OPINION

Slices of Life Remembering Miss Daisy

Jill Pertler

She wasn’t even my dog. Not even close. Even though she and I lived in the same house, she clearly answered to another master – my husband. Still, I loved her like you love a family dog that’s been around for more years than you have fingers.

She loved playing fetch. She was a retriever, so I guess that makes sense. We could throw a ball or a stick (or whatever object she was fetching that day) for hours and she’d keep going until we made her quit.

Her favorite place was the lake. She loved to swim. Combine that with retrieving and you had perfection – from her perspective, at least.

Each summer, she’d find herself a good stick and it would be her “toy” to fetch from the lake during the long, hot days we spent there. My husband would throw it as far as he could and she’d joyfully (and I do mean joyfully) bound into the water – swimming once it got deep enough. She’d grab the stick in her mouth, swim back to shore and drop her toy at my husband’s feet. Then she’d give whomever was nearby a doggy shake shower before turning toward the lake to fetch again. And again. And again. As long as we’d let her.

I’m so glad we had the lake for her to love.

She was a good dog (great dog) in most regards. She didn’t chew or jump on the furniture. She was awesome with kids and she patiently and gently put up with the cats (sometimes with a deep doggy sigh). She was pretty good about staying in the yard (unless a neighbor’s garbage was calling to her nose). If something was broken or someone got into the cat treats, she was pretty sure she was in trouble, even when it was clearly the cats’ fault. She was a trustworthy, loyal companion.

She never did learn to walk properly on a leash. She wouldn’t relent to it, always tugging and pulling to the point that we thought she might choke. I am sure she fully understood the “heel” command. She was a smart girl. She just refused to acknowledge it. It was one of the few instances of her asserting her independence.

Another involved her phobias. She was a big dog – 85 pounds in her heyday – but the smallest details could put her in a tizzy. Certain floor coverings were taboo. She’d walk on wood, but not laminate. Vinyl was okay, but not her favorite. She refused to go down the stairs to the basement. The kitchen pantry terrified her. It happened to be where we kept her food so that sort of benefited us. One time we got her a fancy new water dish. She wouldn’t drink out of it because it scared her.

She went out the back door to do her business, but would only access it from the right side of the door frame. She wouldn’t go out the door leading to the garage. The garage itself, however, was fine. We quit trying to figure her out years ago and just loved her for what she was – quirks and all – because every family has its quirks.

Her three favorite times of the day were breakfast, lunch and dinner. Her favorite food was scrambled eggs. When my husband entered the kitchen, she figured she had a chance of eating and she’d give him a stare down, darting her eyes between him and her food dish. We called this look “the eyeball.”

After lunch she got a treat and wouldn’t let up until you gave her one. The peanut butter flavor gave her the toots so we quit buying those.

The hardest part about having a dog is that they grow old too soon. She was old and this has been coming for some time. We’ve known she was nearing the end and I thought I was prepared. We talked about her ailments and the fact that she might be suffering. She was less active and seemed sad sometimes. She hesitated before going upstairs because it took effort for her to climb them. She quit jumping up in the morning in anticipation of breakfast and instead would stay sleeping under the bed. This summer, she didn’t really fetch the stick, but carried it in her mouth while wading in the lake. Doing the normal things was getting harder. We all saw that. And we knew. And I thought I was ready.

But you’re never ready. Not really. I’m not sure it’s possible. Still, I didn’t realize how much I wasn’t ready – to wake up without her under the bed. To never throw the stick for her again, or get the eyeball or make her eggs.

She wasn’t even my dog. But she was our dog. And she was a part of our family – an important part. I’m going to miss her. Sure am. Already do.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.