Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sad goodbye...

When we lived in Memphis, many years ago, I volunteered with local animal rescue groups to raise orphaned kittens. I would bottle feed them, and raise them until they were reliably eating solid food, then they would go to a new foster home until they were old enough to be adopted.

The people at the rescue groups knew that I would not foster dogs. This is because though I love both dogs and cats, I was more apt to fall head over heels in love with a dog. I knew myself well enough to understand that unless I wanted to be a dog hoarder, I couldn't bring them into my home.

One day a friend involved in rescue called me. "I KNOW you don't foster dogs, but I have a Pug puppy I need immediate placement for. If you could just keep her for a couple of days, I promise I'll find another person to take her." I thought about it, and realized something else about myself. I am a dog snob. I am very much attracted to beautiful dogs. And Pugs? Let's face it, they are kind of funny looking. "Sure," I said. "I can help you out for a few days."

The story was that a family had tried to relinquish a 5 week old Pug puppy at the big city shelter. My friend was there at the time, and knew that a pup that young stood little chance of surviving there. Surely she would contract some sort of disease and perish. I agreed to take the dog,just for a short time, while she found a more permanent solution.

The puppy arrived 4th of July weekend in 2000. She was tiny,a mere handful of a dog, and honestly? The ugliest puppy I have ever seen. Fleas ran rampant on her little black body, her abdomen was swollen with worms, and the signature curly tail that Pugs wear with pride hung like a limp noodle.

My friend was unable to find another home to take her in, and she wasn't much trouble, so I agreed to keep her a while and screen potential adopters. A few days into her stay I found myself looking down at her little, wizened face and soulful eyes and saying, "Oh! You are SO beautiful." I realized I was in trouble.

I shelled out the $50 adoption fee and Poppy became ours. For 14 1/2 years she has been a sweet, solid companion. She taught me a lot about enjoying comfort, because seeking and savoring all things cozy and squishy and warm was her passion. Every sunshine puddle that slanted in through a window was cherished by her, every soft pillow claimed and treasured. She never met a dog she didn't like,or a human, either. She had a long and healthy life, and seemed to be the happiest of spirits.

As a young dog she was an equal opportunity snuggler. She'd be happy to cuddle anyone. When she was a pup Rachel would sometimes sneak into our room at night and steal her. I would wake and find her missing and call to Rachel, "Are you a Pug napper?" She would reply, "I'm a PUG smuggler!" But as Poppy got older she became more and more attached to me. In the past few months I couldn't leave her sight. She followed me from room to room and could not settle unless I was near.

And that was fine with me. I treasured time with her.

Yesterday she died peacefully in my arms. For a small dog, she has left a large whole in life. But I am so grateful to have had her. The best $50 I ever spent? It was buying her companionship and unfaltering love.

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