How do you write about something that was so life-changing for you that it rocked you to your core? As I sit here in my living room and begin to ponder what I have chosen to write about this evening, a flood of memories fill my mind and a flood of emotions fill my heart. Ten years have gone by, yet I can remember everything that happened on that late drizzly afternoon in October as if it was just yesterday. After all this time, the one thing I will never forget from that day was Button.
As I’ve written previously, I am very lucky to have been blessed with two wonderful dogs in my life, Maggie and Max. After Maggie came to live with us in 1997, I came to realize that it might be a good idea for her to have someone to play with. I felt guilty about having to leave her at home while we were either in class or at work and I could imagine it must get lonely for such a sweet dog. One day while I was at work, I got a message that my husband was downstairs and needed to see me. I quickly headed out to meet him for fear that there was something wrong as he never usually bothered me at my workplace. When I walked outside the building I saw him standing there with his parents and noticed that he was holding something small in his hands. As I got closer I realized it was a dog!! He handed her to me and I immediately noticed just how small and frail she was. She was a Rat Terrier/Chihuahua mix and was completely white except for a large black spot on her eye, another large black spot on her rear, and ironically she had one last large black spot in the exact place that Maggie did on her side. I thought how funny it was that I would have matching dogs!! My husband then explained to me that she had been living with an elderly couple who would feed her table scraps only. Because they sometimes forgot to eat, you can imagine this already small dog was pretty emaciated. She probably weighed three to four pounds. I will admit that it wasn’t exactly what I was thinking of when I imagined a playmate for Maggie, but she was ours and I was so happy.
Before we left, I was told that they weren’t sure what her name was so we would get to choose one for her. I was SO EXCITED!! I didn’t get to name Maggie, although I did bless her with her middle name. We got her home and introduced her to Maggie. Because Maggie is a very gentle dog, she did her normal Beagle sniffing and then went about finding a place for a nap. I sat there holding this tiny little thing in my arms thinking she must have had a difficult life thus far and I was going to do everything I could to make the rest of it as happy as possible. We tossed around some obvious names like Spot but they just didn’t fit her. As I was looking at her I realized that despite her delicate frame she really was cute as a button. BUTTON!!! That’s her name!!…and it stuck!
From the very first night she spent with us, I knew it was going to be a bit of a challenge to fatten her up. For one thing, I didn’t know exactly how old she was. Also, it was immediately obvious that she had never eaten dog food in her life, let alone dry dog food. Furthermore, she was very skittish and would run away at the slightest movement. Our feeding ritual with her became me heating up chicken broth and pouring it on her dry dog food and then sitting on the floor without moving a muscle so she could eat…and did she eat!!!! She ate her food so quickly that most of the time it didn’t appear she would even chew it but rather just get it in her mouth and swallow it. Things progressively improved with her and we not only managed to plump her up to a healthier six pounds, but she also got more and more comfortable with us and Maggie and they became the best of friends.
We moved from our home in San Angelo to our house in San Antonio and of course Maggie and Button just went with the flow. The house we moved into had a big back yard and plenty of room to run around inside and outside. While living there, we had some college friends over for a visit one night and Button decided to go into the kitchen to get a drink of water…which was where I was at the time. What she didn’t realize was that one of our friends was headed into the kitchen as well. When she saw that she was being followed she got so scared that the only place she could find to hide was inside the refrigerator. We all had a good laugh that night and I of course made sure she was fine. Button quickly became very trusting of me. She even started to allow me to do a trick with her. Imagine balancing a baseball bat on the palm of your hand. Now replace the bat with a small dog sitting up and that was Button. She would just balance there with her front paws hanging down as I made sure she didn’t fall. She was often found in the same small dog bed as Maggie and when we traveled, they rode together in the same pet taxi. Needless to say, she felt very comfortable with her big sister…and vice versa.
A little over a year later, we moved to our rent house in Austin. Again, this house had a very large back yard with plenty of room for the dogs to play. My dad built a dog house for Maggie and Button so that we could leave the dogs outside while we were gone although most of the time you could find them on the deck that ran along the back of the house. The one thing that always bothered me about that back yard was that on one side of the house it was very shady and was virtually impossible to get grass to grow there. I’m sure you can imagine the fun of cleaning mud off of puppy paws. Let’s just say it’s one of my least favorite things to do. Because there was no shade in the rest of the yard, we had no choice but to put the dog house in that potentially muddy area as the summers here get extremely hot and humid. Fortunately for us, we had a large garage as well. So if for some reason it was raining, we would make sure that anything in the garage that was dangerous to the dogs was out of reach and we would put a bed, food and water in there with them during the day knowing that they would be safe and any messes would be easily cleaned up.
That’s where they were during the day on October 23, 2000.
