Three Little Angels

As you know, just a few days into the year I lost my darling cat to a sudden illness. We had just started our eighteenth year together, and he would have turned nineteen or twenty this year.

About to pounce on a muffin. Puddy would then roll onto his back and juggle it with all four paws, while Oso and Lady waited for it to fall.

Mr. Cat was a sweet yet tough little guy, and for weeks after his death my two dogs, Oso and Lady, searched the house for him. He had a maddening habit of popping out of nowhere and hitting them on the head or paws, then scampering away. I don’t think they ever quite got used to the idea that it was safe to walk across the room.

We moved through spring and Into summer without Mr. Cat, each of us mourning in his own way. Then, on June 2, Oso died suddenly of a presumed heart attack.

Oso was my big, silly baby bear, a dog who loved nothing more than to be petted and hugged and fed his favorite foods. He was one of those dogs who was always in the way, always trying to stay one step ahead. He’d rush to be the first in the kitchen, and no matter where he parked himself it was always the wrong place. He’d be in front of the stove when I needed to cook, in front of the fridge when I needed to get food, in front of the sink when I needed water. The few times he landed in the center of the room he was in the way, period.

Mom’s big brown bear.

Oso, as acting supervisor, would stick his head over my shoulder to check on the status of the food in the oven. He would sit and watch me chop vegetables, and insisted on a look before they went into the pot. He loved bananas and apples and his Thanksgiving treat of a slice of pumpkin pie.

Loving, friendly, and always ready for his close-up, he often posed for photos with passers-by on Devon, especially with children who squealed with joy that they could put their arms around my big, sweet bear. It got so that he would see a camera, and immediately assume his best pose.

Oso was a big dog with a big personality, and the house was suddenly empty without him. I hadn’t fully realized how well he took care of Lady until his passing.

My beautiful little girl had suffered all her life from a seizure disorder thought to be caused by a brain tumor. She also had congenital cataracts. A few years ago, one seizure affected first one front paw and then the other. After that, she didn’t want to go outside anymore. Even when I carried her down the stairs, she would refuse to walk and instead sit and wait to be taken back home. She was terrified of fireworks, which triggered  seizures, and I dreaded the summer holidays.

With Oso gone, she had difficulty finding her way around the house. I would often come home to find her standing trapped under a chair or in a blind corner, not sure in which direction to move. I was used to seeing Oso go to her aid, walking up to her and then moving  away,  a gesture that said just follow me and I’ll take you back to your bed. Lacking his guidance, she would now cry when trapped. I didn’t think Lady would make it through the summer, and, sadly, she didn’t. After several harrowing days and nights  of  fireworks explosions, she suffered her final seizure on July 3. My darling Lady died peacefully in her sleep mid-morning on July 4.

My beautiful Lady.

Lady was a beautiful dog, and she knew it. In her prime, she would strut down the street, conscious of admiring glances and enjoying the attentions of  people who would stop to fuss over her. Until her most serious seizure a couple of years ago, she was very playful, especially with dogs her own size. Sweet and loving, she had no interest at all in being Top Dog, a position that Oso and I each felt was ours (we fought to a draw).

All three of my angels died in a bit less than six months. Their ashes are back home with me, and they, along with their brothers and sisters, will be buried with me when my time comes.

I take my morning walks by myself now, and miss ethe excitement of a dog discovering the world anew every morning, examining each flower and blade of grass as though they hadn’t been there yesterday, then eagerly poking a head around the corner to see what’s there, catching a scent on the breeze and pulling on the leash to follow it. I’ve never had a cat who wasn’t fascinated by life on the other side of the window, watching the world for hours and then snoozing on the windowsill in the sunlight.

I have been blessed with many wonderful dogs and cats over the years. I like to think that when Mr. Cat, Oso, and Lady crossed the Rainbow Bridge they were greeted by the brothers and sisters who preceded them. I like to think of all of them running around on a cloud, playing happily and joyfully, Lady reuniting with her buddy Paco, Mr. Cat exploring the heavens, and Oso charming everyone in sight–lovingly in the way.

Eventually, there will be another cat and another dog, and they will be as unique and wonderful as all my other angels. But for now, I feel lost, my home is empty, and I cannot think yet about bringing another pet home.

Later, but not now.




A Tribute to One Great Dog

My pal Paco died on Monday. All of my pets have been special, but there was something wonderful about Paco, something all his own. He could size people up from across the street, determine friend or foe, and act accordingly. He didn’t need to do that with other dogs, you see, because he was the mightiest Min-Pin ever made and the toughest little guy on the street. He inspired respect and affection–a small dog with big street cred.

Paco Reyes

Paco Reyes

Paco was a rescue. He had been passed around among a group of young friends, some of whom cut his ears and his tail (he was just a dog to them). A member of my family rescued Paco from them, and he came to me a short time later. With the fierceness of a dog five times his size, Paco immediately established himself as Top Dog, and worked out an amiable relationship with the cat who reigns as Supreme Boss in our household.  They mostly ignored each other. Paco got the prime seat on the sofa, and the cat sat everyplace but there.

A ferocious watchdog, Paco never let a sound go unchallenged. He protected his family, his home, his friends, and his block from intruders like garbage trucks and school buses, always from the safety of his leash. He never met a mail carrier he liked. I never knew if it was the uniform, or the cart, or the mail truck, but on seeing one of the three Paco went right into battle mode.

A tiny canine gourmand, Paco loved good food. Regular dog food, yes, but also a little pizza, a bite of tamale, a chunk of samosa or egg roll (no dipping sauce, please), a few potato chips, and buttered popcorn. Paco ate only the popcorn with butter on it, leaving the drier pieces for his younger, bigger brother, for whom eating is just a pastime, not a pleasure.

He was my pal, sitting up with me when I couldn’t sleep, licking my hand for encouragement when I had writer’s block, barking for a walk when he sensed I needed to clear my head.  Paco sat next to me while I read or watched TV, and woke me every morning to play his favorite game before breakfast.

Paco was my granddaughter’s buddy, too. Brittany used to hold his leash while we walked, and often referred to Paco as “my dog who lives with grandma.” She was at school when he died and didn’t get to say good-bye, but she understands that Paco has gone to heaven and God now has another pet.

Paco Reyes was one of a kind, both warrior and quiet companion, a high-spirited dog who never backed down when challenged, never failed to welcome a new day, and never let his guard down when he was on duty. In his off-hours he was sweet and playful, and even let his companions win a few rounds in their daily play.

Paco’s survivors include his two canine companions, his co-boss, the cat, his pet-mom, and numerous family members, friends, and neighbors.

All of us will miss him forever.