


















In Memory of Tesla, written for the Greater Birmingham Humane Society and featured on the Greater Birmingham Humane Society web site.

From the moment I saw her at the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, I knew she was “the one”. Even though she wasn’t the one I had in my mind. I was living in an apartment at the time and wanted a dog for protection, for companionship, so I had made a trip to the local animal shelter to pick out a dog that would serve my needs. But when I saw this little orange and black puppy in the back of a pen full of other puppies, something struck me. The other dogs all ran up to the door of the pen, each seeming to want to be the chosen one. But she was different; there she was in a tiny ball. She looked sad, hungry, and fearful. I went in to get a closer look. As I knelt down to touch her I noticed her eyes, big and round, watching me to see if I was going to hurt her. I thought to myself that she might bite, out of fear. But she didn’t. I felt sorry for her; afraid she would be put to sleep if I left her. I took her home with me.


I brought her home, bathed her, and feed her Twinkies . I know they aren't on the dog food diet. It was a temporary means, she was starving and its what was in my apartment until I went to the store to get her some dog food. I excitedly brought her home for my parents to see. They each agreed she was the ugliest, skinniest dog they had seen. That would all change. I named her Tesla, because of the band. She was my baby. She became very protective of me and I her. She was cautious of anyone she didn’t know. I liked that. She made me feel safe as a young woman in an apartment. It wasn’t long until I was expecting my first child. Tesla was there to comfort me in all my aches and pains. She would sit close beside me with her head on my bulging belly feeling my baby move inside of me and, just maybe, also sensing my apprehension. When the day came that my son was born, I feared she would be jealous and guarded. But she wasn’t at all. In fact, she almost adopted Brock as her own. As he became a toddler, my son would want to venture out in the yard. Tesla would be right behind him, watching his every move. If he went next door to play with the neighborhood children she would sit at the fence and watch him defensively, sometimes whimpering until Brock returned home. She was a wonderful babysitter. I trusted her more than I did some family members because she would watch him so intensively.


She grew into a lovely dog, closely resembling a Doberman pincher only smaller. She was a “lady” by all standards. It sounds silly, but it was all in how she carried herself. The way she understood me, although she spoke not a word. She went through troubled times with me (divorce, serious illness) and she listened to my hurt. Her eyes smiled at me when things were going my way. She grew with me and shared my life. She was there to experience it all with me. Tesla taught me so much about myself. She trusted me immensely. Being trusted in that way changes you: it enlarges your soul. Tesla believed I was someone she could rely on without fail, and when someone sees you that way that is the way you try to be.


Tesla was elegant yet simple, quick, and sensitive, and the embodiment of commitment. She had dedicated her life to me. She slept beside me at night, keeping watch during nighttime hours so I could rest peacefully and without worry. In the morning she would lie in my bedroom, waiting for me to get ready for the day. She knew my routine, down to the minute that I put on my perfume knowing that it was time to leave the room. If I shifted in a chair, she would open one eye. If I stood, she would stand. If I left the house she would try to leave with me. If she had to stay at home, she would watch my car drive by the house as I left. I could see her head looking out the window with a heartbroken look on her face. She always greeted me at the door on my return. A greeting -every single time- as if I had been gone far to long and she made it a point to let me know it. I was her world. And she mine.


On the occasion she would get to ride in the car, she would become overjoyed. She became “tough” in a car. Standing between the passenger and driver seats, her cheeks visibly drawing in big breaths of air with excitement, she watched the road in anticipation to see a big truck, or motorcycle, something loud that she would bark at. One hot day we passed by a man on a bicycle. She had her head hung quietly out the window. I could visualize what was going to take place, but before I could stop her she waited until we got right behind the cyclist and then began barking ferociously. The cyclist turned to see where the bark was coming from and drove right into a 4-foot ditch. I drove on in embarrassment but laugh at the incident today. Tesla obviously had a sense of humor as well as her other attributes.


She made my life her business. It was normal for her to want to spend her every second with me. She thought we were joined together at the soul. She was right. She didn’t understand why I would want to do anything without her; she didn’t want to do anything without me. The devotion she had for me was not something that I had earned because I was good; it was because she was good.

“Dogs don’t love you because you deserve it; they love you because you exist. There is nothing as unconditional as this response, nothing so generous. A dog has no ulterior motives, no guile. She’s interested in your state of mind, your moods. She hears your tension, your excitement. She follows your every thought. She takes notes of your inflections. She deciphers you like a translator. You are her subject, her mission. You are the active center of her world." "A dog will trust you unless you teach her not to. She will never break your heart. She will love you unless you prevent it. She will love you for life if you will have her. Dogs are great by nature, and they offer us the chance to be. Even when we aren’t, they are willing to believe we are. It doesn’t seem to me that we deserve this, but it is a gift." A gift I have been grateful of receiving for the past 11 years.


