Monday, June 18, 2012

Emma Lou

Emma Lou was the Belgian Malinois that we adopted during our first State Department tour of duty in Islamabad, Pakistan. She died Sunday night at the age of 14.

During training for our first tour, our post went into evacuation status. My husband, still in training, was asked to come in during the evacuation to help out. He left for Islamabad while the cat and I stayed back in the US waiting for the evacuation to be lifted. During the evacuation, a single woman that worked for the USG was sent back to the US. Her housekeeper was adamant that a woman should not be living alone in Pakistan and, at the least, she needed a guard dog. So, while this woman was evacuated to the US, the housekeeper took it upon himself to find a dog that he could make into a guard dog for his employer.

Emma was kept outside in a small fenced area with doghouse and called, Kuthi," which literally means dog in Urdu. When the woman returned from the US, she had a dog; a dog she did not want, a dog that had been "trained" to be a guard dog. She started looking for a home for the kuthi. My husband wanted a running partner and so he started running with the kuthi. She had no idea how to walk, let alone run, on a leash. She was quite wild and undomesticated, she had some "quirks," but she started to understand how to run with my husband.

My husband wanted us to adopt the dog, but when I met her she was so wild and loud that I was fearful. Eventually, I gave in and we named her Emma Lou. When she came to our house she was so scared. We had to teach her how to walk up the stairs step-by-step. We would find this to be the case with any new surface she encountered. In a few days, she got used to her surroundings and was feeling more at ease. It turned out she was such a sweet girl. We noticed when new people came over she was very scared and she would bark ferociously at their feet. And, when the water truck would come to our house, she would be shaking in fear and hide in the shower. Yes, we had a very loud water truck that would fill our reservoir tank with water every so often, so we could shower and such. Boy, was Emma Lou scared of that truck. She was also exceptionally scared of people who smoked and/or wore Shalwar Kameez. However, we would later discover that if someone came over with a dog, she wasn't scared of them. In fact, Emma Lou absolutely adored playing with other dogs and made best friends with a little black and white spaniel named Meg.

Meg would escape from her yard every day and come over to our house to play with Emma. It was so cute. The guards new Meg and her owners and so when she showed up at our gate, they just let her in to play. So so sweet. Still, it was apparent, people without dogs were not on Emma's list of people to trust. I cannot say it was an absolute, as there were the rare exceptions on both sides, but generally speaking if Emma knew you through your dog, you were golden with her.

As the years went on, she continued to be scared to walk across any new surface she encountered. And, her aggressive behavior towards those not accompanied by a dog continued. We didn't have kids at the time and saw how sweet she was with us, so we kept her. Every night before bed, she would insist on going outside to walk the perimeter of our house. She wanted to be a guard dog and took it quite seriously. We just wanted a family pet and she was that to us.

After Pakistan, we took Emma back to the US with us while we were in training for my husband's next assignment. We took her to a US vet to be spayed, as there was no way we were having that done in Pakistan. When we went to pick her up from the Vet, he told us that she had little pieces of spleen growing throughout her abdominal cavity. Apparently, she had suffered a severe blow to the abdomen at some point in her life and was lucky it didn't kill her. We don't know who or what, but it certainly explained her fear of feet and of new people. We kept trying to socialize her with people with dogs, hoping she would slowly start accepting more and more people and perhaps, one day, people without dogs. She did great at the dog park. But, she never would get over her fear of some people.

We moved to Portugal and adopted our second dog, a street dog found in Estoril, Portugal. She just reminded me so much of Emma Lou and she needed us. When we had our first son, Sophie wouldn't let Emma get near him. But, when she did, she would try to kiss him. As our first son grew, he became so loving towards both our dogs and they toward him. This is why we were so taken aback one day during a tour in Africa.

One day in Senegal, our oldest was two years old and ran to Emma and laid on her and gave her a big hug. She snapped at him. We took her to the vet, asking for advice, wondering if we should put her down if we couldn't find her a new home. The vet discovered that she had over 100 mango worms (worms that hatch out of your skin), which are very common in West Africa, especially if a dog lays in the mud outside! He worked them out one by one, with us standing by her side counting as he did it. That she was in so much discomfort and only snapped at our boy, made us realize that putting her down was not the right choice. She never snapped at our boy again.

When we had our second son, Sophie couldn't care less. In fact, when he was toddling by her, she would walk by him and give him a little nudge with her bum sometimes. Sophie didn't try to stop Emma from going near our second child and so Emma was with him all the time, following him about, always wanting to give him a kiss.

For several years now, she has had some hip issues, arthritis, and we found out bone spurs on her spine. She had to stop running with my husband several years ago. As time went on, it got harder and harder for her to walk, even with anti-inflammatories, pain meds and anything else we could do to help her, it just continued to get worse. When she couldn't stand up on her own, couldn't walk anymore, we knew it was her time. It was a very sad father's day for my husband! And a very sad day for all of us to lose our girl, Emma Lou.

Our oldest was just heartbroken. When we told our youngest (who is almost five) that Emma had died, he said "I miss Emma, I miss her kisses." We will all miss you girl!!!! And so hope we were able to give you a good life!


hannah said...

It sounds like she had a very full life, and nothing but happiness with her family. I know it's sad to lose a pet, but you have so many good memories of her! My thoughts are with you all.

The Stone Rabbit said...

Hannah, thank you. We really appreciate your kind thoughts!