Dog Blog

My parents named our dog “Heinz” in reference the Heinz catsup slogan, “57 varieties.” They figured our friendly mutt had 57 varieties of dog coursing through his veins. I have old Polaroids of me barely tall enough to pet him. He licked my face when I cried, let me bury myself in his white fur, and gracefully slipped away one night in his sleep.

Little black part-Alaskan-huskie Sootie loved me through even more tears than Heinz did. Having neglected my friends for teenage romance, its demise left me with no one but the little black dog dancing at the door each dateless Friday and Saturday night. Our long walks and Sootie’s simple affection saved me from complete despair. But I didn’t really return the loyalty. I went off to college, forgetting about my friend, who, according to Cesar Millan, died at 69 in dog years (14-2=12×4=48+21=69).

A few years into our marriage, Michael acquired the noble border collie Pal from a neighbor. Soon after, babies came—our babies—who would poke at Pal’s kind eyes and stick their fingers in his uncomplaining, never-biting mouth. What a gentle animal! But those babies and Michael’s commitment to provide for us absorbed our attention, leaving Pal to languish. Rumors of dog thieves skulking through town followed his disappearance. We shuttered, cried, and prayed they’d use him for breeding instead of testing.

Babies grew into girls who wanted pets—thus the parade of ducks, cats, a chicken, a rabbit, two sheep, and various small birds and rodents that lived and died in our midst. One day two puppy-eyed girls said, “We want a dog.” How could we refuse such an innocent request? We followed an ad for free puppies, choosing the cute, pitiful runt. He was already named Akiela, and he had the most noxious gas I’ve ever smelled. Somehow harnessed into spray bottles, it would have driven off a thousand zombies. But we loved him. He was small, compact, glossy black and almost frantically affectionate. How tragic that he bit small children who approached his food bowl. How sad that neutering didn’t help. How hard was the decision to put him down. I buried him in the back yard, swearing that he’d come back to me in the sweet by and by, with a re-created, non-biting brain.

The girls grew and left the nest. One recently hit a rough patch and engaged in a bit of “retail therapy.” New clothes, makeup and perfume? No. She’d learned truer sources of joy. Already the proud owner of a Chi, she went to the pound and purchased two Chihuahua mix puppies who have acquired the names Rooney and Fred. This fall, she’s bringing Fred to us. Since losing Pal, Michael has struggled to find room in his heart for a dog, but he saw the light right at the moment he saw what the groundhog did to his broccoli. How will a four pound Chihuahua fight off a ten pound groundhog? That, my friends, is a question for another time.

4 thoughts on “Dog Blog

  1. Grace Cox

    When we get a new pet, we can know beyond a doubt that it will someday break our heart. Mine has been broken many times by the deaths of pets that were so beloved.

    I once had a Chihuahua named Chico. We loved each other deeply. His passing in 1989 at age 16 was unspeakably sad. While he was still living I wrote a little poem for him (There were more stanzas, but I’ve shortened it here):

    Small friend, oh so faithful,
    You crave my attention, my touch.
    You are my constant companion,
    And I love you so much.
    You’re so fierce when you play
    Your watchdog role,
    Your bark, so loud,
    Your stance, so bold.
    You are so small, I could
    Put you in my pocket,
    But in my heart is where you are
    And I’ve locked it.

    And when he died, another poem starting forming in my mind even as my tears fell on his body, still warm in my lap, on the way home from the vet’s:

    Whisper, wind, through reed and bough,
    Tell all you meet that Chico, now,
    Resting, lies on yonder knoll.
    Weep, O clouds, your tears like rain
    When you hear wind’s sad refrain
    That son of Midnight Thunderhead,
    Beneath small mound of earth
    lies dead.
    Hide, O sun, your face in pain
    Because Chico never will again
    Warm himself within your beam.
    Hush, O hush all singing birds
    Till you can sing a sad, low dirge,
    For Chico, son of Midnight Thunderhead,
    is dead.
    Grow, green grass, and quickly spread
    Across the mound that forms a bed
    For Chico now on yonder knoll.
    Bloom, wild flowers at forest edge
    Where weeping hearts renewed their pledge
    Of love to Chico, noblest son
    of Midnight Thunderhead.

  2. jennifer JIll Schwirzer

    Grace! What beautiful poetry. You are certainly a writer! Wow, so moving. It’s an honor to have you on the blog. I have the same response to pets–a feeling of deep love and sadness. You know, I don’t believe God saves animals the same way He saves people, but I do believe he’ll recreate them. It just seems right. What do you think?

  3. Grace Cox

    Yes, it does seem only right. If God decides that I am worthy–only through Jesus because HE is worthy– to receive eternal life, I surely would like it if He would re-create for me all the pets that have meant so much to me in this life. Even if He doesn’t, I still want to be there! For me, one of the very appealing aspects of eternity is the promise that “nothing will hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.”

  4. jennifer JIll Schwirzer

    Yes, Grace. In His worthiness alone. I’ll be looking for a woman walking in the midst of scores of animals, and it will be you.

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