One of my favorite photographs hangs on the wall in front of me. In it, Ed, wearing one of his many tennis jackets, is standing with one arm around me and the other caressing the bundle of black and white fluff cradled protectively in my arms. Our eyes are crinkled with laughter as our brand-new puppy squirms and struggles to pull away and get started with her life.
Now Ed is gone and so is Rosie.
Adopting a puppy was my idea. For years, we had taken in older dogs. One after the other, they had died, leaving us without a dog for the first time in our marriage. Ed was fine with that, but I knew I couldn’t be dogless for long, so I launched a campaign to convince Ed that he needed a dog to walk in his retirement. He, of course, was looking forward to unlimited hours on the tennis court. Ed had never in his life had any desire to walk a dog.
Rosie, as it turned out, had no desire to be walked. She also had no desire to be trained. Any chance I had of creating a relationship between Ed and Rosie seemed to vanish as she pulled and rolled and bit ankles and ate rocks on our daily trips to Frohring Meadows and was politely asked to leave multiple training classes, earning the reputation as the world’s worst puppy. Then, just a few months after Rosie joined the family, Ed took a disastrous fall on the tennis court, destroying his retirement dream and mine simultaneously as he couldn’t live his and had the perfect excuse for refusing to participate in mine. Rosie became my project. And quite the project she was.
But then Rosie grew up and somehow the world’s worst puppy turned into the world’s best dog.
For years now, Rosie has been the steady presence in our world – never taking center stage but always right there, quietly patrolling her realm and welcoming all who entered with soft nose bumps and a gentle sway of her magnificent tail – yet, somehow, at the same time, letting us know that, should it be necessary, she would give her life for us. In short, Rosie became the canine version of Ed.
So, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I came home from Ed’s burial in Pittsburgh a few days after his death to find Rosie collapsed in her spot under the rhododendron bushes in front of the house. Within hours, she was gone from an apparent stroke.
I felt horrible that I hadn’t been home when she needed me. But, knowing I’d be gone most of the day, I had asked Rosie’s best friend Heidi to check on her. Just hours before I got home, Heidi texted me that during her earlier visit, she watched Rosie emerge from her spot and walk all the way across the lawn, her great tail swishing, to greet a little girl whose father was doing some work on the property. I later found out that the little girl fell instantly in love with Rosie and sat on the ground in the hot sun petting her and keeping the flies away while her father worked.
Rosie waited until I got home before saying goodbye, but clearly she had something very important yet to do. With one final nose bump and a gentle swish of the great tail, she was off to help Ed through his transition.