A Tribute to Bashia Barker Henderson

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(This is one of my favorite pictures of Bashia. It was taken last summer after her summer hair cut. Tonya Ritchie, the groomer, works in the basement of the clinic; because Bashia had some arthritis in her hips, and had been standing for several hours for her bath and hair cut, Tonya got a wagon for Bashia to use for her ride upstairs. Bashia thought she was Princess Bashia!)

How ironic that I blogged last week about dogs going to Heaven! Nevertheless, I’ve learned that life is nothing if not about change, flexibility and sometimes a challenge to the structure of our lives. Therefore, I’m writing a tribute to Bashia Barker Henderson.  I hope you won’t feel sad because I don’t.  The fact that I don’t, however, is only thru the powerful prayer support of many friends.

When Vera was about 5 months old, I quickly learned that she was going to need someone who would be her own size to play with. I called my breeder, Diane Judy, from whom I purchased Vera. Diane told me that her two brown Newfoundlands, Sis and Brody, were expecting a litter around the middle of April. The litter came on Friday, April 13, 2007, and I made haste to visit Sis and her puppies on Sunday, April 15. Bashia and her littermates were all cute, as most puppies are. However, I didn’t want to touch any of them, and asked if I could come back in a couple of weeks, when everyone’s eyes were open.

The two weeks traveled slowly by, but soon enough, I got to see several puppies scampering about Diane’s dining room, under the watchful eyes of Sis. Bashia was entirely brown except for a small patch of white fur where her cleavage would be if she were a woman.  She scurried toward me, gave my shoes a good sniff and seemed to be saying, “Pick me up. I’m going home with you in a few weeks.” Bashia picked me to be her new Mom!

And so she did. Diane battled various cancers for several years; because she was needing to start treatments, she told me that since I lived so close to her, and since I had Vera, (and probably since I had her on speed dial), I could bring Bashia home at 6 weeks, weighing 6 pounds, rather than the more desirable 8, 10 or 12 weeks. Diane promised me I could bring her back if Vera just wouldn’t accept her.

Before I showed Bashia to Vera, however, I took her to my Mother’s house and showed Bashia to her. I will admit waking my Mother up from a nap; she didn’t have her glasses on, and I was probably about 15 feet from my Mother. She was startled awake, and thought I was holding a groundhog!  I quickly let her pet Bashia’s puppy fur; the poor puppy whimpered and whined.

Next, I took Bashia to my house, but didn’t let Vera see her. Instead, I cuddled with Bashia, took her outside, cuddled her some more, and let her have a nap. When she woke up, I introduced her to Vera, who was thrilled! Vera was so excited, and going through the phase of picking things up and shaking them that I was frightened that she would pick Bashia up, give her a good shake, and accidentally kill her. So it was back to Diane’s that we went for a couple of weeks. When Bashia was 8 weeks old, she had doubled in weight to 12 pounds. Both Diane and James Robinson, DVM, felt confident that while I would need to supervise play time and keep them separated until Bashia gained a few more pounds, she was big and strong enough that Vera couldn’t injure her.

And so it was that Bashia Barker Henderson moved in with her beautiful blue eyes, which turned brown by the end of the summer.

Many people have asked why I named her “Bashia”. The wife of one of my college professors was named “Bashia”. I always thought it was a gorgeous name, and if I ever had a little girl, I would name her “Bashia”. I never had a human child, so I used “Bashia” for my puppy. And many people have told me over the years that if everyone treated their children as well as I’ve treated my dogs, there would not be any child abuse.  That’s a big compliment, but it’s true.

A couple of my favorite Bashia memories. Even though she was a water dog, and didn’t mind having a bath or getting wet with the water hose in the summer, Bashia was not fond of rain. She also didn’t like to get her feet wet from the dew. My Mother always thought that perhaps the dew made her feet itch. I don’t know, and we’ll never know.

Another favorite Bashia memory has to do with her fierce bark. If she knew you and liked you, she had a friendly bark. If she didn’t know you or if she didn’t like you……look out! Bashia had a ferocious bark; it would have scared me if I hadn’t known her.

A final favorite memory – and I have several that I could pull out – has to do with her donating blood. I no longer remember why a donor dog was needed, but several years ago, Dr. Robinson called me to see if I could bring a dog in to donate blood. Bashia had recently had blood and lab work, and it was all good, so I chose her to be the donor dog. I remember Dr. Robinson was especially pleased, because she wasn’t on any medications (except for her monthly heartworm preventative). For whatever reason, the donee dog needed blood free from any medicine. And Bashia’s veins were like hoses, I was told!

