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Thoughts While Walking the Dog
Memories of a Jewish Childhood
By Lynn Ruth Miller

 
May-25-11 Issue: 12.05  
Amy
this is column
89

Born 1993, a dog, died 2010, now an angel

Our attitude towards others determines their attitude towards us.
Earl Nightingale


My Amy is in heaven now and with me even more than when we were together. She breathed her last the night I presented my cabaret in Rome and I firmly believe she ascended to a celestial perch so she could watch the show from above. I had so hoped she would hang on until I got home so I could hold her when she took her last breath…but that comfort was not to be mine. My only consolation is that she died in her sleep after spending the last year resting up for her new life.

Of all the dogs I have loved, she returned that affection the least and yet I cannot imagine caring for any living thing more than I did my tiny little girl. She was always the princess in our house. The other dogs acquiesced to her as well. They kept their distance as common mortals must in the presence of royalty.

She was not a pretty dog to others, but she was to me. She weighed no more than six pounds in her prime and she looked like a little fox on a bad hair day with a bedraggled muff around her neck . People would point to her and laugh because she looked so dishevelled but both she and I knew her true value was in her character. To me, she was gorgeous in all the ways that matter.

When we traveled, Amy was the one who sat on my lap; the others (and I always had others) on the seat beside us. When I took longer trips, she was always the first choice as my companion. I never had to housebreak her. She was too fastidious to ever leave a puddle on my floor. I knew she would behave wherever I took her because she did not know HOW to misbehave.

In all the eighteen or more years she ruled our house, she never gave me a kiss or a cuddle. She allowed me to hug her…even though I knew it was not her choice to be squeezed. Still, she slept at my feet and I know she expected the kisses and hugs she received every morning because she waited for them, not moving until she was properly greeted.

She was a loner and she only marched to her own drummer. She set her own standards and she adhered to them always. Amy was my aristocrat. She only ate when she was ready. No rushing to the bowl; no enthusiastic chomping or begging for table food.

She dined alone away from the other dogs and she never spilled a bit of kibble on the floor. She chewed her food carefully but unlike my others, it meant little to her. You could never tempt HER with a dog biscuit.

The others in my family, Dorothy, Donald, Louise and Teddy are desperate for affection. When I feed them, they wait for a hug and a pat before they dig into their little red bowls. They are all anxious to be adored and want me to validate them every day. And they LOVE food. It is their raison d’ętre.

When Louise entered our lives a year ago, Amy mentored her. They shared a bed and snuggled close to one another, as good friends do. By the time Louise arrived, Amy could no longer go on walks with us. I feel sure that Louise told her every adventure we had each day as they cuddled together in the wee hours of the night.

I left home to cross the ocean on the first of May, 2010. I picked her up and held her to my heart. She was so frail, I could feel every bone in her tiny body, but her heart was strong as she rested her head against mine. “Hang on, Amy,” I whispered. “I’ll be back in a month.”

But a month was too long for her little heart to keep beating and her tiny lungs to give her air. She breathed her last on May 19th.

Amy is in our garden now and still as much a part of my life as she was for those eighteen years she ruled our roost. She gave me nothing but joy and demanded only the respect she deserved. She died within a week of her best buddy and oldest friend, my black cat Tillie, who had to be twenty years old if she was a day. And the two, cat and dog were much alike. Independent and confident, they knew they had a right to be honored in our home. Tillie was a housebroken indoor cat who found her true love, George about 12 years ago. The two bonded instantly and took up residence on my deck until George left the earth for a celestial home six years later. From that moment on, Tillie refused to enter the house. She lived under our front porch with two skunks as her companions.

I ask myself what I learned from my two departed babies and I think it is that every living thing has the right to be respected for what they bring to the table. My two needed no justification for their being. They knew their value. Would that all human beings understood how precious each is in his own way. Would that we believed that our differences are our gifts. More and more, I am convinced that humans would be healthier, happier and more productive if they had that faith in their own exceptional worth. We spend so much energy proving our merit to ourselves and convincing others that we are all the things we think they want us to be.

Amy was what she was and never tried to be anything more. She and Tillie belonged only to themselves and that was the lesson they taught me. Their independence actually attracted others to them. Their strength was in knowing who they were and not expecting more of themselves than they cared to give. We all have a right to exist as we are and we should be proud of ourselves just because we are. That lesson alone was worth every moment I spent with my little furry friends and now, in heaven, I know Amy is watching me and saying, “Remember how I lived my life. Don’t make excuses. Just be.”


It is a terrible thing for an old woman to outlive her dogs.
Tennessee Williams

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