Yankee by Erin Palmer

There was a crack of lightning and a roll of thunder. The heavens seemed to open up and pour with the tears of angels, but there was no comfort for my sisters or me. I knew all too well what had happened. We knew our tears would not bring consolation to us. There was no changing what had happened and we would not be able to still our tears when we looked back on this day for years, we knew also, this was a day we would never forget. We knew too, we had lost the war no matter how many battles had been ours.

We had Yankee ever since he was born, even saw him being born. It was when I was very young, so I guess I kind of grew up with him. Whether it was him running up to me and knocking me down, or him dancing to music with me. If I ever howled like a wolf or barked like a dog, he’d join in. He was always more a little brother than a pet to me,
and the rest of my family.

There were one or two years though when he went to live with a family on a farm in the country, but they brought him back. It seemed he had killed a few of their sheep and goats. I was amazed Yankee would hurt anything, let alone a goat or sheep. He was so gentle at our house the cats would come and lay right beside him. He never so much as nipped at them. After a year, the family decided to take him back. Why my parents let him leave again is forever a mystery to me. The same problem with the sheep and goats happened again,
so Yankee came back for good.

Since Yankee was a puppy, he had had a problem with his nose. He always seemed to have thick, yellowish, sometimes slightly bloody, slimy snot dripping and running from his nose. Every once in awhile though, he would sneeze sending a thick glob flying and you wouldn’t believe some of the distances it reached. It was always funny when it landed on someone (Though I’m sure the person would disagree). It never mattered to us
though because Yankee was one of the family.

Yankee was a six year old Rottweiller. Most people give rotties a bad reputation, but rotties are truly with the right treatment the most caring, sweet, and understanding dogs you can get. They always seem to know how you feel and how to make you feels better, they’re more friends then dogs. Yankee was a rottie through and through, though I’d say he was more human than most people I know.

Don’t say rotties are nice dogs to this guy who tried to break into my old house once though. He was trying to break through a window when he heard growling behind him, the guy turned to see Yankee (And Yankee was no small dog mind you). The guy took off like a bat out of Hell, and nearly got a chunk ripped out of his butt. The cops found the guy three miles down the road still running like heck. When the cops pulled over the guy opened the door himself and jumped into the back of the police car screaming, “BLACK BEAR! THREE-HUNDRED POUND BLACK BEAR!!!!.” That’s at least the story the cops gave us. My mom’s remark was that the guy was lucky the momma bear wasn’t out. It gave us all a good laugh. The momma bear would of course be Yankee’s mother Nikki who we own and still do own though
she’s now around twelve to thirteen years old.

About four and a half or so years ago around October or November, Yankee had to be taken to the Emergency Vets office on Shelbyville road by Blockbuster in Middletown, Louisville. We found that his kidneys had shut down partially and the vet on duty believed his bladder had burst. Within a few hours (Around eleven to twelve o’clock at night), his kidneys were up and running again and they no longer believed his bladder had burst. It was from there established that he had a bladder tumor. Surgery was an option, the other to put Yankee to sleep. Of course we chose surgery and thankfully, the surgery was a success. A month or more after we had placed Yankee in the care of the Emergency vet, we were able to take him home.

They wanted us to have Yankee placed in chemo therapy sessions, but the surgery had cost more then we had expected. We were also warned that the cancer might come back in a different part of the body, but all we cared of then was that Yankee was allowed to come
home safe and sound.

Yankee made a full recovery, or so we thought. At the beginning of the summer of 2000, he began to act strange. It was little things that other people wouldn’t notice, but if you had known him all your life you would have. At first we thought perhaps it was just allergies, and after a week or two, we became very worried and took him to the vet.

The vet took one glance at Yankee at Yankee before saying he looked pretty bad. As the vet gave Yankee a check-up, looking for anything that might be wrong, her face became more and more sad and sorry. When she finished, she said that according to Yankee’s past history and the small amount of swelling to his brow, she could only surmise that it might be a brain tumor, and if it was, it would be fatal.

Have you ever had to see one of your parents’ cry? My mother was with me that day, and it was my misfortune to have to see her cry. My mother is the person I look up to the most, and when someone sees someone they look up to as much as I look up to my mother cry, it feels as though the world has come crashing down on you. When she cried, I was struck with the knowledge that my dog as well as best friend would most likely die in the next month or two and that my mother, one of the strongest people I know, actually was crying. I couldn’t cry, that’s how much I was shocked by all this, but when I got home,
I cried and I cried for a long time.

Yankee couldn’t and wouldn’t eat anything as time progressed so we had to put him on a diet of soft, canned foods. His brow began to bulge more and more like an ever ripening melon, making it more difficult for him to see. Soon he began to bump into things occasionally, which was one of the more painful things to see.

As the days and weeks wore on, there was no doubting that Yankee was in fact suffering from a brain tumor. We spent more time than ever with him, but that time passed as a blur and soon there was stopping what had to be done. There was no more denial to hide behind, no more false hope or wishful thinking. We all climbed into the expedition, all together for the last time. I’ll never forget how my father had to lift Yankee up into the car, and how much his pain hurt me. Yankee sat on the floor at my feet, his head in my lap.

As we drove I did what I could to reassure him and to make him happy, but as the tears rolled down my face I couldn’t hide the pain I felt. Yankee had the most beautiful brown deer eyes, and I remember seeing them reflect how I felt in my heart at that moment. His eyes had always been so emotional, so human. You could see in his eyes that he knew what was happening, but then, he had always known what was happening even if no one else did. It was painful to know how much pain he was fighting to grasp life for my sisters, my parents, and me.

As we drove into the parking lot, I felt as if my heart had been torn away, all the way to that last trip to the vet. I had been kidding myself that we were just going to the park for a walk, or to play ball with Yankee, but this was no dream, Yankee had a brain tumor, and there was only one last thing that could be done. I fought back the tears that had been falling from my eyes since we had left the house, but only managed to make them silent sobs. Once my family entered the vet though, no one could hold onto their silent crying any longer, and all our tears broke loose with such a heart rendering sound that
it would have made the angels weep.

The day was gloomy and overcast, matching the mood of how I felt. My dad even began to cry which my sisters and I were not used to, and only made us cry louder. As the vet came to take Yankee, I clung to his neck never wanting to let go, but having to. I planted a kiss on his nose for the last time and finally let go. “I promise that I will always love you Yankee and I’ll never forget you.” That was the last thing I ever said to him, the last thing I ever whispered in his floppy black ear.

My mom and dad refused to let my sisters or me come into the room, or even stay in the building. We stood outside weeping as we watched Yankee and my parents go into the room Yankee would never again walk out of through a screen door. Over come with grief, we raved and screamed while crying, not in control of our emotions, our efforts to gain control of ourselves betraying us.

Out of the sky came a crack of lightning, a roll of thunder, and bursts of tears from the heavens as though to smother us, but nothing mattered. We knew it was over, we would never see Yankee again except in our dreams and in pictures. If ever the saying ‘man’s best friend’ suited a dog, that dog was Yankee. He was the dog who gained the love and trust of all he met and will be missed and remembered always as the dog that defied death once, and almost twice. He was a braver dog then you’ll ever meet with a kind and strong heart. Yankee was more human than most Homo sapiens and that is how he will be remembered. Now all I can do is keep my promise and keep him close to my heart and
resent in my mind.

Never forgetting,

Erin Palmer


Erin Palmer