Cleopatra was our beautiful basset hound. She came from a long line of Canadian and American champions, but my husband bought her as a rescue dog, that no one wanted. Cleo didn’t seem to live up to her aristocratic background – she was too full of fun to care about dog shows, and so her owners decided she was worthless to them. Well, we didn’t care about dog shows either, but we sure cared about Cleopatra. She loved us, and she loved our stray cat, Baby, who had been rescued from a litter of kittens of a cat who had been abandoned by summer tourists, and became wild. The two pets were inseparable, and loved to lay down together to snooze. Cleo didn’t even mind the occasional swat on the nose when Baby was feeling a little “playful.”
There isn’t space here to tell the wonderful stories about these two, but in the twelve years we were privileged to have them in our family, they totally entwined themselves around our hearts.
Cleo and Baby grew old together, with Cleo keeping her goofy sense of humour, and Baby keeping her sleek dignity.

In that 12th year, we noticed that Cleo had been losing her magnificent sense of smell, and that she was also going blind. One day when she was in the back yard, I heard her familiar hounddog howl, only this time it was n’t melodious – she was in pain. I found some boys with sharp sticks were poking at her through the fence, and had hurt her. The vet told us we wouldn’t have her long, that she had also developed deafness, and that she was obviously in pain. He said we really needed to put her to sleep. He had nursed her through a life-threatening disease years before, and we knew that he would not give us wrong advice.

The three of us, my husband, my daughter and I, couldn’t sleep that night, we kept taking turns holding her, watching her tail thumping with love every time one of us approached her, even though she could not stand. In the morning, my husband picked her up in his arms, and took her to the vet. He held her while the vet was giving her the needle, tears pouring down his face all the time he was holding Cleo and comforting her. My big policeman husband didn’t say much when he came home, and neither did our daughter and I. The grief we felt was too strong, too new, too painful.

A week or so later, Baby didn’t come in from the big backyard where she liked to chase butterflies and play hide and seek in the flowers and bushes with Cleo. When we went looking for her, we found her, dragging herself painfully towards us. We rushed her to the vet, who told us he didn’t know what was wrong, and asked if we wanted to have him do an exploratory operation. Without hesitation, we both answered yes, knowing that it would be very, very tough on our finances. But family is family, and we had just lost one member – at least we thought we had a chance with our other “baby”. But Baby died on the operating table, and we just didn’t have the heart to have an autopsy performed. We chose to believe that she had died of a broken heart.

It’s been years, but I still hear them, see them in my mind, and grieve for them.

Joyce from Ontario, Canada