Georgia passed away exactly two months to the day after Lily. She was the end of an era of four dogs who changed my life for the better, shifted my entire career path and passions, and made me the person I am today.
It’s taken me seven months to be able to write this, and that’s because losing Georgia left such a huge hole.
There’s so much I could tell you about her.
She gave great hugs.
She did incredible things for the dogs we adopted after her.
She made impressive mountains out of dog beds and blankets.
But there’s a little something extra about Georgia that I miss the most: her pure joy for life.
Georgia came to us as a discarded breeding dog. After about three years of pumping out puppies in a cage for someone’s profit, she was tossed to the street and ended up in a shelter.
For a discarded dog, she sure left a big impact.
Many of you know and love Georgia because of how she became Duke’s seeing eye dog when he went blind.
She also mothered Archie when he first arrived, still not healed from his amputation and snapping and growling at every human hand that came near him. Georgia wasn’t scared of him. She cuddled right up next to him within minutes, and became a constant comfort in his first months here. Every night they would go to sleep in separate beds, but many mornings I would find Georgia laying on the floor next to Archie’s bed instead of on her own.
She always had a motherly instinct, which is why her nickname over the years changed from Monkey (she made monkey noises when she got excited) to Mama.
The thing about Georgia is that, like many rescued animals, she knew hard times. She was scarred by them. But she had this particular gratitude for her second life that was absolutely joyous and infectious. She was so happy about her new life that you couldn’t help but feel her happiness, too.
She’d prance and dance and wiggle around and you couldn’t help but laugh and catch a little bit of her joy when she was around. (You also couldn’t help but accidentally stick a finger in her nose or eyes because petting Georgia during a happy dance was such a moving target.)
Because of her former life, Georgia had extreme anxiety.
She was a large part of why I wanted to move out of the city and into nature. The busyness of a suburban neighborhood tortured her. She would flip like a switch from the happiest little creature on the planet to uncontrollable barking and high alert. You could actually see the moment that something in her brain would flip, and at that point, there was no stopping her. No amount of training, diversions, avoidance, calming tactics, yelling or even shameless begging ever stopped the fear and barking.
The only thing that finally helped her anxiety was moving to the woods of Upper Michigan. When we moved here, she finally found quiet. She stopped barking. She started to enjoy the outdoors. She even moved slower—not from old age, but from a calm confidence that I had never seen in her before.
It’s a simple memory, but I’ll always remember her last day here. Georgia had gone from a dog who dreaded being outside to a dog who loved to quietly wander the woods and property on her own. She was always finding little “treats” that the eagles had dropped in the yard (ie, fish heads and seagull wings and small animal bones). On this day she was taking herself for a little walk through the woods, and instead of joining her I watched her from a distance, enjoying seeing her in peace. She found a dry corn cob in the woods, and I saw her pick it up and run it back home to me—smile on her face, wiggle in her butt. It was such a simple moment, but at the same time, not. She was 13 years old then, and I’d had her for 10 years. Ten years of overcoming anxiety that tested all of us, but she had finally arrived to this moment where she could wander in the woods by herself, relaxed and confident and happily hunting little treasures. I love that she experienced that.
Just hours later, one side of her face became swollen. She had developed a very aggressive cancer in the two months since Lily died, and that’s how fast it was moving. She was very quiet and still—no wiggling whatsoever. With one look in her eyes, I knew why, and I knew it was time.
The joy was gone.
Rest in peace, Georgia. Always on my mind (and in my heart).