There’s a fleece blanket, in my dog Nixon’s bed in the kitchen. It’s a soft riot of purples, greens, blues and reds. My friend Lauren gave it to me for my min pin mix, Katelin, near the end of her life. Katelin’s been dead for around two and a half years, but I keep expecting to see her under that blanket. She was obstinate and yappy, but I loved that damn dog. Don’t tell any of my other pets, but she was my favorite.
Scully died around 5 and a half years ago. She was this crazy lab-dachshund mix thing. To this day, we never leave the pantry door open. Once she got into it, and ate a whole box of Fiber One bars. The resultant diarrhea explosion is the stuff of family legend, and one of my first blog posts. I’m pretty sure there is a healthy amount of her black-lab fur under my bed & a network of scratches on the back of my bedroom door from when we used to lock her in there if friends with kids came over. Scully hated kids, until I had my own. Then she grew to tolerate them.
Once, I was walking Scully on a retractable leash, when someone complimented me on what a good dog she was. She wasn’t. But, apparently at some point she had bitten the leash in half, and I was holding the handle like some kind of dog-walker mime, while Scully, unattached, sauntered 10 feet ahead. I still have that leash, and think of her every time I walk Nixon and see the knot tied in the middle of the string: a 20 year-old repair job from the past.
My lab, Mia, died this May. It came out of nowhere, cancer, and took her at a way-too-young eight years of age. I can barely write about it now, because she was the family’s dog, and that was such a terrible blow. Scully and Katelin were my dogs, from before kids. Mia was our dog, she and the kids grew up together. She slept in Perry’s bed every night, his guardian against the dark. It’s one thing to grieve alone, but when you combine your sadness with that of your kids, it’s just a mess. Mia was a terrible, wonderful dog. She got into so much trouble. Someday, when I’m ready, I’ll write her a proper obituary. For now, I’ll just say that I still can’t bring myself to leave food anywhere near the edge of the counters. My heart breaks when remember she’s not there to steal it.
These little ghosts that haunt my days: these canine souls that are gone from my life. Their random reminders: sad starts to happy memories.
I could get rid of everything, sweep the house clean. However, Labrador hair never goes away. It sticks around forever: just like those memories that make my dear departed pups come alive again, if only for a moment. There’s joy in those moments: you can’t appreciate the happy without the sad.
The price of love is sorrow, and for these blessed creatures, I’ll pay it every time.