Raya was my best friend and constant companion for 11 years. She was 14 years old when I had to put her to sleep last May. She was born on New Year’s Day 1993, and my mom raised her for her first three years. I brought her to live with me when she was three, and we stayed together until she passed. I miss her every single day.

After she died, I wrote some down some things that I remember about her. I guess it was somewhat cathartic, but I also didn’t want her to go unremembered. Here are some of my best memories of her.


When she was a puppy, she would stand on her hind legs against the gate to the kitchen whining and crying until I would pick her up like a baby, thumbs under her front legs and hands around her ribcage. If you picked her up and cradled her, she would grunt like a pig.

Once we fed her burrito meat. She had just eaten dinner and her belly was bulging. With the burrito meat inside her, her belly was so distended that she could barely sit upright. But she just kept on begging for more, rocking from side to side.

When we bathed her in the kitchen sink, she would whine and cry like we were torturing her. When she was too big for the sink, Mom bathed her outside. Mom went to a block party later and heard someone talking about the poor abused dog that was always crying. Since she bathed Raya fairly frequently, she knew exactly which dog the neighbor was talking about.

After she outgrew her first kennel, Raya’s bed was a pallet under the built-in desk in the kitchen. She soon discovered the joys of scraping the wallpaper off the wall with her claws. Mom had to re-wallpaper under the desk.

We taught her to shake hands, but we had to give that up because she would just maul our hands with her sharp baby teeth.

Once she approached her tandem food bowl from the water side. When she set her foot down, it went into the water half of the bowl. She didn’t want to lift her head up because that meant that she would have to stop eating from her food bowl. So she scooted her back end around the water bowl until she was standing squarely in front of the food bowl.

When Mom landscaped the backyard, Raya ate all the new plants, one by one. The only one that she wouldn’t eat turned out to be a tomato plant. Even though she ate just about anything as an adult, she still didn’t like tomatoes.

We could tell which way she grew overnight. Some days she grew longer, some days she grew taller. One day she had a bone sticking up at the back of her skull that never went away.

She had a couple of strangely placed spots. One was a white one that was between her nostrils. As she grew, it eventually moved into her nose. Another was at the very tip of her tail. The weirdest one was in her butt. Mom said that it looked like a comma.

One day she grew too tall to run under the glass coffee table. With every step, she bumped her head underneath the glass the full length of the table.

She always loved to sit in laps. Even when she was much too big, she would try to squirm her way into someone’s lap. Once Mom was sitting in a chair, and she launched herself onto Mom’s lap. She didn’t quite make it though, and her back half ended up sliding back down, her hind legs kicking in the air, searching for purchase.

As a puppy, she wasn’t very fond of car rides. When I took her to the vet, she had to stand (not sit) in my lap and whined and cried the whole way.

One trip to the vet was particularly eventful. She bumped her head against my face and ended up with a big lipstick print on her forehead. The vet commented that someone must love her a lot. After getting her shots, she stopped in the middle of the parking lot and wouldn’t budge. She whined and whined, but still wouldn’t budge. Then she pooped and vomited almost simultaneously. She knew it was coming, she just didn’t know that it was coming from both ends.

She always loved to sleep in the sun.

I remember one night when she and I were home alone watching TV on Mom’s bed. She lay on top of my thighs, and from nose to tail she fit perfectly into the crevice between my legs. I stroked her until she went to sleep.

I loved the way she ran when we played in the yard. She would run to me with her head back, tongue lolling out, looking joyfully up at me.


I didn’t get to see her much during her teenage and young adult years, as I was in Austin, and Mom moved to Portland. Mom sedated her for the drive up to Portland and hated every minute of it, but Raya turned out to be a pretty good traveler and was a bit groggy, but none the worse for wear.

Once when I visited Mom in Portland, we went to a hamburger place for lunch. I only ate half of my hamburger, and the waitress put the other half into a Styrofoam container. At home, I placed it on the counter and went off to do something else. When I returned to the kitchen to put it in the refrigerator, the Styrofoam container hadn’t moved an inch, but it was open and the hamburger had vanished.

