It's really heartwarming to see residents who just a minute before had been staring blankly away, caught up in their own pain and troubles, light up and beam when Penny comes wiggling and nosing over to them. They hold her ears, lean their face down for kisses, and come alive again. Many of them tell us about the dogs they had in their younger years, and folks who can't remember if they had breakfast or not will recall the tiniest details and stories about their childhood pets. It completely affirms my belief that dogs are magical beings sent here to remind us of the best we can be. What's that saying- everyday I strive to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am? You can't aim any higher.
After Paddy passed away, she wanted another dog, but she didn't feel it would be fair as she didn't know how long she'd be alive and if she could continue to care properly for a dog. (Not that she was ill or infirm or anything. This is the woman that once called my mother up and groaned and said, "Well, I have bad news. It looks like I'm gonna live to 100.") Partly on a whim and partly as a gesture of defiance to my other grandmother (who hates animals) who had dismissed the idea as stupid, she bought a life-size resin statue of a golden retriever. My sister and I took our grandmothers back home after the weekend, with the newly christened Happy ("because he makes me happy") sitting proudly in the backseat between my beaming grandma Genevieve and my sourly scowling other grandmother.
When I adopted Minchy, one of the first things we did was visit my grandma. She thought he was awfully funny. From the moment he became ours, he was a very physically affectionate dog, climbing into your lap and resting his head on your shoulder whether you liked it or not. But he was also horribly hyperactive and mischievous. And it all came to a head when we visited just before Christmas.
We were supposed to have had a big baby shower for my cousin Susan at grandma Genevieve's, but snowstorms forced us to cancel, and she was so horribly disappointed. Since I only lived 45 minutes away, I came up with Minchy for a visit the weekend after. It was a disaster.
|Checking out Happy|
My grandma loved it. She laughed and laughed and clapped her hands every time he committed a new atrocity. I don't doubt that he was doing it all to entertain and impress her. Finally, toward the end of the night, we decided to go to bed. My grandma was sleeping in a bed downstairs in a side room at that time. We got ready for bed, then decided I should take Minchy out to potty one last time before going to sleep. I took him downstairs, and he jumped into bed with my grandmother. Let me reiterate that. He did not jump ON the bed with my grandmother. He jumped IN the bed with her. Under the sheets. Head on pillow. Nose to nose.
The next morning we sat in the kitchen, me exhausted and spiteful, her feeding Minchy bits of toast and exclaiming over how gently he took treats. When I announced it was time for us to leave, he bolted off and hid under the couch in the living room. It took another half-hour for me to chase him down and corral him so I could leash him and go out to the car to drive away in our shame.
Shortly before she passed away, my grandma was staying at my parents' house when we visited with the dogs. Minchy bolted in the house as usual, a little tasmanian devil whirlwind, and stopped short in his tracks in front of my grandmother. He looked up at her with total recognition, and his ears went back. He remembered how he had behaved the last time he had seen her. The rest of the weekend he stayed curled at her feet. He gently jumped into bed with her and curled up at her side, growling and showing his teeth to my mother when she tried to get him to leave. My grandma couldn't stop talking about what a good boy he'd become, how he was nothing like that wild animal that had been at her house that night.
One of the last things she said to me was how proud she was that Minchy had become such a good dog.