Growing up, my family and I were dog people. We were snotty nose spot on your pants, dog hair on everything, scrunch to share the bed, stub your toes on forgotten bones dog people. We still are, really, though some of us do not currently have a dog. Okay, so that last one, that's just me, dog less at the moment, with Bugsy, my stubborn, sweet Tibetan Spaniel living with the two people he loves most in this world, my mother and her boyfriend Irby. Until a little over a week ago he also lived with my sister's childhood dog Josie, another Grandma Marcy adoption.
I intended to come to this space ready with funny, sappy memories of the years I spent with Josie, a regal, golden dog, aware of her own grandeur, just enough Chow to keep her coat full and her demeanor dominating. But what I need to admit to you is that she really did not care for me at all. I could call her name from two feet away with a piece of steak in one hand and a bone in the other and she would turn her head to me as if to say, "Look, that's fine and all, but unless you're making your way over here, I'll wait for someone else to bring me food." She was patient and steady because she could be, because she was so beautiful that even as I'd snarl and stomp at her lack of interest in me, I'd walk anything she wanted right across the room just for the chance to pet her and pretend for the moment she was interested in me.
In reality, she didn't need to be interested in me. She had the rest of my family, all of whom she adored fiercely. My sister, her first mother of sorts, cannot be denied, as Josie would sit and lean into them with a force that was nothing short of intense and unyielding love. It was my mother, I have to say, who remained until the end her best friend and champion. They shared cups of tea like two women who'd known each other for years, raised children together, survived loss, moved and reinvented their lives, all together. I'd like to think that at the end of such a long life she thought of those two women and felt proud of what they'd seen together. I imagine that Josie remembered all the men they'd jointly loved, all the ups and downs they weathered as a team and knew, beyond the boundaries of human and pet, that she'd been part of a family.
Knowing the loss of a pet, I won't say I can't imagine how my mother and sister must feel, how Irby, used to sitting through his work days with Josie at his feet, must feel. The space left empty where someone used to be is not limited by biological differences, age, or naming constraints. A loss is a loss. What I will say is that it is comforting at times like these to know one can love that much, that one is able to convey that, both in words and actions, to another in such a way that when a life ends, it is possible to feel certain love was shared; a life was bettered and made full. There is no doubt in my mind that Josie knew how many people loved her, that being a "pet" didn't keep her from being a like a child, a grandchild, a friend.
I cannot regret now that she didn't always have time or interest for me, because really, her dance card was full with some pretty amazing people, and I completely understand her position.