After all of our years together came my true test. While I was 9 months pregnate with my third child, it was determined that she had been diagnosed with an illness from which she would not recover:  cancer. She became unable to breathe without it being a chore. I had to feed her through a tube. I looked at her one evening and determined that this was not at all dignifying to a dog (I use the term loosely, because she was not a “dog” she was a member of our family) that had all the dignity of a true lady. She was a dog that had shown me dignity many times. The vet recommended that she be put to sleep. I agreed, not wanting to watch my beautiful, precious dog die a long death, but one that would end her life in a beautiful way. I just wanted her pain and struggle to come to a quick end and for her to just go to sleep. I held her one last time and looked in her eyes, as I did the first time I saw her. I told her I loved her and appreciated every minute I had with her. I told her that I was grateful for her love and devotion. And then I let her go to God. I brought her body home to comfort my heart.  She was buried in the backyard. A tall standing angel is now at the head of her grave. Another sits on top of the freshly strewn dirt.  One day I will want another dog, but not now. I am certain that I will not be as close to another dog the way I was to Tesla. We shared so much. She taught me so much. Tesla showed me true friendship, trust, humor, humility, companionship, commitment, honor, and above all LOVE. She is sorely missed, yet never will be forgotten.



In loving memory: Tesla 3/89 - 9/00 This narrative was emailed to us earlier in February 2004 when Leigh Bratina contacted us regarding one of our adoptable pets. Thank you, Ms. Bratina for sharing Tesla's story with us and we hope that we will be able to again assist you when you are ready to adopt another dog. (Greater Birmingham Humane Society)



Epilogue (November 2004): "In 2001 we adopted Charlotte, a corgi-husky mix. We weren’t "looking" for a dog, but visiting the Shelby County Humane Society shelter open house in Helena and found her. In April 2004 we wanted to expand our family and found Jane, a dachshund-basset mix at the Columbia Shelby County Humane Shelter.
In 2007 We decided to again add to our household and adopted a shihtsu. A year later another shihtsu, a puppy mill cast off that had served his purpose as a breeder to many female dogs. When he became older, he was no longer worthy and profitable to a mill. By the grace of God, we received our Jeffery Windham (named after my favorite author Kathryn Tucker Windham). In 2008, we added what we plan to be our final dog to our pack, Miley Sue the shihtsu. Five fur babies. Yes, we are a bit crazy. But we are all loved.

Like children, all of our dogs have their own unique personalities. As with any humans death, we continue to mourn the loss of Tesla, but love is a great thing. If allowed to, love multiplies and our love has certainly expanded by barks and bounds with the addition (not replacements) of our furry family members.
If you are looking to find a pet, please, please , please, I urge you to look first at your local humane shelter or rescue group. These are animals in a dire need of  real and loving home. Many of these animals have had an unfortunate start in life, please give the opportunity for them to know life in a loving way and to give you love back. Adoption is a two-fold process! Lastly, I ask you to spay and neuter your pets. This is one of the biggest reasons we have shelters-unwanted pets. Be a responsible pet owner and give your pet a secure life and a healthy life by spaying or neutering." Epilogue written by: Leigh B. of Shelby Co., AL

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Leigh,

Thank you so much for your heartfelt comments. I was somewhat nervous reading this, I thought it would be one of those heartbreaking letters. However, your comments have uplifted me and reminded me why we're here. You took an unwanted dog and gave her a life of security and love as she did you. How wonderful this is. I feel compassion for those people that never learn the meaning of unconditional love, there is nothing like it. You are truly a wonderful person, thank you for giving that love in return and sharing the meaning with others.

I want to post your letter and pictures on our bulletin board and also add to our scrapbook.

Thank you again for being you.

Sara
Greater Birmingham Humane Society

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being such an advocate for adopting rather than "buying"!

Tonya Fudge

Anonymous said...

This makes me cry every time I read it!

Dad

Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) said...

Leigh,
Tesla sounded like a very special member of your family. They sure do become a part of our hearts, don't they. Thanks so much for your sweet comments on my blog today. This was such a special tribute! Susan

Laurey said...

Leigh,
As tears stream down my face, I want you to know how much this memorial post for Tesla has meant to me. While reading this, I am amazed at how much these two dogs ARE really just alike. While this post makes me very sad, it also brings me encouragement and a smile. My Bo is the same way. He just wants me by his side right now, and I just let him do as he pleases as I am not sure how much longer he has with us. He still loves to give me huggies and even tries to shake my hand with the paw of the shoulder they suspect he has cancer in. I have cried and cried, too, but I have also placed him in the Lord's hands now. The Lord will take care of him whether it be here on earth with us or with Him in heaven. We will learn more next week when Bo sees the orthopedic surgeon. I will keep you posted.
Much gratitude for your kindness and encouragement. And most of all for your prayers for BoBo.