The Art of Losing: Roopy

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.

7 thoughts on “The Art of Losing: Roopy”

  1. I’m sorry to hear it. Pets are such companions; losing them is a bigger deal than some people would like to admit. With you every day for 15 years? That’s a big loss.

    1. Thank you for your condolence, Brian. I hadn’t thought about how daily our relationship was, how habitual: three times outside, dinner, maybe a walk. In that context I’m not surprised I’m such a mess. She had a good life though.

  2. Those pics show a great life, and to think she started off as a rescue dog- you turned it all around for her. I am sure she felt gratitude, as I believe animals do.

    That’s a beautiful garden, btw.

  3. I kind of wish I hadn’t read this right before bed, only because I’m so familiar with this loss that you’ve managed to put beautifully (as always, shit).

    Mine was Mokey (yes, like the fraggle) – she was born on my front porch in 1992 and we grew up together. Whenever my cat would have kittens (which we always found homes for, I swear I wasn’t an irresponsible pet-parent), Mokey would be a part of teaching them to hunt and get used to people and other animals. She loved to carry them around the yard like she was their mommy. She was afraid of lightning and would always come scoot as close to my bed as she could at the first hint of a storm.

    I think about her frequently, and miss her always. But I’m so glad she was a part of my life for as long as she was.


    1. Oh, Roopy was so afraid of thunder! I kinda forgot about that because she started going deaf a while ago, and thunder stopped bothering her. (Also, 4th of July: you are the most asshole holiday for dogs.) She’d end up in our bed, which is normally verboten. Poor thing.

      Mokey sounds just aces. I love how she babied kittens! That much have made some great photos.


      1. Heh, it wasn’t even so much the thunder that bothered her (she was good with noises), but the lights.

        I’m really sorry you lost Roopy this week, but happy you guys had her as part of your family for as long as you did.

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