The first place where she lived in Austin had a small round front window that she could look out of while standing halfway up the staircase. I used to love seeing her face in that window as I was coming up the sidewalk. She often gave me the “smarl,” half-smile, half-snarl. Her upper lip would curl up from her teeth involuntarily, making her sneeze.

She loved to chase after birds. I would tell her to “go get those birds” and she would take off running.

We walked every day. She was so good at following voice commands that I didn’t have to use a leash. I would tell her to go get the mail, and she would run to the communal mailbox and wait for me. On the way home, I would tell her to wait, and she would stop at an angle and look over her shoulder at me until I got closer to her. Then I would tell her to go home, and she would run up to the front door.

She loved to eat grass. She would wander around the backyard looking for the best pieces. She also loved to chase squirrels back there. She would see one and whine and moan, dancing with impatience until I opened the door to let her out. She would sprint out to find the squirrel, but never caught one. But she never gave up. She would stand on her hind legs and look up every tree until she lost sight of the squirrel.

Once my neighbor’s huge malamute dug her way into my backyard. I looked out into the backyard and saw the wolf-like dog, but no Raya. I poked my head out the back door and saw Raya pressed against the side of the house, shaking with fear. Tasha was a good 30 pounds heavier than Raya and was known to kill anything that had the misfortune to venture into her yard. I called Raya to come inside, and she bolted to the door. Tasha sprinted toward me as well, and as I let Raya in, Tasha grabbed the meaty part just above Raya’s tail with her teeth. Raya moaned in pain and looked at me with the most desperate look on her face. I swatted at Tasha’s snout until she released Raya. Raya went near the back door with great trepidation that day, until my neighbor came home and fetched Tasha.

I saw that look on Raya’s face once again, when she was rooting through some grass. She came crashing out suddenly, the desperate look on her face. When she reached me, I saw that a wasp was digging through her fur after stinging her.

Raya frequently got stickers in her feet. We lived across the street from a schoolyard, which had a lot of sticker plants. She would limp up to me so that I could remove the stickers from her feet. She actually stepped on a huge thorn once. I had to stand with her between my legs to get a good angle for yanking the thorn out. I pulled on what looked like a stick between her toes, and a thorn at least an inch long came out of her paw. The next day, she was lying like a sphinx in her kennel. She whined and held out her paw toward me. It was hot and surely painful. I held her paw and stroked it, and said “Poor paw.” She was fine the next day.

If you rubbed Raya’s back with your foot, she would roll over onto your foot and rub her back on it. She also loved to roll on tennis to give herself a back massage of sorts

I used to take long walks along the walking trails in Austin, and Raya loved to walk with me. She would constantly run out in front of me about 50 feet, then return, then repeat. She got twice as much mileage out of our walks as I did.

She was quite a vocal dog, but not a barker. When she moved to Austin and first discovered the backyard, she ran along the length of the fence, smelling the neighbor’s dog. The whole time she was simultaneously grunting and whining, a sound similar to massaging a balloon with your fingers.

She loved to sit on the floor near whatever end of the couch I was on. She would fall asleep, then lift her head up and rest it on the sofa cushion and whine for attention.

At first, I let her onto the sofa. I would lie on the sofa, and she would curl up next to me, head on my shoulder and nose under my chin.

Sometimes while playing she would get herself riled up into a frenzy. Then I’d tell her to run up and down the stairs. She would fly up the staircase and stomp her way down, doing her Volkswagen run around the living room. We called it her Volkswagen run because her butt dragged near the ground the way a Beetle’s back end drags as it accelerates from first gear after a full stop. She would also stop, throw her head back, and run at you at full tilt if she was particularly happy.

Occasionally she would bury a biscuit in the backyard, then try to come back into the house with a nose full of dirt. When it was rainy, I kept a towel near the back door to wipe her feet off. She got used to the drill and would pick her feet up on command to be wiped.

If she stepped over her leash, I’d say, “Lift up,” and swing the leash. She would lift up the offending foot and I’d swing the leash back to where it should be.

