Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Droopey

There is an upside to having my entire house in shambles. One thing the kids have really had fun with are the old photo albums. They love looking at old pictures of us, from high school and college. They've asked who everyone in our wedding photos are at least three times each. I have unearthed all kinds of memories from the piles in the office. Tom's high school diploma. My property outline from law school. A book of Latin with notes in the margins. And a dog collar.

Every time I see that collar, it makes me a little sad. It belonged to Droopey. And Droopey belonged to Tom. When we first started dating, Tom mentioned that he really wanted a dog. By Thanksgiving of that year, I had built up the nerve to ask his parents if it would be okay for me to get one for him. They reluctantly agreed. I'm pretty sure that the didn't really want a dog. But Tom did, so they said yes.

I spent weeks looking for a puppy. As I found out quickly, trying to find a dog in December is no easy task. I couldn't afford the pet store prices. I finally started combing the newspaper classifieds, hoping. After a couple weeks, I found one. It was a Springer Spaniel, a male, and not exactly a puppy. He wasn't little and tiny anymore, he was already about 3 1/2 months old. Out of desperation, I agreed to it. It was a dog at least, and there were only a few days left until Christmas. I didn't even get to see the dog until I had to go and pick him up.

He was bigger than I expected, but he was still very much a puppy. He was white and brown with random spots and long, soft curly ears. And from the moment I laid eyes on him, I knew. He was the one. He might have been the only dog in a 20 mile radius that I could find the week before Christmas, but it didn't matter. He was the one.

His eyes were big and brown, and they looked up at me with hope. Of course I was taking him. In less than 48 hours, he would have a new owner. On Christmas morning, I went and dropped him off. Tom had already been told about the dog, so it wasn't a total surprise. But he was still pretty excited. This was his dog. It didn't take long for this big, giant puppy to have a name. Droopey. He just looked like a Droopey.

He was the sweetest, most mellow, most obedient dog ever. He had a few moments of puppyhood, the most memorable of which was the time he got into the dog food tin and ate and ate and ate until he was perfectly round. He didn't stop eating until someone got home. He didn't have an off switch. Couldn't help it. It took a few days for his digestive system to get back to normal after that.

Though he was Tom's dog, dogs don't go to college. While his owner went off to experience the life of a student far away from home, Droopey stayed behind. And he waited. The dog, so we were told, spent a lot of time sitting by the door. And he transformed right back into a puppy anytime Tom was home. He knew who his master was. By the time we were able to buy a house where we could have a dog his size, he was old. Too old to move, and too attached to TJ's new dog. Though we really wanted to bring him with us, we thought it was best to leave him.

He was also a fragile dog. He had many things trouble him during his time on this earth. He had a hernia as a puppy. He had so many ear infections that I couldn't even venture a guess as to how many. He had problems with his paws. And finally, he got sick and withered away. He wasn't very old when my in-laws had no choice but to put him down. And I will forever be grateful that I wasn't living there at the time. I don't think I could have done it. I don't think Tom could have. Someday I will have to take a dog on that last walk, someday I won't be able to escape that part of pet ownership.

I think in this life you are either a dog person or you aren't. And a dog like Droopey could make you a dog lover even if you weren't one before. Dogs never ask questions. They never judge. They don't ask you where you've been or why. They are just glad that you are home. And they just want to be there with you. If you happen to toss a ball or share a treat, even better.

All we have left of Droopey now are some pictures, memories and this collar. If you shake it just right, it sounds the same way it did when he wore it. Rest in peace, my furry friend. You were the best dog I could have found. There was a reason you were the only one.

"You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us." ~Robert Louis Stevenson

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