Snow had just started falling, and it was the first time I had ever driven in snow. A friend and I traveled out of town to a party hosted by several of his friends. One of the young men owned a female dog. She was half Golden Lab and half German Shepherd. Another had a male Greyhound-Doberman cross. The two of them got together and ended up with a family of 7 puppies.
The guys had found a home for all but one puppy. When I sat on the floor, she came running up to me and laid down on my lap. The owner of the female dog said that he was going to have the pup “put down tomorrow.” I immediately decided to take her.
During the night, the predicted light snowfall had continued. Now it fell heavy and steady. Road conditions were miserable and the puppy and I had a 25 mile late-night drive ahead of us. She sat quietly in my lap all the way home as the snow covered road, at times, held our speed to 20MPH.
I named her Mañana, the Spanish word for tomorrow. Our quick bond sealed my commitment to give her all the tomorrows she had coming.
Mañana was a wonderful dog. The greyhound genes in her must have been dominant because she loved to run. She could sprint a full city block in the blink of an eye. But she never tried to run unless she had my permission, and the minute I whistled, she would return to my side. She was always ready to go when and where the day took us.
The only thing Mañana wasn’t equipped for was swimming. She had the long, thin legs of her greyhound ancestors and, in the water, she looked like an out-of-balance washing machine. Her paws would thump and bump the water, and the moment she could no longer touch bottom, she would turn around and head for shore. Even so, she loved the lake. A favorite activity was retrieving — yes, retrieving the rocks we tossed into the shallows, immersing her head in the water like an ostrich in sand.
My husband had a Springer Spaniel-Black Lab cross. His dog loved the water, and couldn’t understand why Mañana wouldn’t swim alongside him. When he figured out that she just didn’t know how to make her long slender legs do the dog paddle, he set out to teach her. It took all afternoon, but she finally “got” it. After that day, she loved swimming just as much as he did.
When she was six years old, Mañana bit a bee. Her cheeks puffed up like helium balloons. As our vet poked and prodded her mouth, this good girl never whimpered until he removed the stinger.
The following summer, Mañana had the fight of her life. She contracted the first case of Parvo Virus in our county. We were blessed with an excellent vet who knew how to treat the new illness. Mañana’s condition was critical for a couple of weeks, but with his help and her will to live, she won the battle.
In her eighth year, we moved to the country. At last she had the room every big dog needs to run. Country life introduced her to living with other animals. Living in the country, we frequently found stray or abandoned animals on our doorstep. She learned to tolerate cats and even became a companion to one rescued kitten named Blooper. We often found him and Mañana curled up together on the couch.
All animals weren’t eager to be her buddy. She quickly learned to stay out of range of our goats and their hard heads. And although she never met one, she didn’t like horses. We could pass by huge herds of cattle and she would ignore them, but spotting a horse or two in a pasture sent her into a barking frenzy.
At 14-years-old, Mañana started to slow down. Her morning runs became diffident walks where she did her business and was eager to go back inside. She ate less, and would often “woof” as she got up to go outside or at mealtime.
One morning I realized that I hadn’t seen her move off the couch for over a day. I tried to coax her outside, but she met my efforts with a soft, mournful whine. Later, though, I noticed that she was licking herself. It brought tears to my eyes to think that, rather than wetting the couch, she was drinking her own urine.
Determined to get her outside, I grabbed hold of her collar and hauled her off the couch. As her front legs tried to hold her weight, they buckled under her. She whimpered. My heart broke and I abandoned my plan to take her outdoors. Instead, I went to the phone and called the vet. I could bring her in immediately.
I grabbed her leash. “Do you want to go for a ride?”
Somehow, she found the strength to climb off the couch and crawl into the back seat of the car. Through the rear-view mirror, I saw that she was lying down and looking out the window. The neighbor’s horses were in the pasture. For the first time in my memory, she didn’t bark at them.
The vet agreed it was best to let her go. The decision was one of the most difficult I ever made. I had rescued this beautiful soul in order to give her a tomorrow. Instead, Mañana gave me fourteen years of beautiful tomorrows.