Gay and I got Illy in 1999 from Lab Rescue. She was 4 years old and was being given away by her owners because the mother developed terminal cancer and couldn’t care for her anymore. They got her as a puppy and their child grew up with her for the first few years of their life. Lab Rescue told us that they had tried a few times to let her go and canceled at the last minute each time because they didn’t want her to go. We feel the same.
When we met her at the foster house she was spry. She even played fetch with me, something she never did since. We put her in the back of the Jeep and drove her home. On the way, we realized our getting a dog wasn’t well-planned and we didn’t have anything at home for her. We stopped at a pet supply chain, Petco, for some supplies. We got a collar, dog dish, food, etc and continued to home.
Her original name was Maggie, but we didn’t like the name. We read that to change a dog’s name it’s best to change it to one that rhymed and with the same number of syllables so the dog would have an easier time learning it. We tried several names on her and she didn’t respond to any of them. One day, while trying names on for size, I saw a can of Illy coffee on the counter. It rhymed and, like Maggie, had 2 syllables so I tried saying “Illy!”. Her head perked up right away and she looked at me waiting for my next word. Success! Her new name was Illy.
Illy was always well-behaved. She was house-broken, she was good with people, she didn’t bark unnecessarily and she didn’t chew on furniture. But whenever we left the house, she’d be up on the couch by the time the door closed. We could see her through the window by the door that she was relaxing on the couch and we’d yell through the window to get off the couch. She ignored us and we gave up even trying after a few days. She could do anything she wanted and we’d still think it was cute.
When we quit our jobs and started our own business out of the 2nd bedroom, she would lay right in the middle of the room behind our chairs. We’d constantly slide our chairs into her and she’d just pick her head up and look at us. After a year of living in close quarters like that, we decided we needed a bigger place to live and work. Long story short, we bought a house on Vashon Island.
The new house had a big yard and Illy had no one to play with. We decided we should get another dog for her. We got Ouzo and Illy pretended like he didn’t exist. He loved Illy, though. He loved being with her, he always let her have food before trying to get it and he always let her go through doors ahead of him. I think she secretly like him, but she never showed it — she wasn’t a dog person.
In the new house, we had a bigger shared office, but she still sat close enough to us to be hit by a chair sliding out unexpectedly. She was never far from us. She was not overly affectionate, but she preferred to be near us than far from us for no apparent reason. If we moved to another room, she’d come over and lay by our feet. If we were in separate rooms, she’d lay where she could see both of us. When we left the house, she’d watch us leave and would wait by the door until we got back. Getting to the office required her to climb up a staircase and down another. She did this every day. Even when she was so arthritic it took her 10 minutes to climb the stairs and she struggled to get down the other staircase, she came up to the office so she could lay near us. And after Havana and Hudson were born and their lunches were served in the kitchen, she’d make the reverse trek back to kitchen every single day to see if there were any scraps of food that might fall on the floor. The last few years, she needed help climbing stairs so she needed help. At first, it was just words of encouragement: “Go Illy go! Go Illy go!”. As time went on, I’d have to pick up her rear legs and put them on the first step to get her started. Before she gave up climbing stairs altogether, I had to hold her rear legs up while she pulled herself up the stairs with her front legs.
As she approached 15 in November, she was slowing down. She was as good as deaf, she couldn’t see very far, not even far enough to find food on the floor, and she struggled just to walk due to her arthritis. Soon after turning 15, she deteriorated rapidly. She experienced another bout of dizziness that she only partialy recovered from. She wouldn’t eat or drink so the vet gave her an IV to get her nutrition back. She was improving for a day or two but stopped eating and drinking again. She couldn’t get up on her own anymore and could barely control her bowels. The vet suggested some things to try but also reminded us of her age. We held out hope that she’d improve and have a few more weeks or months more.
She only got worse. I’d pick her up and help her walk outside to go the bathroom but she couldn’t stand up long enough to finish and she’d fall down. She started vomiting often and we’d wake up to her dried vomit and a wet bed. We decided that her quality of life was not very good and it was time to let her go.
We’ll miss you, Illy.