Columns 2007

One year later

My wonderful Mr. T died a year ago October 16.  My new girls, Blue and Blondie, came to live with me within a week of his death.  Some people say that the pain of losing a dog is so bad that they will never get another one.  My feelings have always been that by getting another dog, I have someone to hold on to when I cry for my loss.  As my mother would say, different strokes for different folks.

Since childhood, my life has been enriched by the presence of pets.  There was Major, the boxer who used to sit at the top of the three steps behind my dad’s butcher block in the store.  I guess that wouldn’t be allowed nowadays. He sat every day watching my dad fill customers’ orders, never making a fuss, never demanding more attention than the occasional pat as my dad went back to the walk-in refrigerator.

After Major came our French poodle Jackie – Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Sereni. This was the sixties and we were as fixated on our new First Lady as the rest of the nation. Jackie was totally my dad’s dog. When dad wanted to make us laugh, he’d sit on the couch next to mom and then call Jackie over. Jackie would jump up between them, squirm her butt down so that mom was pushed away and then all but lay her head on dad’s shoulder. If dad tried to reach behind Jackie to put his arm around mom, Jackie would turn her head, look at mom, and growl. Dad thought that was hilarious.  Mom, not so much.

By the time Jackie died, all the kids were out of the house and going up and down the stairs to let a dog out got more difficult for my parents.  They also did more traveling so it never seemed right to have another dog.  But by then the gene had been passed to the next generation.  My sister, whose busy life precludes a dog, knows every dog that lives in a three-mile radius of her house. And they know her. And they know that she has treats she freely dispenses to any furry critter that comes up her porch steps. While she may not be able to have her own dog right now, she is the fairy godmother of all the neighborhood dogs.

I’ve had dogs that marked each major passage of my life.  Lovey, my Barrow mutt who thought food was anything she could swallow, was the dog of my young adulthood.  Mr. T, the miniature schnauzer that thought he was 100 feet tall, was the dog of my middle years.  And now Blue and Blondie are the dogs of my…well, let’s call them my very late middle years.

I’m guessing that many of my friends are about now saying, “Hey, what about all those darn birds that make a visit to your house the equivalent of a trip to a Tarzan movie? Don’t they count?” And I must hasten to say they absolutely do. After all, it was my first parrot Adeline that stood on the pillow next to my head gently preening my hair as I cried my homesickness away after moving to Alaska.  It was my African Gray Abdul that leaned his head against my chest as I mourned Mr. T last year and kept repeating, “I love you” in that little parrot squawk.

Pets enhance our lives in ways we often don’t even comprehend. They teach us about unconditional love and loyalty and how to enjoy the moment without fretting over the future. They show us how to relax in an instant, be alert in a second, dance with joy when seeing someone we love and to never, ever hold a grudge. It’s simply not worth the psychic energy and, if even dogs know that, then shouldn’t we? After all, the person you were mad at yesterday might be bringing you a treat today.

Lovey and Adeline went over the Rainbow Bridge a long time ago. It’s been a year since I last held Mr. T and explained to him that birds are people too. I hope they are all waiting for me when it’s my turn to cross. Because, with all due apologies to the humans in my life, I know that there is nowhere in this universe where I will be surrounded by so much love, laughter and comfort, than when I am once again surrounded by them.