My parents owned a company together when they were still married. They sold pet food to shops all over the Midwest, and their work took them to countless pet shows. I went to a lot of them, sat in the booth and watched the big, beautiful dogs go by. The number of breed names I have lodged in my memory is a little scary. And yet, despite being surrounded by them for much of my childhood, I've never really been a dog person.Our family used to have two miniature schnauzers, Rocky and Spooky. Spooky ran away when he was just a puppy, and Rocky died while we were on vacation for the holidays. My father wept when we got back. I remember just…not being affected.
A few years later, we got Andy, a soft-coated wheaten terrier, straight from a breeder. A neighbor up the street bought his sister, and they used to play together when they were younger. Wheatens were status dogs. Very expensive, very soft and adorable. But we were one of the first families to have them. Now, when I see one, I still think, "Awww, an Andy!" A few years later, we got another wheaten, Mina — short for Willamina, a name I gave her. (This is after my first choice of names, Ewog, was rejected. It was a combination of Ewok and Dog, which I thought was genius. At, you know, 14. She looked like a little Ewok!) So many people have these incredibly vivid memories of life with their pets. The whole "man's best friend" thing. But I was never there. I draw a blank when I try conjure up anything like it, actually.
Lately, all I can think of are the relations of the constant frustrations of pet ownership. The ones that make me never want to get one myself (my dreams of French bulldogdom mostly involve movie-like sequences of him trotting along next to me on a pretty fall day, leaves crunching under our six feet). Mina loves to find creative spots to urinate, my bedroom in particular. Andy, in his old age, just started slipping away one day. He lost control of most of his functions, started snapping at my mother and stepfather when they touched him wrong, could barely get up from his spot on the kitchen floor last time I was home.
My sister just sent me a text message to let me know our mother was on her way to put our dog to sleep. There are better ways to find this out, of course. But getting the information beforehand is actually a step in the right direction for my family. They know I'm not really a pet girl.
When I first read it, I thought, "Well, that was a long time coming." But then the vague memories, fuzzy dots and blips of light, trickled in. Christmas morning in front of the fireplace, piles of wrapping paper and the Shawnee Mission East choir holiday CD on the stereo. Eating summer dinners of grilled bratwurst outside as a family. My father bringing over snacks and chew toys for the dogs, even long after my parents were divorced. Andy and Mina in the backyard at our old house, Mina flying off the top step into the grass with all four legs sprawling every which way. Both dogs waiting expectantly at the garage door when I walked in after a long absence. Always remembering me. Jumping up against my thighs, sniffing my hands, following me up to my room with my suitcase.
Andy has been around for a long time. I've never really been a dog person, but there it is: Andy is — was — part of our family. Tears. Goodbye, sweet dog.