I sat in the waiting room while one of the techs took Bashia to the back. It usually took about 15 minutes for one of my dogs to donate blood if no lab work was needed. I waited 15 minutes. I waited 15 more minutes. I waited for over an hour. Finally, I asked the receptionist if I could go check on Bashia. She said I could, so back to the treatment area I went. Bashia was in the floor, lying on her side, having the time of her life. Since Dr. Robinson didn’t want her to be sedated for the blood donation, two of the vets and one tech were laying on top of Bashia, playing with her, trying to tire her out so she would be still enough to donate. I think playtime lasted about 30 more minutes.  Bashia donated, she scarfed down a nice can of moist food, we went home, and the donee dog lived.

So fast forward to Tuesday, February 18. Bash, or Basher, as I often called her, didn’t eat all of her supper. I spoon fed her about ¼ of it, so she got about 75% of it down. She needed a full stomach for her meds, so I hand-fed her several handfuls of dry food, which she readily ate. I wasn’t able to get all of her meds down her, and I noticed her tongue and gums were very pale.

I kept her inside the laundry room that night, because I was afraid she might vomit. I woke up several times to check on her.  I  gave her a Milk Bone. It was gone when I checked on her the next time, so I gave her another one. I found that she had “buried” it in her blankets after I came home after she died. Each time I checked on Bashia Tuesday night to Wednesday morning. she was always either sleeping soundly, or was laying down, stretched out, with her head up, alert and attentive.

About 5:30 Wednesday morning, Bashia walked into the hall, near my bedroom, which surprised me. I took her outside, and she laid down as soon as she got out of the doorway. I chained her there, so she could go to the bathroom and get some fresh air. I gave her several pans of water, most of which she turned over, but some of which she drank.  Her gums and tongue continued to be pale, and I wanted to take her to the vet to have him check her.

About 6:30, I called a Carol Dubay’s husband, Bob, to see if he could come about 7:30 to help her in the car. He came, and she walked to the car. I asked him to follow me in case there wasn’t someone who could lift her from the car if need be. He did. She got out of the car, walked into the clinic, and laid down. She wouldn’t get up so I asked for a towel to put under her to help her up, since her legs sometimes had difficulty on the wooden floors at the clinic.  One of the techs came, and Bashia wouldn’t budge. The tech immediately went to get a stretcher, and by that time, Bash’s eyes were rolling, and her head was listing back and forth. I immediately felt in my heart the outcome was not going to be what I would want.

The techs ran with her to the back, I followed. Angie Rose, a tech who has worked for Robinson Animal Hospital since before I owned dogs, said that Bashia was trying to die and asked if I wanted CPR. I did. I left the treatment area, knowing I would be in the way, and not sure I wanted to see what was going on as she was intubated. I,went to our exam room. Angie, Barbara Blaser, and Billie Brackins did CPR for quite a while;  they also called Dr. Josh Hinkle, whom we usually see, since he wasn’t due to be in for another hour or so. I believe she died before he got there., but he wouldn’t have been able to do anything that the tech team didn’t do.

While the tech team was working on Bashia, I texted several friends and 3 prayer groups that I am in.  Believe me, I felt their prayer support then, all day, and even now.

Dr. Hinkle did an post mortem ultrasound, and found nothing out of order. Most likely, he thinks, Bashia probably died of the canine equivalent of a heart attack. She would have been 13 on April 13. A Newfoundland’s average life span is 8-10 years, so we had been living on borrowed time.

I am grateful for many things in Bashia’s death. I am very thankful that she not only didn’t die in my house, but that she didn’t die at my house. The logistics to get her to a crematorium could have been complicated, to say the least. I believe that Bashia was waiting, with all the strength that she could muster, to die at the clinic. I am thankful that Bashia died with a tech team working on her whom she loved and who loved her. Bashia had known Angie since probably her first vet visit; Barbara has also worked for Robinson’s for several years. We usually see her when we come to the clinic. Billie is the newest member of the team who worked on Bashia, but they met when Bashia had pancreatitis in October. I am thankful that I did not need to make the decision to put her to sleep. I am thankful that Dr. Hinkle felt she suffered, if at all, very minimally, and only for a short while. I am grateful for having experienced Bashia’s death as I did, so that I can be more empathetic with others who experience sudden and unexpected loss.

I learned the day before Bashia died that Charles and Barbara Allen had lost their beloved Jake just a few days before. I called Charles to express my sympathy. He summed it up very well: “We got to have Jake for 11 years of happiness. We’ll have about 30 days of grieving him. It seems like a pretty fair trade.” And indeed, Charles, you have once again spoken very wise words. Thank you for your wisdom!

Bashia Barker Henderson.

Date of Birth: April 13, 2007

Date of Death: February 19, 2020

A good life, well lived! Certainly Bashia lived a life of great significance to me.

Copyright, February 24, 2020 by Rebecca Henderson