Friday, September 4, 2015

Dasa: Remembrances of Joy

    It’s difficult to distill into words all the magic that was Dasa.  My sweet good-natured Dasa, my Doodle, my dainty little girl. Her little underbite, her slightly turned up pink nose, her light tippytoeing across the grass. Her little pink tongue curling in a sleepy yawn, and her good morning kisses on my nose. Her quick insistence on springing onto the couch next to me before Ivan could decide where he wanted to sit.  She was faster and more agile than Ivan. Oh, how amazing and joyful they were when they ran big swooping circles around the back yard. They would run the same path and then split off to run circles that intersected in the middle with little leaps and twists. My brave, brave little girl who overcame so much to trust us. Oh, how we loved her and how she loved us. And for such a dainty quiet little dog, how huge a gaping hole she left in our lives. 

     Shortly after we lost our 14-year-old basenji Leo, we found ourselves agreeing to possibly adopt Dasa if she and Ivan got along. Dasa and her foster mom Dana made the long trek from Tampa and met Ivan in the driveway. By the time Ivan and Dasa had walked around the block, Ivan was sending every “Play With Me!!” signal he could think of.  Dana thought walks might be too scary for Dasa, but from the first, she wanted to go on walks with Ivan. He was going and she didn’t want to miss anything. Ivan doesn't suffer from a lack of confidence, and Dasa seemed to benefit from his self-assurance. She was very devoted to her adopted brother.
    Three-year-old Ivan and four-year-old Dasa  played and played. They played keep away with stuffed animals. They raced around the back yard, they wrestled, they leapt over the couch, they wrestled on the couch, cushions went flying, and they ran some more.
    When she first came to live with us, I was concerned Ivan would run over her. Not to worry. Dasa held her own nicely. If Ivan pestered her when she wasn’t quite awake or didn’t feel like playing, one side of her lip curled just so, accompanied by a small warning snarl. Ivan then decided he had other things to do. There were no big scary fights or major disagreements. They always got along very well.
     Dasa came to us a very shy worried little girl. She had a severe startle reflex, and did not like loud noises or new situations. Just four months after we adopted Dasa from BRAT, we moved from Florida to Illinois and our baby had to get used to a new house. She decided her safe spot was under the futon bed in my office.  She gradually felt more secure and fled to my office less and less frequently.
    Over the years, Dasa blossomed into a cute, affectionate little girl, full of tail wags and dainty kisses. She talked to us, and scratched at the door of whatever room we were in to let us know she required our attention for something that usually involved food or a w-a-l-k. And she leapt in the air with delight when we obligingly asked if she'd like to go for a walk. She was quite the little snuggler, and occasionally edged Ivan off a lap so she could have his place. This was accomplished either by stealth—slowly oozing into Ivan’s spot—or by subterfuge—whirling about on the floor, bouncing into a play bow, inviting him to join her. It took Ivan a while, but he eventually learned that when he jumped eagerly off the couch, ready to play, Dasa leaped into his spot and settled in with a satisfied expression.
    If Ivan was already sitting beside the parent, Dasa climbed on top of the parental lap, claiming center position. She tapped us with a petite paw, demanding tummy rubs. If we stopped, we got a delicate tap, reminding us that she required further attention and we were not to stop until she said so.
     She started out as a dainty timid little girl. We marveled at her sweetness and rejoiced at each small step as she gained more confidence. She was such a joy in so many ways, a bouncy little girl who could easily spring above waist level when she was excited. And, somewhere along the way, I realized she had become a precious vital part of me. She will always occupy a huge chunk of my heart.
     Dasa was a sweet little girl, so good it was sometimes difficult to believe she was a basenji. She didn’t chew things, was seldom ever grumpy or difficult, bravely trotted out to potty in wet grass, and was the most wonderful tail wagger.
  She was brave and uncomplaining about going out into the cold, but she was such a little girl that she got cold easily. I carried my little love home on many a winter walk and started carrying a small baby blanket to wrap around her bottom and back legs when I carried her; her coat left these bare and I worried about those tiny delicate legs and feet.
       She loved ice cream, and food in general was such a wonderful thing.  Dasa sometimes scratched at the door or even my shoes sitting by the door to let us know she was anxious about receiving nourishment.  She’d stick close by during meal preparation, occasionally doing a great meerkat imitation, standing on her back legs and peering up at the counter top as if hopeful I’d give her all the food while Ivan raced about.
       I can’t remember how or why Dasa got her nickname, Doodle. It could be because I chirped little phrases such as “Ivanhoe I love you so. Dasa-Do I love you too,” when I saw them being cute, which is practically every time they entered the room, yawned, stretched, etc. Doodle just suited her, and Dasa didn’t seem to mind. (However, she responded  to “Chicken!” with far more speed and enthusiasm than any mention of her name warranted.)
          She loved the big bed, and a great deal of her beauty sleep was accomplished there. She was my loyal snuggler, such a sleepy amenable bundle curled up next to me. Dasa slept with her head on my pillow or on my arm. My snuggly little girl was sweet and pliable even in her sleep. I could move her a bit, adjust the blankets, and she slept peacefully on.
    I often lie awake and achingly feel the empty space on the sheet beside me and the absence of her even breathing. Along with so many other lovely things about living with Dasa, I miss her sweet softness curled up beside me. 

     We are very grateful to BRAT for entrusting us with Dasa. How blessed we have been to share our lives with these amazing, captivating, enchanting little dogs. Dasa was and Ivan still is the center of our home; joy and warmth and laughter.
     We have a photo of our sweet baby girl on her first day at her foster home, just after she arrived, worried and unsure. When Dasa worried, her tail went into Whippet position. We made it our goal to keep her life as worry-free as possible and make the Whippet position a rarity.
    Dasa’s life with us was as filled with love as we could make it. She knew every day with us that she was loved and treasured. We are profoundly grateful for every minute we were privileged to share with our Dasa.

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