She loved to go rollerblading with me. She would drag me for about the first mile or two. I quickly learned to drop the leash if she saw a cat or a squirrel. However, she would tire pretty quickly, and I usually had to drag her the last mile or so.

Sometimes the schoolkids would leave a kickball out on the playground. She LOVED the kickballs. She would see one, and her ears would go forward with anticipation. I’d kick the ball for her to fetch, and inevitably she would puncture it with a tooth after about three tries. The balls were so big that they would get stuck in her mouth, and I’d have to wrestle them out. She even loved the flat balls, and I would still fling them around the backyard for her to chase. She would even rip them into pieces and still chase them.

She also loved to bounce balls. I’d get her excited with a toy, and she would fling it into the air with her teeth, or dribble it along the ground, catching it in her mouth on each bounce. She would pounce on it from the play position, rear in the air and elbows on the ground, turning her head from side to side, ears forward and happy.

Once she got so excited about cookies baking in the oven that she barked and growled at my boyfriend at the time when he approached the kitchen. Those were HER cookies.

I soon discovered that she would eat just about anything. Carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, and apples were her favorites. She also loved grapes and bananas. I always saved the last bite of banana for her. I miss giving her the last bite of banana. She never liked citrus fruits, lettuce, or tomatoes. She’s the only dog I ever knew who would beg for your salad.

When she was sleeping and had had her eyes closed, she reminded me of cookies and cream ice cream.

She absolutely adored her collar. She did not like to be without it. After a bath, I’d wave the collar in the air, and she would run toward me, eager to have its reassuring weight around her neck.

She loved to attack her blanket. She would throttle it around like a dead animal. She also loved tug of war. She would pick up her string toy and bring it to me. We would play tug of war, she digging in her heels, growling, and tugging on one end of the toy, me barely able to contain my laughter and tugging on the other end.

She also loved to be rolled up in her blanket. She was perfectly content to stay underneath it all night, but I usually pulled it back so that she could at least breathe.

She would have made a good defensive soccer player. Once I took her out with a soccer ball, and she would straddle it with her front legs, not letting it get by, gnawing at the ball every step of the way. If I did manage to kick it past her, she would run after it and trip over it in her attempt to catch it.

Once the streets were coated in two to three inches of ice. I took a half-deflated kickball out for her to play with. I’d kick the ball, and she’d chase it. She would slide past it, legs splayed out and scrabbling for traction. She looked like a cartoon, trying to run and getting absolutely nowhere.

She also loved to help me with the groceries. She would come to the back of the car and stand on her hind legs to check out the bonanza in the hatchback. Once the groceries were on the kitchen floor, she would immediately find her own bag, the one with the treats.

Before I gave her a bath, I would brush her for a few minutes. She loved it. She would sit on her haunches, very still, just enjoying the massage. She especially liked it when I would use the bristles on her rear end, waggling her bum from side to side, panting and smiling with pleasure.

The first time she had a seizure as an adult, I heard thumping noise from downstairs in the middle of the night. I ran downstairs to see what was going on, and I thought maybe she was just having a bad dream or had run into something unseen in the dark. But she was laying down and panting, and was unable to stand. She had peed, and it smelled foul. She was ashamed of the accident, because she never went in the house. She had several more seizures over the years, and one grand mal. Sometimes she peed, but she was always exhausted and shaky afterward for a few minutes. I could tell when they were coming—it had the same warning signs that I had seen during a puppyhood seizure. She would stop blinking and she would lower her head and stare straight ahead. I would always lay down next to her and tell her that it was all right and stroke her until it was over. Then I’d help her to her feet when she was able to stand again.

Frequenting the school’s playground led to a couple of gastric disasters. Once she vomited up a plastic bag. Another time, I heard her whining from the landing outside my bedroom door in the middle of the night. I yelled at her to go back to bed, because nighttime whining was nothing new. The heater intake was near the stairs, and as soon as the heater clicked on, a foul odor swept over me. I went out to the landing and saw the diarrhea stretching from the head to the foot of the stairs. I spent hours cleaning the carpet that day. Raya would avoid the middle of the stairs for months, pressing herself to the wall and looking ashamed every time she walked up or down the stairs. It was absolutely not her fault, of course, and I never scolded her, just told her that it was OK and that I was sorry that she was sick.