I awoke that morning to find it raining just hard enough to know that had we left the dogs outside while we were at work that day they would both need baths that evening. Before I left for work I made sure that they were good to go in the garage, petted them both, and headed out the door. I got home that evening a little after 5:30 pm and knew that they would be eager to be released from their cement playground. I felt guilty for having to leave them in there, so I decided that since it was just misting outside that a quick walk around the block would be a good treat for them and would also allow them to stretch their legs a bit. The three of us headed out.
Walks with my two girls was usually a funny experience. Maggie’s sniffer was always in overdrive so she mostly walked with her head to the ground acting as if she’s hot on the trail of something very important. Button on the other hand was more like a prancing pony. She always held her head and tail up high and each foot came completely off the ground with such grace that she was just a pleasure to watch. Sure they were both on leashes, but Button really could have gone without one. If she was getting too far away from me on her retractable leash, all I had to say in a gentle voice was “Button?” and she’d be right back at my feet.
We headed down our street, turned the corner and then made a left at the very next street. A sweet lady who had been outside at the time commented on how cute Button was. We chatted for a few minutes and then the girls and I continued on our walk as it was still a bit damp outside and I was trying to avoid both dogs getting completely soaked. We made another turn at the end of the street and then finally the last left back on to Bridgewood Trail. The neighborhood was a bit older, but it was still in a fairly nice area. The only thing that really bothered me was that there were too many dogs running loose. Some were owned by homeowners while others were just strays. Regardless, it always made me a bit uneasy when I saw a strange dog out and about. As I headed back down towards our house, I noticed that the neighbor a few houses up from us was outside as was his larger black dog. At that moment, I made a mental note that if that dog looked our way or started heading our way I would just pick up Button as Maggie was big enough to defend herself weighing in at a little over 35 pounds.
That’s when it happened.
While standing in front of a one-story house just a little ways from the safety of our home, my worst nightmare came true. Barreling out of a six-foot high privacy fence was a large German Shepherd. I had absolutely no reaction time as it ran straight for my sweet
Button. It immediately picked her up in its mouth and flopped her around like a dog does to a toy. I dropped Maggie’s leash and began screaming at the top of my lungs for help. I grabbed the dog and with my nails began digging them into its back and neck. I had acrylic nails at the time and in the process of trying to get this dog to release Button from its clutches, two of my nails popped off and my fingers began bleeding. Finally the owners came out and Button was dropped on the ground gasping for air. I picked her up sobbing hysterically just telling her to hold on.
The dog’s owner got in her car and drove me and Button to the animal hospital. As we were just a little ways down the road I knew Button was gone, but I wanted to believe that her injuries weren’t really life threatening. I called my husband on the way there to tell him what happened, but between him being across town and me crying he was having trouble deciphering what I was saying. I managed to get out the words “Button” and “attacked” and he knew why I was so upset. The drive to the vet’s office seemed to last forever. When we pulled up to the door I got out and ran inside with Button who was now cold and wrapped in a towel. I yelled for someone to help me and they quickly took her from my arms and into a room where they could examine her. It was determined that she had in fact passed away in my arms from a broken back and punctured lung.
There was no consoling me.
My husband got there and found me in one of the exam rooms just wailing. Even as I write this, I’m sitting here crying as I think about my sweet girl and how scared she must have been. I couldn’t protect her. I didn’t even have time to react to what was happening as the whole thing was such a surreal experience. Then panic hit me! Where was Maggie?! What happened to her?! I was told that she was fine and one of our neighbors was keeping an eye on her until we got home. My husband finally managed to get me to leave the clinic, but it was one of the hardest things I had ever done as Button and Maggie had always been more than just dogs to me.
We walked through the door of our house and there was Maggie waiting for us. I got down on the floor and just held her and cried. I don’t know if she realized what happened, but she definitely knew how sad I was as did my husband. We made a few phone calls to let friends and family know what happened and I finally passed out that night from complete emotional exhaustion.
Looking back on that tragic day I wonder several things. I wonder why that German Shepherd felt the need to go after a six-pound dog. I wonder why that dog didn’t turn on me. I wonder how Maggie knew not to run off…and furthermore, I wonder why that dog didn’t turn on her as well. In the end, the German Shepherd’s owners took care of our vet bill and they made the decision to have their dog put to sleep as this wasn’t the first time it had been aggressive towards another animal.
I will never understand why something like this happened. When I think of Button, I think of my sweet angel who sacrificed herself so that this didn’t happen to someone else’s dog or, even worse, someone’s child. I have never been the same since this experience. It took a long time to be able to take Maggie on a walk again by myself. There were many times that she and I would be out and I’d see a dog running around loose. At that point I would pick up all 35 pounds of her and carry her home. I was NOT going to go through that again! To this day I am completely terrified if I see a loose dog while I am out with Maggie and Max. I get frustrated by people who let their pets run around with no regard to the safety of their animal or anyone else’s. Button taught me so much about love and patience and she is missed every day. I know the part of my heart that she held will never fully heal, but as long as the scar is there she’ll never be forgotten.