By Lisa Scottoline
There’s something worse than losing a dog.
Losing two dogs.
Which just happened in my family.
But this column isn’t about death, it’s about life.
By way of background, Daughter Francesca lost her wonderful Pip during the holidays. He succumbed to cancer at the age of fifteen, and we were able to be with him at the end, which was blessedly peaceful. And then, unexpectedly, my dog Peach fell ill last week when her kidneys failed, and we were able to be with her at the end of her fourteen years, which was also peaceful.
It was the worst instant replay ever.
But losing both Pip and Peach got me thinking that the sadness over their passing is part-and-parcel of the unique happiness they gave us, as the older generation in our dog family of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Pip, Peach, and the late Little Tony were the older generation, and Pip and Peach were even half-brother and half-sister, having the same father. I still have Peach’s two sons, Boone and Kit.
At two human beings and five dogs, we were outnumbered.
Leg-wise, that’s four to twenty.
Though my legs are hairier.
People say dogs are a member of their family, but in our case, the reverse was true – we were members of their family.
And it was a hoot to watch them relate like a human family.
Peach was the smallest, but she barked nonstop, keeping everyone in line. If she smoked, she could have passed for Mother Mary.
Every night starting at 7:00, she would stand at the window overlooking the backyard and bark until 11:00 at night. The window was in the family room, so it was impossible to watch TV.
Bottom line, there was too much family in the family room.
Most nights I would let her out in the front yard so she could bark at the backyard, and the only thing missing was a side yard so she could bark at the front and the backyards at the same time.
Like stereo agita.
All of this barking kept squirrels, birds, deer, and passing clouds in order.
In fact, I’m pretty sure the world is safe from atomic warfare because of Peach.
And don’t think my neighbors hate me, because they’re too far away to hear.
Even as she got older, she never stopped barking. She had heart issues severe enough for the vet to tell me not to walk her anymore, but she barked forever.
Meanwhile her barking never bothered me.
I have nothing against a woman speaking up.
And she bore two terrific puppies, then got to live with them all her life, a terrific mother from day one. All of her feistiness was reserved for anything or anyone who tried to mess with her puppies. We whelped them in my bedroom, and just once Uncle Little Tony stuck his head in to see what was going on.
Peach got busy.
Mother grizzlies have nothing on mother cavaliers.
And she barely slowed down as she got older, except that she got mitral valve disease, which caused her heart to enlarge.
She was a little dog with a big heart, literally.
She slept on the pillow next to me, and because her heart was too big, I could actually hear it beat at night, in the stillness of my bedroom.
And I could feel its vibration on my pillow.
It was a comforting sound that lulled me to sleep, like nature’s lullaby.
To love a dog, or any animal, is to fully realize what it is to be a human being.
And how connected we are to animals, and honestly to everything in the world.
I have a dog family, but I believe there is a much larger family we all belong to.
That family includes people of kinds, and dogs, and trees, and various bugs and even the sky and the stars.
It was my little dog with the big heart that brought me to that realization, every night from my pillow to the sky entire.
I will miss my little Peach.
But I will always have her with me.
And so will you.
Love each other.
Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2024