In the winter, I would bathe her in the shower with me. I’d put her in the tub, turn on the faucet, let the water heat up, then turn on the shower. I would bathe her first, then myself. Once she shook herself off in the shower, and her claws bruised my whole foot. I would make her wait in the shower until I dried myself, then I’d dry her off with a towel. She would snuffle and grunt under the towel. And while she hated baths, she loved being clean. After each bath, she would be so excited that she would run up and down the street or the stairs, depending on which season it was.

She shook herself off a lot, and a cloud of fur would explode off her body. She would shake herself so hard that her back feet would pop off the ground at the end. She always seemed to need to shake herself off in the car, usually immediately after I’d vacuumed it out.

Once on a walk, she saw a stump that looked like an animal. She barked and growled at it, ears forward, until she figured out that it was just a stump.

When she was 8 years old, I moved to a different apartment. There were deer in the green areas, and she loved to chase them. However, being older meant that she was not as agile or flexible. Several times after sprinting after the deer, she came back to me limping. I would take her upstairs and hold an ice pack on her ankle until she could walk without limping. On one occasion she was just inside the tree line, where she had chased some deer. I heard a yelp, and she came running full tilt out of the trees. I suspect that a deer had had enough of her giving chase and had somehow retaliated.

In that second apartment, she got really good at walking herself. I would take her near the tree line, and she would venture off into the trees, returning a few minutes later after doing her business. Once I saw a crimson stream coming from one of her ears. I thought I was just seeing things, but she had actually torn her right ear. It bled profusely. She shook herself off when we reached the landing on top of the stairs, and blood sprayed all over the landing. I got her inside and wrestled with her for a few minutes trying to stop the bleeding. She shook herself off again and sprayed the bathroom with blood. I finally got a bandage to stick, then had to clean up both the bathroom and the landing after my neighbors came to my door and asked if everything was OK.

A friend of mine had a small black Lab named T-Bone, whom I would dogsit occasionally. He would come over for a few days and bring his own toys. He and Raya would play for hours, both coated in saliva by the end of the visit. They discovered the joys of stealing each other’s toys and would swap toys out of jealousy several times every evening. Once when the three of us were walking through the woods, they ran off after some animal. As it approached me, it looked like a rabbit, but as it whizzed past I realized that it was an armadillo. They chased it into the underbrush, where they lost it. I never realized that armadillos could outrun a couple of dogs.

We made a couple of long road trips to New Mexico. She traveled very well in the hatchback, sleeping in the sun on top of her blanket. I would stop every couple of hours to walk her and let her have some water. Sometimes when lying in the back behind the driver’s seat, she would prop her head on my shoulder.

She loved to sniff my ears, snuffling through my hair to leave a wet kiss.

She was always terrified of storms, but also ashamed of her fear. She would whine at my bedroom door during the night, and she would be fine once she was curled up on the floor in my room. She would enter the room with her tail between her legs, embarrassed of her fear.

A few years into our life together, I could no longer resist her pleas for rawhide chew bones, which she would delicately pluck from the bins at PetsMart. She would be so excited when she got them home that she would play with them like toys, flinging them into the air and stamping her feet on the ground in the play position, ears forward. Then she would either try to bury them in the backyard or hide them in the house. Hiding them involved merely placing them in a corner or a chair. She would wander around the house for at least half an hour, searching out different hiding places, whining loudly the entire time. She would finally find a satisfactory place, and I would point out to her that I could see it, since she had only placed it in a corner or other obvious place. This would set off a whole new round of whining and searching for a better hiding place. Finally she would settle down on her blanket with the bone between her paws and eat it in one sitting.

At my first apartment, she would take naps next to the sliding glass door. When I finally moved into my own home, Mom and I came home after painting the back room, and she did not greet us at the door. We found her sound asleep, curled up in the sun in the back room.

