If you’ve been reading along recently, you know that about a month and a half ago, my family and I lost a beloved member of our clan.
Her name was Tippy. She was eleven and half years old, and as you can see, enjoyed the remainder of cottage cheese cartons until the last day. She had been with us from the age of 3 1/2 months, and we enjoyed every single minute of her companionship and unconditional, unforgetting, always forgiving love.
When I was 8 or 9, the four of us were standing in the waiting section of a busy Legal Seafoods restaurant, chatting as a table was set up for us. While my little brother grumbled about how bad fish smelled and how cruel it was to subject him to something he so abhorred, I was pitching my latest (and best) idea to the parents: we needed a dog.
Yes, needed. They were fun and cute and loveable and I wanted one. We had cats when I was a baby, but after I developed asthma and watched the symptoms all but disappear when the last feline left, it didn’t make sense to continue that trend. Besides, the last cat we had scratched the crap out of my arm, and we pretty much settled with glaring at each other whenever we were in the other’s line of sight after that. Which was not often.
So, just before the waitress came back to guide us to our seats, my father said the words all parents should be wary of:
Ok, when you turn 10, we can get a dog.
Yep, that shut me up. I contented my self with a big bowl of lobster bisque and the knowledge that I only needed to wait a short 2 years before a cuddly bundle of love was all mine.
And those years were indeed short. I turned 10 in December of 1999. We made the drive to the kennel in western Mass. in March of 2000. In between then, we found a kennel that had a new litter of soft-coated wheaten terrier puppies. Our 2 requirements were met: they didn’t shed (hair, not fur), and they were available. It was done.
I sincerely doubt I will every be able to forget choosing what was to become a constant presence in our family’s daily life. We walked into a room with a linoleum-tiled floor where a brood of llahsa aspso puppies were skittering around in a blur of long hair. Then the wheaten puppies were brought out. Like all normal puppies, they were thrilled to meet new people and escape from their confinement. Well, all of them – except one.
While my brother and I were overwhelmed at the rush of hair and paws that came at us like a black-tipped tidal wave, a single little girl darted straight for the table and cowered under it. If there was a bubble over her head, I’m pretty sure it would have been an image of her melting into the wall. It only took one look exchanged between my mother and I to know: this was our dog.
As we tried to coax her out from under the table, my dad and brother delighted themselves with the other, well-adjusted puppies. They found one too – calm in your arms, full of energy when on the floor, sweet and friendly. But as you can imagine, the conversation went a little something like this:
Me: Oh Mom, we can’t leave her here, all the other puppies will just keep beating on her!
Mom: We have to save her. I can’t leave her behind.
*parental glances exchanged*
Dad: But did you see this one? She’s so friendly, and…normal.
Mom: Well, we either leave with this one, or both of them. How much did you intend to spend on dogs today?
And that was the end of that. A few excited squeals and one very heavy check later, we were coaxing the most frightened, cowed little thing you ever saw into the backseat of the Subaru between my brother and me. The name discussion began.
Wheaten puppies are born with black “tips” on their hair that they eventually grow out:
[Photo credit] [^^Not Tippy – all her baby pictures were taken on *gasp* film cameras. Remember those? Yeah, me neither.]
My mother’s first thought was Paintbrush. I didn’t even try to hide my disgust at that brainstorm – and Tippy was the next word out of my mouth. It was done.
Tippy was, to put it gently, a neurotic mess. But she was our neurotic mess. After the first initial weeks of trying to find the best chair to hide under (our dining rooms chairs, much to her dismay, had bars crossed between the legs), she discovered the limitless joy of eating entire plates of brownies or chicken while we weren’t looking and tearing every last bit of stuffing from the living room couch. She was undeniably my mother’s dog and literally followed her around the house until the last day, but we were her family, and she knew it. Even when I would return after months of college, she would still run to the car to greet me. And it took about eleven years, but eventually she learned to completely relax when Dad put her on his lap.
