Today happens to be the 26th birthday of one of our family pets. No, she’s not still alive. And yes, this is the birthday I just randomly picked for her because she was a pound puppy without a pedigree or birth certificate and the folks at the shelter said, “Oh probably January.” So January 15th it is.
As my husband will testify, crazy thoughts just enter my head occasionally and a small percentage of the time we act on them. When I was terrifically pregnant (that’s large, honey) with our 4th born, I got it in my head that we’d better get a dog NOW or never because I wasn’t going to be able to manage a newborn, three olders and a puppy. (That was my campaign speech to the husband anyway.) So I followed up on an ad in the local newspaper and went to the shelter to “test drive” a dog. In my way of thinking this dog had better be kid proof so I pulled her tail, got my hand down by her mouth when she was eating, messed with her in all sorts of disagreeable ways and she just looked at me and wagged all over. It was a done deal.
The name she had on her cage at the shelter was Missy. So we stuck with it. Missy. She had been turned in by her former people at 7-ish months of age because their landlords said they could have only three dogs (!) and she’s the one who got the ax. She was already spayed (“good for the budget” said my campaign speech to husband) and was a non shedding mix (another plus) of poodle-ish, schnauzer-ish black and white cuteness.
We had a great time those first few weeks and turns out I was right about it being a good idea to get the dog adaptation out of the way before the baby came. Missy was a darling but was not without her eccentricities. Turns out she had a particular affinity for the arms and legs and faces of dolls. At the time she came to be part of our family there were quite a few doll toys lying around on any given day and when they would surreptitiously disappear on a regular basis we eventually knew to go looking under beds. There they would be, either grotesquely altered and in need of prosthetic limbs and plastic surgery, or so far gone that we had to hold little dolly funerals over the trash can. Missy would run the opposite direction when she knew we were onto her. And when the confrontation inevitably would come, she would sneeze and sneeze and sneeze in response to our, “Missy, what did you do?” I had to laugh. But we were sort of running short of dolls.
One fateful evening shortly after we brought home a newborn daughter from the hospital, Missy was confused and thought it was okay to growl at it. Wrong choice. Now this story has been passed down through the ages so many times that it’s become folklore in the family and even though it sounds good to the teller (usually Bob) it really wasn’t that big a deal. All it was is that I took exception (being full of hormones and having just given birth to a 9.5 pound little lovely) to the dog growling at the bassinet and the dog took a little flight across the back patio. No big deal. Never growled again at my baby. Everybody stayed friends.
Our Missy was only one of many dogs and other pets we’ve had over the ages but really she has to remain on the highest pedestal because of her place in the family during the years that the children were small and for what she withstood because of that. They all loved her. Sometimes loved her too well. And she endured. She also made several cross country moves with us without complaint. When we told her to get in the truck she did. Her only problem with moving was that she would get the nervous squiddles sometimes and we’d have to careen off the side of the highway to let Missy out to “go.” Maybe she was thinking about what she might have to face when we got to wherever we were going. One move was particularly non-Missy oriented and it’s sort of a miracle we didn’t lose her.
The house we moved into in Kingston, Washington was full of “adventures” you might say. Our beloved dog dropped way down on my list as we grew used to this particular move and because the yard was not fenced and Missy hadn’t proven herself yet as a non-runner-away-er, we just had to hope for the best. And being the wonderful little adaptable creature that she was, she hung around. She’d go outside for who knows how long and always show back up. And yes, I realize that’s not responsible on my part, but you had to be there. No really. We’ll sit down together sometime and talk about it. Missy survived Kingston. We all did.
When we moved to Arkansas she had a different kind of adventure and seemed to love love love living right up against the church grounds since it afforded her so many barking opportunities. Not only were there many people coming and going, but there were r.a.b.b.i.t.s. galore living under the shed between the church and our parsonage. Oh what a lovely existence for that doggie! And for a while we had another dog living with us, a stray who marched into our lives for a while, little Teddy. He was a gorgeous light brown Cairn terrier for whom we finally found the owners, but not before he got me hooked on the idea of Cairn terriers. That’s another dog chapter without such a happy ending.
