Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Obituary for a friend

by Kathryn Miller Haines

She found me one fall day when I was walking my other two dogs around the block. Reluctantly, I brought her home thinking I’d figure out who she belonged to after the rush hour traffic died down.

She never left.

When she first joined us she showed obvious signs of neglect. Her belly was covered in fleas, she had extra toes on her rear legs and the nails had become in-grown. Mainly, though, she was desperate for affection. We chose her name –- Violet -- based on the color of the collar she was wearing when I found her. She was a mutt -- part shepherd we think -- that our vet use to gleefully describe as a typical American dog. Her tongue lolled out the corner of her mouth when she was happy and her tail possessed such joy and power that she could sweep coffee cups and picture frames off of tables. She was the only one of my dogs who could be trusted off lead and also, strangely, the only dog who’d never been to obedience school. It’s not that she had manners; she just desperately wanted to be with you.

She was a bad dog, with an appetite for paper that didn’t distinguish between manuscripts and money. She hated thunderstorms and destroyed my front door in a fury of rain-induced anxiety. In motion, she looked like a zeppelin, her large posterior threatening to reach the bottom of the steps before her front did. She anxiously awaited that moment each morning when your eyes first opened. Then, before you could recognize that she was friend not foe, she pounced on you, her 65+ pound body pinning you to the bed and leaving you no choice but to laugh at her efforts to greet you with good morning kisses. Cat-like, she batted at you with her paws, ultimately holding your arm in place so that she could drench it with her tongue.

As many women do, she grew regrettably pear-shaped over time. She loved nothing more than to have her belly rubbed, a substantial effort given its size. In a house full of male dogs, she was the queen, putting both boys swiftly in their place if they tried to do anything that wasn’t to her liking. If they were already seated where her royal highness wished to be, she merely climbed on top of them until they cried uncle and squeezed out from beneath her bulk. She loved to lick their ears and often battled them for the right to do so. If we were threatened by a loose dog while walking, she was the only pup who rose to the occasion to defend me, warning the infiltrator in a voice reminescent of women on “Jerry Springer,” exclaiming, “you don’t know me.”

She dug up my plants and enjoyed burying rawhide until the rain rendered it soft and disgusting. She would haul this canine-kimchi through the house until you insisted she relinquish it to the garbage, which she always did willingly. When I wrote, she was at my side, oftentimes attempting to lay on my keyboard in an effort to comment on the futility of my prose.

When I was sad, she was the first one at my side. As I suffered the pains of three miscarriages in two years, she pressed her body against my belly, simultaneously soothing my physical pain and assuring me that the terrible emptiness would pass.

We didn’t expect her to get sick. We didn’t expect to have only seven years of her affection and haranguing.

Goodbye baby girl. I miss you. Every day.

12 comments:

Mike said...

Kathy--what a lovely essay. Thank you for sharing your memories of Violet with us.

Annette said...

What a sweet tribute to a sweet girl. I have been where you are, Kathy, and know your pain. My deepest sympathies...

David said...

Rest in Peace, Dear Violet. Baxter is waiting for you with a rubber ring in his teeth. He'll show you around.

Kathy MH said...

Thanks, everyone. Not a very April Fools Day piece, I know, but I needed to say goodbye to her;)

Kathy

Joyce said...

This is beautiful!

Cathy said...

Doreen Virtue, a psychic and prolific writer for Hay House, did readings at Lily Dale one summer. She often sees deceased pets hovering around their former owners. So Violet may still be there when you're at the computer. You just can't take away the grimy rawhide any more.

Thanks for sharing this beautiful piece from your heart.

Nancy said...

Why are we always so thoroughly hooked by stories about pets, I wonder? We're immediately sympathetic. Because they give us such unconditional love? The fact that she would stay with you off-leash brought a lump to my throat. (Or maybe that was a pang of jealousy, since all my dogs just ran off to find the nearest garbage can to ravage?) Sorry for your loss, Kathy. She sounds like the perfect pet.

JennieB said...

Beautiful. Put me in mind of my Emily, a stray we picked up off the street in New York seventeen years ago. We got to keep her for fifteen of those years, and then we had to let her go. I love the idea that she's somewhere waiting for me, as I'm sure Violet is for you, Kathy. Thanks for sharing.

Paula Martinac said...

Kathy - This made me cry... at work! A very sweet essay and a lovely tribute.

kristine said...

Oh, Kathy. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I'm so very sorry for your loss.

Kathy MH said...

Thank you all so much for your comments. It's hard to bring these furry friends into your life knowing that they won't be here that long. She wasn't a perfect dog by any means, but she was perfect for us.

And I think Doreen is right, Cathy. She'll always be here with us.

NL Gassert said...

Thank you for sharing your memories, Kathy.

We're in the process of saying good-bye to our dear cat that is scheduled for euthanasia at the end of the month. She’s had a rich, full, very long life. Your essay made me think less of her end and far more about the wonderful memories she has given us and the fun and good times we had with her. Thank you for helping me discover the bigger picture, Kathy.