Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Piece of My Heart

     I am a dog-lover. It's one of those things you either are or you aren't. And don't think the dogs don't know it. While dogs cannot claim to be the most articulate and intelligent species on earth, you would be deceiving yourself if you thought you could pull one over on them with regard to this. They can smell your fear. They can smell your disgust. They can even smell your indifference. And then doggone it, they just have to go and try their hardest to win you over somehow. Our West Highland Terrier was the best at this of any dog I have ever known or owned. She was downright flirtatious and often successful when it came to winning the heart of a recalcitrant, hesitant and on the fence dog lover. She would turn her button black eyes on you, get as close to you as you would possibly let her and then just camp out at your feet or beside you on the sofa until she softened you up a bit. She would do this by giving you attention, but not too much attention. And then when the bird was nearly in the hand she would perk up her ears and cock her head just so and give you that pleading look. "Like me, oh like me, oh please oh please like me," said her deep black eyes. And the tail would start to wag like a flag in surrender. Yours. Not hers. She had almost won. You had to be the most stonecold-hearted individual not to melt...and even the tiniest bit was enough for her to move in for the kill. She would then rest her head ever so gently and with great intentionality upon your leg or your foot or your arm. No licking. No crowding. Just the slightest touch. Then before you know it you would be eating out of her hand. Patting her head. Rubbing her belly. Smiling when she looked up at you. I have watched her do it time and time again. She wins converts better than most evangelical Christians. Give Phoebe a chance and she'll make a dog-lover out of the hardest case.
   This and more are some of the reasons that I am grieving the loss of this little dog. She had my heart. She had my back. She took care of me and I took care of her. The Husband gave her to me four years ago on my birthday. On the day itself, we drove out to the breeder and picked her out of the litter. The other puppies were mewling like little kittens but she was not making a sound, just steadily checking us out--sniffing the air and cocking her head. Curiosity should have been her middle name. She wasn't going to beg anybody for anything. From that moment she was destined to be my dog.
   We have a tradition in our family of naming our dogs for people that we know and love. That way when we call our dogs' names, we are always reminded of someone special. It makes everybody happy. Phoebe MacKenzie, my West Highland Terrier, was no exception. She was named for two older women who offered me their love and friendship and served as mentors to me at different stages in my life. Their influence upon my life was pervasive, and I could think of no higher honor than to name this delightful puppy after them!
   We would likely have lived together in relative bliss except for the fact that about 16 months ago a new love came into my life: a granddaughter. I was foolish to think that Phoebe would love and accept Little One as much as I had. Alas, it was not to be. I don't ordinarily think like a dog. If I had, I probably would have realized that Phoebe perceived Little One to be a threat and eventually she would seek to put Little One in her place.
    If not for the Westie Rescue of Tennessee organization I don't think I could have made it through these past few weeks. They were there from the day when we first realized that we were going to need to find another home for our dog. These folks are Westie lovers extraordinaire who understand the breed, and they quickly found a permanent home for my little dog where she will get to be the Queen Bee. It has been a difficult transition for me, but I am confident that my little friend is already living the high life.
     Here's to you Phoebe and all the love and joy you brought me in our four years together. You will always have a piece of my heart. And just perhaps, somewhere over the rainbow, we will meet up again someday!

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