I Loved The World's Naughtiest Dog...And This Is What I've Learned
For three weeks I've been processing a loss and sitting in real grief and mourning.
Exactly twenty days ago our big dog Pepai looked in to my eyes and I felt an unspoken "Thank you. I love you. Goodbye."
Then with her head on my lap, her physical form relaxed into a deep state of letting go and my body eventually reeled at the finality of it all.
It wasn't the first time I've been with a soul crossing over. And I can guarantee that it won't be the last.
And every time it changes me.
I vividly remember at our first puppy vet visit when I was told "With a big breed like this you should expect a good eight years with her."
At that point in my life eight years seemed like an eternity. Too far into the future to imagine an expiration date.
She was twelve years old when her body quit. She spent 4 extra years on borrowed time and was as rambunctious and deviant as ever, right up to her passing.
It was sudden.
It was at home.
She did it her way, without asking me to help choose the time. I'm so grateful for that.
I'm grateful that her passing was in a familiar place, with her head on her Mama and her favorite furry friends nearby.
It felt dignified.
And I'm at peace with that.
She was, perhaps, the world's naughtiest dog and her passing doesn't change that.
I have a million stories I can tell you about her. Most of them involve destruction, stealing, devouring, and chaos.
And as many curse words that I uttered, and prayers before I opened the door not knowing what disaster awaited me on the other side, she was so much more than just that.
She was more than her regularly scheduled 7:30am, 10:15pm, and 2:30am barking frenzies (every day, no matter what, for no reason other than I think she could tell time-and adjusted twice a year for daylight savings).
She was a big huge goofball full of unconditional love.
Even if I scolded her for stealing fresh baked muffins off the counter.
For a second she'd lower her ears and her tail like she knew, but by the time she'd take a second breath her tail would be back to wagging and her eyes would be full of love and joy again.
And that tail. Oh my God, that tail...
I used to believe that dogs with docked tails was cruel.
Until I lived with Pepai.
That tail came at you like a crowbar. We suffered many a bruise from it. Ty, as a toddler, had to wear a helmet watching cartoons so he didn't get knocked out when she came wiggling by.
She'd wag it so hard that she'd split the end open. The vet called it Happy Tail. It never seemed to bother her, it just sprayed blood over every inch of our house 2 feet high and below. We'd clean it up. Glue it, tape it, whatever it took. Eventually it grew bumps of extra scar tissue that looked like a medieval weapon, but it did stop splitting open.
Twelve years of stories and memories of this great big awkward noisy dog.
And just like that, the house is quiet.
Our old dog Bandit mourned deeply. He stopped eating. He cried, sobbed like a human, and layed inconsolable on the spot on the floor where she passed.
I wondered if dogs can actually die from a broken heart. He just slept. We had to constantly step over him wherever he landed because it was like all of his strength was gone.
It took two weeks but he's coming back around to himself again.
Her presence in our home was bigger than I noticed, but her absence is sorely felt.
Not much was easy about her in our life.
She ate library books, whole turkeys fresh out of the oven, stuffed animals, and accidentally a baby chick once, septic tank cleaner, poultry antibiotics, makeup, toilet paper, a plate of squares on the way out the door to a baby shower, and treats fresh from the cat's litterbox.
And cats...she chased them her whole life.
There wasn't a mean bone in her body, but I often wondered what she'd do if she actually caught one.
A few years ago we brought home a semi feral kitten, Carlos, who formed an immediate bond with Pepai.
And this 120lb dog, when adopted by a palm sized kitten shook like a leaf. She finally caught one and had no idea what to do with him.
That cat loved that giant dog. He'd sleep on her, play with her, jump gates to be with her.
And when Pepai passed I saw his little tabby heart shatter. He laid with her body on the floor and groomed her and said his goodbyes. As if the very thought of death couldn't feel any sadder.
We buried her in a garden at home, and next Spring we will plant hydrangeas there to honor the lifetime of memories and unconditional love she brought into this home.
Eventually I'll tell those naughty stories about her and laugh, like fondly remembering how there was never a dull moment with her.
But for now I'm just holding space for the part of me that wasn't quite ready to let go of the chaos and her Happy Tail and her begging for carrots everytime I pulled out the cutting board.
She left a big hole.
A big silence.
A big grief.