In Idaho Missy got snow. And a sister. A BIG younger sister. Ellie. There was never any threat to the monarchy though. The tiny beautiful Golden Retriever puppy we brought home grew every day into a giant gorgeous marshmallow who was happy to do the bidding of the queen. Missy barked orders, literally, and Ellie snapped to it. I was never around for their secret escapades but I think the conversations in the backyard went something like this:
Missy: Hey, go dig a hole under the fence over there.
Ellie: Duh, okay, boss.
Missy: Now follow me all over the neighborhood for hours and hours and then come sit on the front porch like nothing happened.
Ellie: Okee Dokee Artichokee
Seriously. Those two. We’d come home after being gone to work and school and there they’d be, all innocent looking on the front porch. And truthfully, Ellie was innocent. And I’d say to Missy, “Missy, what did you do???” And she’d sneeze and sneeze and sneeze.
One day we lost Missy but not Ellie so we knew something was up and everybody had an eerie feeling. I interrogated Ellie but she just looked at me with that vacant marshmallow gaze. It had been a while since we had seen Her Highness so the hunt began and it didn’t take long before one of the kids heard whining. Oh. My. Goodness. Poor Missy. She was stuck under one of the kids’ basement beds with her face and front paws fully glued onto a spider trap. We had spider traps all over the basement but this one had come apart and was lying flat instead of being put together and the Queen got stuck. It was a sight. Looking back it’s almost funny but still not quite. Poor little dear. I had to cut her off with scissors. She probably had sniffed the thing and got her face stuck and then tried to pry it off with her foot and then the other foot. . . Nope. Still not funny.
When we moved from that house in town to a place on ten acres, it was heaven for the dogs. The majority of the acreage was in back of the house and they’d run clear to the back of the field and come charging toward the house, one sleek angelic blonde loping effortlessly along and a fiery black and white 12 pounder furiously pumping her little legs trying to keep up.
At that farmhouse there were also cats. They knew to steer clear of Missy. I wasn’t a witness to how they knew that but I’m sure there was a scene of some kind. Ellie would lie down under a shade tree and the cats would climb all over her but they made a wide circle around Missy. Hmmm.
The last day we had Missy with us was and still is sad. I can’t put all the details here because then it will be in print and we’ll be able to go back and look at it over and over and we’ll just cry and cry again, so nope. Suffice to say she left us too soon and our youngest was the one who bore the brunt of the discovery. (I’m not crying. You’re crying.) The Queen is buried in the back pasture of the farm house wrapped in a blanket and was carried there with love and care by Roxanne and Bob.
We had Ellie for years after that and she was a wonderful dear. Her sweet spirit never failed even when her body gave up.
Jericho the Cairn came along. He was my project dog and the project failed. He was a gorgeous black silky dude straight from the pit of Hades. Sorry. Calls ’em like I sees ’em. Maybe if he hadn’t lunged at the grandson . . . Anyway he’s got a happy home somewhere in Idaho. Know how I know that? The people who have him lost him once and had never re-registered his chip. So he still haunts me. And always will. His chip follows me around.
Now we have a darling Phoebe. She’s a case. Love her to pieces. Not so sure about her brain capacity but we get along just fine. I think she and Missy would’ve done well together. She might’ve given the Queen a run for her money.
Happy Birthday, Missy. You’re one of the good ones.
But ask the animals what they think–let them teach you;
let the birds tell you what’s going on.
Put your ear to the earth–learn the basics.
Listen–the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories.
Isn’t it clear that they all know and agree that God is sovereign, that he holds all things in his hand–
Every living soul, yes, every breathing creature?
Isn’t this all just common sense, as common as the sense of taste?
Do you think the elderly have a corner on wisdom, that you have to grow old before you understand life?
Job 12:7-12 (The Message)