We adopted you on a Tuesday. June 14, 2005. We’d seen your funny face on the website of the county animal shelter the night before, and you were just who we’d been looking for. Terrier mix #A1025967. I went to visit you first thing in the morning, and learned you’d recently been adopted out but then quickly returned, because you couldn’t get along with the other dog in your previous home. You needed to be an “only dog.” You jumped up to greet me when I approached your cage, and whined sweetly at me. My girl.
You were a nightmare right from the start, and we loved you immediately. Pure trouble. Norma. You did thousands of dollars’ worth of damage in our home. You ate one of my client’s advanced health care directives. You jumped out of a moving car. You ran away from a dog sitter, and led the good people of Clairemont – including a kind police officer – on an 8-hour chase. You figured out how to unzip a golf bag to get to the gallon bag full of trail mix inside. Life-threatening amounts of chocolate and raisins: check. You apparently didn’t care for the sunflower seeds. Stomach pumps, kidney diuresis, emergency intestinal surgery (to remove a six foot long strand of our Berber carpet that you ate), and so much more. You growled at children and scared their parents. You bit a couple of my friends. We never figured out how you did it, but you pulled apart the bars of your crate during the first trial hour that we left you alone in it. So crate training was out, but you were perfectly housebroken, and learned and followed every command we ever taught you. But you set the rules for what our lives together were going to look like right from the start, Norma, and we tried our best to follow them. You never had any say about becoming our dog, we know that. So we tried to make it as happy of a proposition as possible.
You made our life so much fun. Hours of daily walking made you the unofficial mayor of Bankers Hill. We have neighborhood friends we’d never have met without you. Morning walks in the canyons, evenings playing in the park. Long hikes on the trails, and weekend swims in the ocean. No one ever saw a terrier who tried harder in those waves. You only visited the snow once, and man did you love it. I’m sorry we never got you back for more. But you loved chasing sticks, playing catch, destroying squeaky toys, and performing any number of stupid tricks in the name of a treat. Honking your rubber chicken on command was our all-time favorite. You were a world-class beggar, and would do anything for a baby carrot. We called June 14th your birthday, and every year (until your pancreas began to object) you got a hamburger patty in celebration. You weren’t a great distance running companion, because I was too slow to hold your attention from all the interesting stuff you had to stop and smell. But you were a perfect companion at track workouts: off chasing squirrels when I was running too slowly to hold your interest, and coming back to pace me when I ran hard. Tail wagging, tags jingling. We once did a time trial, and the results were conclusive: you were faster than Usain Bolt. We never knew exactly what kinds of dog you were. A one of a kind. We could have run a test to find out, but we enjoyed the mystery. We called you a Schnergel.
You never wanted to snuggle, and weren’t an affectionate dog. But you showed love and devotion in your own ways. When I took a burr out of your paw, you’d lick my hand. You would have protected me with your life, and let anyone who got within a ten foot radius know it. You loved old people, and were always gentle with them. My girl.
Your old age was beautiful. You stayed strong and healthy, and drifted slowly into your twilight. You lost your hearing and some of your eyesight, and got bony and crooked. And so adorably cute, with that bright white face and those goopy, droopy eyes. You became friendly, and even let strangers pet you. Things got difficult in your final few months, and none of us slept much. But still I’d snuggle up to you in your bed every night once you finally settled in, and whisper “thank you for being my dog.” You became calm and quiet as you moved around the house, and we’d often find you in strange places. We joked that you were becoming a ghost, practicing to come back and haunt us.
You died on a sunny Wednesday morning in October. I don’t think you understood that we were saying our final goodbyes, but it was peaceful, and I know you felt safe and trusted us. We miss you madly, and still can’t believe our luck that we got to be your humans. You set the rhythms of our days, and we’re lost without you. You didn’t have a say in the matter of your adoption all those years ago, but we know you were smart enough to find a way out if you’d wanted to. So thank you for choosing to stay, to live your unusual-in-every-way life with us. Thank you for being our dog.