Between Memorial Day and writing two stories about pets to submit to Chicken Soup for the Soul, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about special pets our family has had over the years. This was further reinforced by seeing two families giving away pets in Wal-Mart’s parking lot today.
I couldn’t help but think about the time we did that. Lacy was a stray dog came to live at our house. She promptly delivered a litter of puppies and then got hit by a car. We had six puppies to hand feed. I named one little long-haired puppy Ragamuffin, and figured I might as well get used to her because I didn’t think we could give her away. Today, I was trying to remember the names of all the puppies, and was a little surprised that I couldn’t. I remembered the long-haired male was Jiffy. Two little puppies looked so much alike we named them Eppie and Popo. I’m blank on the other names.
I remember when we took them to the parking lot a family came over and their little boy started manhandling the puppies. I cringed inside and worried about the puppy when the boy walked off clutching him around his middle.
Ragamuffin was shortened to Muffin, a name that suited the loving sweet-natured dog. She was a member of our household for several years until she disappeared one Thanksgiving Day. I was heartbroken and swore I would never let myself get that close to a dog again.
Jim and I were lying in bed reading on a cold February night when Eric announced he had adopted a puppy at the pound and had named him Tuffy. Jim was really upset with him and said, “Take that dog back!” Eric showed the puppy to his dad, but Jim said, “I’m not holding it!”
Eric picked up the dog and was gone for a while. When he came back, Jim said, “What did you do with the puppy.”
“I dumped him,” Eric said.
Jim jumped out of bed and started getting dressed. “We have to go find him! He’ll freeze to death!”
“I’ll go get him,” Eric said. “He’s out in the garage.”
“You go get him right now,” Jim said, “and bring him here.”
Well, Jim held “Tuffy” and decided his name had to be Bubba. Along with renaming the dog, he staked a claim as owner. Eventually, Eric gave him the dog.
When Jim went on vacation to visit his family in Idaho, he called every night checking on us, but mostly checking on Bubba. His cousin told me, “I could understand Jim being homesick for you and the kids, but he’s coming home early because he misses his dog!”
Jim and Bubba were inseparable. Even after Jim was in the nursing home, I could mention Bubba and a sparkle lit up Jim’s eyes. “I took Bubba to the vet today,” I told Jim one night at the while I fed him. Jim had become silent, but his eyes shifted away from the TV and toward me. “You know what the vet told me? He said Bubba needed to go on a diet.” Jim smiled slightly. The vet had been telling us for years that Bubba was too fat. Well, he did weigh 90 pounds, but he was really big boned and had ten pounds of fur we had sheared off in the summertime.
“You know what I told him?” I asked Jim. He gave me a look that showed he was really listening to the story. After all, I was talking about Bubba, his best furry friend. “I told the vet ‘Bubba is twelve years old. He is fat, has always been fat, and always will be fat. I’m not about to put him on a diet now!’” Jim laughed. Yep, that was the way it was with Bubba. He had never gone hungry and there was no need to try it in his old age.
Bubba died while Jim was in the nursing home. I talked about Bubba from time to time and never indicated that he was gone. In Jim’s heart, his dog Bubba was always happy enough to wag his whole body, just like always.
It is hard to lose a pet, and sometimes you don’t think you ever want to go through the heartbreak again. But when you don’t take that chance, you miss out on so much. Jim thought he didn’t want another dog, but dementia couldn’t erase the spot in his heart reserved for Bubba.
Copyright © June 2010 L. S. Fisher