Mom told me that Raya once was very excited and demanding, but she could not understand what was bothering her. She finally held her hands out to Raya and said, “Show me.” Raya ran to a closet. Mom opened the closet and said, “Show me with your nose.” Raya pointed to her blanket, which had been folded and put into the closet months before. After Mom gave her the blanket, she was happy again. Ever since, you could tell Raya to “show me with your nose” and she would point at whatever she wanted with her nose.

Senior years:

Soon after moving into my own home in Dallas, I realized that Raya had gone deaf. I had noticed that she was really stubborn and would not come when I called her. I called her from the bedroom one day, and she did not respond. I went to the living room where her kennel was and saw that she was sound asleep. I knew that she was deaf when I stomped on the wood floor and she finally jerked awake.

The older she got, the more her black coloring faded. Her muzzle eventually turned almost all white, and her ears were mostly gray.

She had a hard time on my wood floors. She would no longer roll over and rub her back on your foot, and every once in a while her legs would fly out from underneath her when she shook herself off.

The bathroom door in my house never closed properly. Raya would bump the door open with her head and peer around it so that all you saw was a disembodied spotted head. Occasionally she would poke her nose into the shower just to make sure that everything was OK.

Her toenails made a clickety-clackety sound on the wood floors. I always knew when she was unable to sleep or when she was awoke because I could hear her nails all the way in the bedroom.

Toward the end of her life she became increasingly obsessed with food. She would steal food directly from your plate if you weren’t careful.

She would leave nose prints on the French door. As soon as I cleaned them, they would be back. It took several months after her death for me to clean them off the front door.

Not long after I moved into my house, I gave her a rawhide bone. She was thrilled. So thrilled that she tried to bury it in the pot of my plumeria tree. I heard her doing something in the kitchen and leaned over to see a pile of dirt on the floor and her nosing around in the plant’s soil. Another time, I brought her home from a kennel. The woman who owned the kennel had given her a stuffed bone. It seemed not to last long, and I thought that she had eaten it. About three months later I found it in a box of linens in the back bedroom that had never been unpacked. I’m sure that she was happy to get it a second time, and that time she ate it.

For some reason, she wouldn’t poop in my yard, only in the driveway. I had to dodge the poop on the way to the car, and I frequently ran over it.

About a day and a half before she died, I took Raya for a walk. She was very lethargic and dragged behind. I didn’t walk her far because she was obviously not enjoying it. Later that night, as I was putting her to bed, she looked up at me and I knew that it would be her last real night. She climbed into her kennel, and I stroked her head and face for several minutes. She laid her head in my hand briefly, and I said goodnight. In the middle of the night, I heard her crying. I got up to find her halfway out of her kennel and unable to move herself any farther. I helped her up and walked her around the house. She fell down outside the bathroom, and I helped her up again. I brought her blanket into the bedroom and she slept there for the rest of the night. The next morning, she seemed mostly fine, except that I had to help her up the stairs to the back door. Later that day, I walked in to find Raya immobilized in her kennel, unable to move her back legs. I decided to take her to the emergency animal clinic. I rode in the back seat with her and held her and stroked her head. She laid her head on my legs for a while. We had to carry her into the clinic, and the attendants carried her into a crate. The vets thought it was an arthritic episode and kept her overnight. I went back to where they were keeping her and stroked her head and said goodnight to her. That was the last time that I saw her conscious and the last time that she recognized me. The vets kept her sedated for the night and the morning. In the morning I called, hopeful that she was recovering, but the vet told me that she had had a bad night. They weren’t sure what it was, but it was something neurological, either an aneurysm, a stroke, or brain cancer. She still could not move her back legs. She would wake and cry and cry, and they would sedate her again. At the clinic, she was laying on her left side, sedated and unconscious, with an IV in her right front leg. I stroked her head and said goodbye. I crawled into the crate with her while the vet administered the shots. She woke briefly, but did not recognize me, and she just cried and cried. I stroked her head and face until she took her last breath, and for a short time thereafter. I asked the cremation service to cremate her with her collar on because she hated to be without it.

I can’t even begin to say how much I miss her. We were so used to each other that she became a part of me. My Dad said that there’s always one very special dog, and she was mine. I hope that someday I’ll get to see her again.

Sherlyn from TX