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When I was in grade eight, the rabbits at my school procreated.  This event has had a profound impact on today, January 20, 2010.

See, I asked my parents if I could have one of the baby bunnies our science teacher was giving away to good homes.  My mom thought our home was probably not a good home for a bunny.  For one, we had a large German Shepard named Petra, who would probably have terrified the poor bunny to death.  For another, my parents did not think being stuck with the responsibility of taking care of a rabbit when I hypothetically left for university four years later, would be their cup of tea.

But a pet, yes a pet, this was a good idea.  We just needed to find the right one.

So I went through a few months of wanting nearly every pet imaginable.  Fish, hamster, iguana, guinea pig, your typical standard pet shop critters.  Of course, we already had a dog, so I knew that I should stay within my limits and ask for something caged – perhaps a canary, or a turtle.

After a few months of negotiations, much to my surprise, my mom suggested that a cat might be the right pet for us.  A woman at her work was giving away kittens.  A kitten! Yes, this was the perfect pet for a thirteen year old girl.  A pet that required some responsibility on the part of her owner, yet was also independent enough to survive the decline in attentive care that inevitably settles in when a child owns an animal.  And a pet that my parents would enjoy having around and caring for should I go far away to school, like New Brunswick, for example.  Sadly, my grandmother’s fear of cats and my allergy to them stood in the way.

Imagine a child’s disappointment.  When my mom told me that we could not, after all, get the kitten, I was heart broken.  But then she offered the unimaginable.  A trip to the humane society to look at a dog.  To this day I still don’t know how I got so lucky.  I didn’t even have to beg or plead or promise anything extraordinary.  A dog was being offered to me.

The first dog we saw, Bandit, was beautiful.  An Alaskan Malamute, he stood taller than my waist on all fours and had sad gray eyes like a husky’s.  He had the fluffiest, fullest coat on any dog I had ever seen.  This dog was beauty and the beast in one.  When we found out he had been seriously abused, and had behaviour problems that were more than my family could deal with, again I felt crushed.

But the staff knew of another dog, one that was beautiful and smart and great with kids.  Her name was Xena and she hadn’t been at the shelter for very long.  She was a mutt, with German Shepard, Doberman and Husky in her mix – just like my mom’s dog Petra.  And they were right, Xena was beautiful.  She played well with my brother and I, and other dogs.  She had energy like crazy but could be obedient when there was something in it for her.  She was curious and mischievous and could wiggle her way into anyone’s heart.  We had found the right pet.

So we brought Xena home with us on March Break in 1999, called her Xena-Sasha for a few days, and very quickly, Sasha became part of our family.

This morning, I watched as each of my family members said goodbye to Sasha.  I carried her out of the van and up the steps to the vets office.  I held her as she took her last few breaths.  I cried into the fur of her neck, like I have on so many other occasions, as I tried to find the words to say my own goodbye.

All I could manage was “It’s okay, rest now.”

I love that dog.  It’s hard to believe she’s gone.

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