(New Berlin, WI)
One of the most difficult things we can ever experience in life is the loss of a pet. It is sometimes very hard for others, even those that are closest to you, to understand the pain and loss that you feel. It is as if a piece of your heart has been torn out. When you have experienced the faithful and unconditional love of a dog who has been by your side for so many years it is hard to accept the fact that they are gone from your life and that your life in some ways will never be the same. We all need to grieve in our own way. We need time and the patience and understanding of others around us to get through a difficult time like this. I want to write something about Newt. About our time together and how much she meant to me. I owe this to her. I have a countless, treasure of memories of my four-legged pal. I will undoubtedly leave something out. But these are some of the things I remember the most.
I got Newt from a breeder in Highland Park, Illinois in March of 1999. I had searched high and low for a breeder who had a puppy available and had finally found one. When I first met her it was an instant attachment. She jumped on me and licked my face like we were already best friends. She was 12 weeks old and the cutest dog I had ever laid eyes on. The breeder told me that her parents had both been show dogs and that she was an only child. Her litter mates had been stillborn. She was spoiled right out of the womb! She did not have to share her mother’s attention with any other puppies.
I drove down to Illinois with my friend Denise Mandery to pick her up on a Saturday morning. When we pulled into the driveway she was in the yard with her mother, waiting to greet me. She jumped up and down against the fence looking at me as if to say “are we going home now?” Denise and I put her in a traveling crate for the ride home and she barked the entire way, non-stop. This would be a theme for the rest of her life. She always barked when we were in the car. It did not matter how many times I told her to pipe down. I had planned her homecoming carefully. I was going to set the crate down and get my camera. Then open the door to her crate and take a picture of her as she emerged into her new home. Of course when I opened the crate she decided to back out tail first, so my first picture of Newt was a picture of her butt. I knew that puppies will sometimes cry at night when they get to a new home because they miss their mothers. Newt never cried once. It was like she knew right from the beginning that she was home and this was where she was supposed to be.
We went through all the rituals of puppyhood. Housebreaking, learning to walk on a leash, finding the right dog food, etc. I watched her come to terms with the world and try to bend the world to her terms. It was a joy to behold. I feel sorry for anyone who has not experienced watching a puppy grow up because those people have missed something that is so special and so precious. I very soon realized that I had a very smart dog! She was a quick learner and we developed a relationship with each other that I have never experienced in my life. We knew each other’s moves and habits and our routine came together so naturally. My pet sitter once told me that she had never seen a dog and an owner who were so in tune with each other. Newt liked her routine and so did I. We were perfect for each other. She would not tolerate any deviations from normal. She would look at me as if to say “this is not what we do”. Her routine gave her security. It gave me a feeling of companionship and love that cannot be replaced.
A year later I bought my house in South Milwaukee and this would be our home together for the next 10 years. At first she didn’t like it of course. This was not our usual home you know. But she adjusted quickly. There is no way that I can recount all the memories of our time together in that house. But there are some that stand out. She loved to sit in the front window. She would watch the people walk by and watch the world around her. She was not afraid of thunder or storms. I remember us sitting in the window together when the Oak Creek tornado hit in 2000 just a few miles from us. She was fearless. She would bark if any other dog walked by our house with the exception of the next door neighbor’s dog. She never barked at her, for some reason Shara always got a pass. My fondest memory of the window however is that she would always be in it when I got home from work or anywhere else. She would recognize me immediately when I pulled into the driveway and go running to the door to greet me. You can’t get love like that anywhere else in life.
Newt was also selfish and protective. I was never allowed to pet another dog in her presence. If I did she would immediately run over and bat my hands away from the other dog with her front paws. I was “her daddy” and nobody else’s. I even tried to bring another Pug into the house one time because I thought that she might like another dog to play with. No way! It lasted 3 days. She would not have it. This was her house and there was only room for one dog in it and that was her!
I loved our walks around the neighborhood together. One of my favorite memories involves the 2 beagles who lived at the end of our alley. Beauregard and Beuford. They lived in a fenced in yard. Whenever we walked by Newt would go up to the fence and bait them and antagonize them until they started into their patented beagle barking. Everybody knows what that is. This would go on until their owner would come out and start yelling at them to shut up. Then Newt would walk away. I could almost read her mind every time, “stupid beagles, my work is done here”. After our walks she would love to roll around in the grass in our backyard or play a game of catch me if you can when it was time to go inside.
Our evenings together would be spent watching TV with Newt at my side. Her snoring and snorting were music to my ears. When it was time to go to bed I would only have to say “time for night, night” and she would grab her favorite blue blanket in her teeth and run into the bedroom and hop up on the bed. She slept under the covers with me of course. There would always be an episode of face licking before she went to sleep. Her way of saying “goodnight, I Love You”. I took many trips to Las Vegas and to different cities to run in marathons. Whenever I did I would always take Newt to the best boarding kennel and made sure that she got one of the doggie suites with the TV and the futon, etc. There would have been no other way to do it. I appreciated the fact that she was always in good hands and I had the peace of mind knowing that she was well taken care of. Despite that, I was always anxious to get home and see her again. It was always a happy reunion with lots of face licking and barking and tail wagging. It is so great to know that there is always a special friend that is happy to see you when you get home. Newt always made me feel loved and I knew that I was never alone in life with her by my side.
Over the past couple of years Newt began to slow down and started showing signs of age. She began losing her eyesight and had become almost completely blind. She had arthritis and a dislocating knee cap on one of her hind legs that sometimes made it difficult for her to walk. She could not jump up on the furniture anymore but I would gently and lovingly lift her up into the window she loved so much and onto my bed at night. Her face had become grey and she looked tired and old. She spent most of her final months sleeping in her crate where she felt safe and secure. We would still go for our walks but they were a lot slower and I was more than happy to take whatever time she needed. I was going to be there for her in her old age just like she had always been there for me.
We never know what changes life is going to bring us. My life had changed dramatically in the last couple of years. Finding my true love, getting married, moving into a new house, and surviving cancer. I was determined not to leave Newt behind in any of this. I wanted her to always be the important part of my life that she was. I guess God had other plans for her. I knew that Newt was getting old but I did not think that she was ready to die. The events of October 20th, 2010 happened so suddenly. I was in shock and I still find it hard to believe that she is gone and will never be coming back. The other day my step-granddaughter said to me “Is Newt gone?, She’s not coming back?” No Sienna, she is not coming back no matter how much that I wish she was. She was a gift from God and God has called her back to be with him. I was glad that I could be there for her final moments and hold her in my arms when she passed. I wanted the last thing she ever saw to be me.
When I look back at our life together I can only say that everything I gave to her will never even come close to repaying her for everything that she gave to me. After her death I received several sympathy cards and condolences from thoughtful friends and family who had known Newt. They all touched my heart but there was one in particular that summed up my feelings for Newt in a way that only words can.
“If I could reach up and hold a star for every time you made me smile, the entire evening sky would be in the palm of my hand.”
So long my friend, until we meet again.