The ending came suddenly, as it often does. The playful romps around the yard had long since been replaced with sedate examinations of rocks or dandelions, the barking with resigned acceptance. We kept hoping she’d grow stronger with medication and time. But time, like puppies, has a mind of its own. Last week, we were forced to say goodbye to the sweetest dog ever to soil a carpet.
An English teacher by trade, I prefer the world of books; we see the approach of the final page long before we get there.
Kaelie was the first dog my wife and I ever had. She was bona fide and came with papers, the only daughter of one “Big Daddy Bojangles.” She was the second permanent installation of our nascent marriage and lasted far longer than our first, a coffee table from Restoration Hardware.
She was a hellion, a consummate barker and conductor of our neighborhood’s canine chorus. She was a terrorizer of socks and a serial sniffer. She was nosy, rummaging through handbags and purses left on the floor by the uninitiated. While too proud to beg for food, she thought nothing of staring at dinner guests until they were shamed into sharing.
While she was never loose with her affections in the presence of other dogs, we feared Kaelie might hop in the first interesting car if we removed her leash at dog parks. She was far too cute and we were first-time parents: What if she never came back?
She was a champion snuggler who’d lick one’s face as if it were a lollipop she couldn’t quite get down to the center. She’d chase down tennis balls like Willie Mays but rarely deign to return them. She suffered the attentions of her little sisters with aplomb, enduring their tireless energy while generally refusing to acknowledge their existence.
We called her “perma-pup” because of the boundless energy she displayed well into her later years. She shook off multiple cancer scares and a dislocated ACL until the bulging discs in her neck finally slowed her down. The prognosis was grim when she went into surgery and we spent the day worrying: What if she never came back?
But unlike the tennis balls we threw her, she did. Her epic comeback sparked a wholly unexpected second chapter. In later years she chose a soft bed and the hum of the refrigerator over the anarchy encouraged by her sisters. Time and various mishaps forced her into an awkward but happy gallop. Eventually, she began to keep her own company. She took to long, contemplative walks around the kitchen at night. The oddly rhythmic clicks of her paws on the floor sounded like the tap dancing of a drunken Sammy Davis Jr. from the other room.
We sobbed during that longest car ride to the vet: This time, she’s not coming back. However, if we’ve learned anything from Kaelie’s 17-year reign as Queen Bee of the Walsh household, it’s that she’ll never really leave us. She’ll come back every time we see a dog trotting around the dog park as if by royal decree. She’ll return to us each time we watch a puppy gnawing on a sock or the corner of a table. She’ll come back in a thousand beautiful memories and do what she’s always done: make us smile at the wonderful story of her life.
After all, perma-pups don’t really have last pages.