Our beloved family dog, Roopy, died today at the age of 16. We got her on 4th of July weekend in 1998, just a couple of months after we moved into our house, less than a year after we were married. Richard and I were newlyweds, and getting a dog – more so than any other thing we did in our early marriage – cemented us as a family.
We contacted a border collie rescue organization that works in Minnesota and Wisconsin because I didn’t want to go through the bother of having a puppy in the house. Puppies are nice, but destructive. My mother went through the website (or possibly microfiche; this was a while ago) and found a dog that looked like she would be a good fit. Roopy had been rescued from an animal hoarder in rural Minnesota. A hundred animals were taken from the property, and seventy were put down immediately due to disease or ill health. Roopy was somewhere between one and three years old.
The original card from the rural humane society listed her name as Lassie, but the woman who was fostering her felt the name didn’t suit – Roopy never responded to it – and renamed her Roopy after a hound in a James Harriot novel. Eventually she acquired the name Donkey because of reasons too arcane to divulge. When we picked her up, Roopy was skinny and nervous and only slightly house trained. She would howl painfully when we left, and bark at planes because she’d never seen them before. She was terrible with other dogs, but great with people. It didn’t take her long to accept that we loved her and that planes weren’t the harbinger of doom, and we settled into the longest animal friendship I’ve ever had.
Grendel, our cat, and Roopy used to wrestle, Grendel’s arms around Roopy as she tried to bite her neck. These matches used to end with Grendel grooming Roopy, because obviously Roopy was a big stupid cat who didn’t know better. Our son was born, and then our daughter. Our son learned to pull himself up on Roopy, who was so kind and gentle with this massive destructive force. Our daughter has given Roopy roughly one billion treats, once Roopy learned that she could work a Pavlovian positive feedback loop with her. I will dance for you, and you will give me a treat.
She’s been declining now for a while – fatty deposits on her neck, a grey muzzle, her eyes bluing with cataracts, deepening deafness, a slow, clenching arthritis – but she’s always been so cheerful, such a happy soul. She danced when she was happy, which was daily. She sang when she howled. It’s killing me that I keep having to change the tense on my sentences, because I still haven’t internalized that she’s gone. I took the collar off her neck after the end. I felt her heartbeat still and then stop.
She was such a good girl, the best girl. I’ve lost a connection with my past. I’ve known her longer than my children. My children have never known a world without her. I’m so sad, and I haven’t even begun to miss her, half-thinking that noise outside is her wanting to get in, that coat on the floor is her waiting for me to come back home. She defined my home in the beginning, and everything is a reminder of her in the end.