After her eleventh birthday, she started to age – and fast. For six months, she wasn’t be able to keep down anything she ate for entire weeks. I even flew home for spring break when I was afraid I’d never see her again. I remember looking at her tired face and feeling every bone in her skinny body, realizing that this was what mothers mean when they talk about the pain and frustration of not being able to “fix” a sick child. She rallied several times over the next three months, but never for as long as the last time. On that day in the middle of July when we watched her change positions every thirty seconds because she was so bony she could no longer get comfortable, and then throw up the entire contents of her stomach – including water – on the back patio, we looked at each other and had to ask what the hell we were doing. We made what felt to me like a very fast decision, but it was the right one. I made every effort in my body to keep it together, but once we were all in that room, watching her hobble from one person to the next, I completely lost it. And all I could think of was to try to hide it from her, because every time I ever cried with Tippy, she would lick my tears away, and I just couldn’t have handled that.
I cried for three days straight. It felt like a huge hole had been gauged out of me without thought or care. We even went to a couple humane societies, but had no luck. For a family that can only have non-shedding dogs, adoption is an incredibly difficult and often impossible search.
I wouldn’t tell you a long story (that has no apparent connection to food)on a long weekend if it didn’t have a happy ending. This is ours.
Two weeks passed, and it became increasingly clear to me that we needed another dog. It may have looked too fast to others, but my gut instinct was that in order to start moving on, we had to fill the void that was the absence of a dog. I just didn’t see how we could fully heal when there was still such a huge, gaping hole in our daily lives. And I knew that we were not the type of family that would psychologically “replace” Tippy – we just needed that presence again.
We found a breeder that specialized in non-shedding mixed breeds about an hour away where a friend had adopted her wonderful cockapoo, Gus. My mom, brother and I decided to go up and ask to see their female Cavachons because I had all but fallen in love with the pictures on her website. And one day later, we were the proud owners of a creature who I’m sure must be what Webster had in mind when he included ‘adorable’ in his dictionary:
My brother chose her, but my mom and I have both confessed that she was our instinctive first choice. Because when she was brought out with her sister, the other sat on her head. Some things really never change.
Izzy is truly a horse of a different color. Though she sleeps with Mom & Dad and definitely has grand designs in her head of tearing up a couch (it would help if she were bigger than one of the pillows on it), that seems to be where the similarities end. Where Tippy usually had to be introduced with : “This is Tippy. She doesn’t really like other people. Just don’t make eye contact and she’ll be fine.”, Izzy needs no introduction, usually because she is already jumping up on your leg and hoping to introduce herself. She actually asks to sit on your lap, and would only hide under a chair in order to better chew on the legs. Or your shoes.
I knew we had made the right decision when all of a sudden I would think of Tippy and smile instead of bursting into inconsolable tears. And I miss her every single day. I miss her constant forlorn expression, her little “conversations” when we had something she would’ve liked a bite of too, and the way she’d roll onto her back into “Snoopy position” when she was really asleep.
(There’s a face in there somewhere!)
I also love Izzy more every day. I love how she runs around the lawn like a whirling dervish on acid, insists on attaching herself to my shoe laces while they’re still on my feet, and wag her tail relentlessly when one of us reenters the room. And I love that she had sat on my lap snoozing during the entire time I’ve been writing this post. I really don’t think words can adequately express the joy that this itty bitty dog has brought back to our house.
I felt like this was a story that needed telling because I can’t tell you how many other families I have heard about that have recently lost a beloved dog, and I just know that this story sounds similar to that of so many other families.
And the moral of this story? The love and happiness a dog gives are worth every single ripped cushion, eaten shoe, Clorox wipe and carpet stain. And I’m still saying that after going through a bottle of Resolve and most of a container of those very useful wipes in the past 4 weeks.
Summer might be rolling to a close, but the dog days – they aren’t going anywhere.
Tippy’s Favorite Table Scraps: Lemon-BBQ Marinade
This is a pretty old go-to recipe in our house. One of my friends in elementary school would specifically ask if to stay for dinner if we were having Lemon BBQ Chicken. It is, of course, fantastic with grilled chicken, but a light fish holds it very well too.
Makes enough marinade for about 8 pieces of chicken
1/2 c. lemon juice
1 c. canola oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 T salt
2 t dried basil
2 t onion powder
1 t paprika
1/2 t dried thyme
Whisk it all together or shake it all together in a large jar. Put in a ziploc bag with the meat and let it marinate for a good two hours (or more) before cooking.
And don’t even bother trying to ward off hungry canines.