Last week, we put to sleep the last dog my mom will ever own. Winnie was sick—she had a pervasive case of cancer—and was beyond treatment. She wasn’t eating much, and had become nothing more than fur and bones. Just sitting up would exhaust her. So my mom and I took her to the vet and sat with her and held her as the doctor euthanized her. She was thirteen. She’d led a good life.
We got Winnie when I was a junior in high school. My mom bought her from a breeder in New York. I remember the trip we took to retrieve her; we had to sneak her into our hotel against regulations. The next day we had to go out for a few hours and there was no way we could take the little dog with us. So we laid down some newspaper in the bathroom, closed the door and prayed for the best. We were relieved to come back later and find that the pup was safe and happy, and no persnickety maid had ratted us out.
My fondest memories of her are from the days we’d spend on the Chicago lakefront, chasing after sticks and frolicking in mud puddles. (Mostly that was her; I’d spend my energy fruitlessly trying to keep her out of them.) We’d let her off the leash, crossing our fingers that the cops wouldn’t show up and that she wouldn’t run off and get us into trouble. It never happened, though there were plenty of near-misses. She could be a slippery one to catch sometimes, though I think she always knew that she was teasing us, and fully intended to calm down and peacefully go home after giving us a go.
While Winnie was officially my mom’s dog, it was always easy to say “my dog” when telling stories about her. I had spent the last two years of high school with her, years she was spending growing up and making attachments that would stay with her throughout life. Every time I saw her, she’d give me a hero’s hello. I knew she knew who I was.
Recently, we got to play host to Winnie for a few days. Her aching bones kept her from jumping around like she used to, but with a strategically placed ottoman, we were able to encourage her to sleep on our bed each night. It was a lovely reminder of the pleasures of being a dog owner.
Just three weeks ago, dressed in her summer whites, Winnie made an appearance at our wedding. This was a special treat for me. I’m sure she got lots of surprised looks from people, wondering what a dog was doing at a people event. But it made perfect sense to me. The wedding was a gathering of all the
people beings who make us happy, and it only made sense that Winnie would join that crowd.
My allegiance to dog-kind was cemented at an early age. We—my sister and brother and myself—had the pleasure of always living with a dog. (Winnie co-existed with Bojo, and before her was Juniper. All poodles.) Because of that, I’ve always assumed Sarah and I would get a dog someday. It’s true, the cats have won me over, but I’m a dog person at heart, and I doubt I’ll be able to live dog-free forever. I think Winnie would want it that way.