Once upon a time, there lived a dog named Ranger. She was born sometime in May and died on November 24, 2012 of lung and kidney cancer. She was the best dog in the world. Other people think they have the best doggie in the world, but they would be wrong. It's OK if you think you're dog is the best, but I know the truth. Ranger and her sister Daisy (RIP July 7, 2011) did not have an auspicious start in life. As puppies, they were thrown out of a moving truck into a ditch in Mandeville, LA. She and her sister were the two survivors; I took them home with me on July 3, 2000. Daisy suffered from allergies, epilepsy, and constant ear infections; she was told by many vets she would not live to be five, but she lived eleven long years before having an allergic reaction to a routine shot. Ranger, on the other hand, was never sick a day in her life. Never. Ever. From the beginning, she was a special dog. There were many things that made her the best dog in the world, but as as not to make every other parent of a furry child feel too inferior, I will list just a few: She loved her family so much She knew her name within a week She brought me socks every time I came in the door, even if I only went to the mailbox She loved peeled grapes She was always in a good mood She yodeled and had a true howl, and we sang together every night before going on walkies. When you were sick, she'd just know and laid her furry head on whatever part was aching. Right before I had my gall bladder removed, she squeegeed herself on the sofa and lay right next to my stomach, and barked viciously at anyone who came near me. When my mom began having knee problems, she would lay her soft, furry head on her knee and look at her with her soft, brown puppy eyes. At night, she'd jump on the bed and curl perfectly into the small of my back She was a great herder and when our family dog (Pepper, 18, still kicking) began falling down, she would nudge her up She barked mightily at all sorts of nefarious beings, especially squirrels In her whole life, she only ever had one accident inside the house after she was trained, and that was a result of the cancer. She loved her car rides and holding her furry doggy head out the window more than anything She invented doggy games She was psyhcic and always knew when I was coming home. When I called my parents before boarding a plane from Moscow to home, my mom said she stayed in front of the door for 28 hours and never moved because she knew mommy would be home soon. She pulled the best cons for food--she'd stealthily crawl on her belly or hide between the coffee table, waiting for food to fall. She was always alert, excited, and happy until the very end. Last month, she had an emergency spleenectomy and we got the good news that she was one of the lucky few where it was not cancerous. Unfortuately, either the biopsy was wrong or tumors in other parts of her body turned malignant. Two weeks ago, we took her to the doctor because she was having trouble walking; they said it was a herniated disc--keep her still for two weeks and she'd be fine. Last week, I knew something was wrong, but it was blamed on her running out of prednisone and being "older." But I knew, because mommy always knows. On Monday, she was a relatively healthy, barking, yodeling dog. On Tuesday, she grew lethargic. On Wednesday, she couldn't eat and could barely walk but she rallied when my younger brother came home, even going for a walk and snapping at another dog. On Thursday, I knew the end was near when she refused to eat her special Thanksgiving turkey dinner. Yesterday, we took her to the emergency clinic and got the horrible news, which I think I always knew--she had lung cancer and kidney cancer, and it was spreading to her brain. She panted heavily and was clearly not herself, but they gave her some shots and said it could be a few days or two weeks. Cancer in dogs moves amazingly quickly; she got an all-clear not even a month ago after the spleenectomy. I woke up this morning, unable to sleep and could hear her panting from the stairwell. I laid down with her, looked in her poor eyes which now had a film over them and she was trying to focus on me, but couldn't. I knew it was time, and she "told" me she was ready. We called the vet, she said bring her in right away. On the way to the vet (in Mandeville), she laid down on her bed in the back of her van--we'd cleared the seats out the day before. It was her favorite bed and her favorite activity--a ride on a cool, clear, sunny day. She picked her head up and looked around and I started to question it, and so I petted her and told her about how she came home with me in a van, much like this one, from Mandeville. We talked about how much she loved horsies and about evacuating for Katrina and stuff, and she gave me one last doggie smile, sniffed an old chicken nugget she found on the floor...and died. Right there. She did me one last, wonderful service by taking the decision to put her down away and telling me at the same time it was the right decision, solidifying her place as Best Doggie Ever. It was very hard, and it was very sudden, and I am one of those people for whom pets are children. They are all my furry babies, and we've always had dogs, but both Ranger and Daisy were just special-er. It's dramatic, but I really feel like all the light has gone out in my world, but I'm glad I had one good month and they did give me the wrong diagnosis; I would not have enjoyed these last few weeks as much if I were aware they were her last few weeks. So thank you my baby Ranger for bringing me so much joy these last twelve years. I don't believe in an afterlife and take no comfort in notions of the hereafter, but I am glad she's no longer in pain or suffering and if I am wrong, I hope she and Daisy are together, prancing around, the scourge of squirrels everywhere and eating Popeyes biscuits together.