My first pet was a gray gerbil. I named him Stephen in the inestimable depths of my youthful wisdom because I didn’t know if he would be a boy or a girl (he came from a school teacher), and I figured if he turned out to be a boy Stephen would work—if not, she could be Stephanie. Stephen was also coming with another gerbil—also gender unknown. The second gerbil would be for Andy. I convinced Andy that we should name the second gerbil Nicky (the same logic applied—Nicole/Nicholas). Well, both of them turned out to be boys, so they were officially Stephen and Nicky. They were cute and pretty good for indoor pets. I remember watching them for a long time, laughing at the silly rodent things they did. I can’t say I ever really connected with them, though. I mean, they were gerbils. And while I enjoyed having them as pets, when their time was up, I wasn’t really devastated. Granted, I insisted that we bury them in our backyard with rocks as headstones (their little matchbox coffins are still buried in the backyard of our old house on Birch; we didn’t tell that bit of info to the folks who bought it). The headstones came with us when we moved and are out in the school house yard at home to this very day, but that’s mainly because I’m entirely too sentimental for my own good. We tried another set of gerbils, but they were evil. So we sold them.
Sometime in there, I got a parakeet. I think he had a different name at one point, but shortly after purchasing him, we discovered that this crazy bird would only twitter and tweet and sing at two specific times—when we were watching television, either the Aladdin movie or the Rush Limbaugh show. So, because I was a goober even then, I named him Rush Aladdin Limbird. I’m serious. Not even joking. I wish I could tell you I wasn’t this strange of a child, but that was what I did. I called him Al for short. Al had hygiene issues, though. He didn’t like to bathe, so we had to grab him and dunk him in a coffee cup of water—until we discovered he loved mirrors and found a birdie bathtub with a mirror on the bottom, then he didn’t have a problem with it. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but somehow I decided that we needed to sell him. So we sold him at a garage sale. I didn’t really grieve much.
Shortly after that, I think, we got a pair of rabbits. Two lop-eared bunnies—one named Bugs and the other named Fudge. Fudge was mine, and that’s not what he was full of. You could always tell where Fudge went because he left a trail . . . . I loved them both, but we never really bonded. (Have you ever tried bonding with a bunny full of poop?)
All my life I had really wanted a dog and a cat, but because of my allergies, it would never have been possible while we lived in town. So when we found out we could move to the country, I was excited that I would be able to have a dog and a cat for the first time. The cats came with the place, and they were nuts (and to this day, I am still very much a cat person). But having a dog was something I had wanted for a long time. I still remember being at a garage sale with my mom and grandma trying to think of names for my dog. I finally settled on the name Trixie, in honor of my favorite book series at the time, the Trixie Belden Mysteries.
We went out to this random farm out in the country to pick out our puppies. I remember watching all the puppies run out of the owners’ barn. I saw the one I wanted pretty quickly—she ran sideways, kind of like a crab. I don’t know. She just looked quirky, so I thought that would be fun. (Andy picked one that was black and white, and I convinced him that he should name her Oreo . . . . I think he just let me name his pets because he knew it made me happy.)
The first night we had Trixie and Oreo, we were actually still in town. They spent the night in our garage on Birch Street.
The whole thing was a good experience for me. As a young child, I had always been frightened of dogs. I loved them, but they scared me. I remember even going out to play with our puppies in the garage and they loved my loose shoelaces and started chasing me around the garage.
They were the strangest dogs ever. They did things and got into things and ate things you wouldn’t think a dog could possible do or eat. I swore they were part beaver after they ate two sapling trees and then started gnawing on the chicken coop—but then they started eating rust off the truck, and I didn’t know what to classify them as. They dug stuff up and dragged it into the yard. Dead animals we thought we had gotten rid of. I remember Trixie dragging a duck’s foot into the yard one day and eating it whole when Mom tried to take it away from her. We had found a duck decoy at a garage sale or somewhere. But the dogs loved it. Often times they would both curl up inside their little dog house with it jammed in between them.
The trouble was we couldn’t get them to stay on our property. Together, they were like some kind of weird crime-fighting duo—always running off to get in trouble or save the world or something. We learned that a lot of our neighbors out there would shoot a dog that came anywhere in sight of their livestock (completely understandable), but try as we might, we couldn’t get the dogs to stay on our five acres. So, we built them the coolest dog run we could, converting the old chicken coop into a massive dog house, and we’d take them out on walks and play with them as often as we could. I hated to lock them up, but at the time it seemed like a preferable option to them being shot.
Their personalities were so very different. Oreo was the crazy, dominant one who was always bouncing around, being goofy. Trixie was the follower who was scared of her own shadow. The crazy mutt was scared of everything. If we put a new water dish out for them to drink out of, she wouldn’t go near it until three or four days later when she was sure it wouldn’t bite her. Oreo was bright, but it always seemed to me that Trixie was really intelligent. I could tell her to “go be Snoopy” and she’d go jump on top of their little doghouse.
And somehow, I don’t know how this was possible, but these crazy dogs would lure animals into their run and pounce on them. Opossums. Raccoons. Birds. Snakes. Skunks. Yes, skunks. They’d lure them inside the dog run, kill them, and they wouldn’t even smell skunky. It was ridiculous. They were like ninja pooches or something.
Well, Oreo caught something—some kind of bug or disease or got bit by something, I don’t know. She died a few years ago. In all honesty, I really did expect that Trixie would follow like she always had. After all, Trixie wasn’t really much of an independent type of critter. But she surprised me. She surprised all of us.
Since she had never been the wanderer of the two of them, I decided to let her out to wander around the yard on her own. She never left the yard. She hung around the house. Her hips were bad, she couldn’t hear, she couldn’t see well, and she was missing some teeth, but she was so happy and she had so much life in her.
Trixie and I had a routine. Every morning (if she were awake), she’d walk me to my car and wag her tail at me as I left for work. And every day when I came home (if it were daylight), she’d meet me at the driveway and follow me to the house. I’d feed her, and we’d say goodnight. It was like that for two years.
Well, last weekend, when I was up in Manhattan, I guess Trixie must have gotten confused because she fell into our storm window well. Mom and Dad were out checking the house and found her, pulled her out, got her back on her feet. She was hurt pretty badly though. By the time they came back into town, though, she was up and walking around. Still following them around like she always had.
I got home on Saturday evening, and she was pretty bad off. I had to come to a decision in my own mind that if she didn’t improve quickly, I wouldn’t let her suffer. She could hardly walk when I got home. I don’t really know what happened, but on Sunday morning, she was good. She was up, moving around, wagging her tail, being herself. She was moving more slowly than normal, though. Sunday night, I got home, and she started for the end of the driveway to meet me, but she didn’t couldn’t quite get there. So she sat in the yard and waited for me to come to her. I scratched her for a while and fed her a whole bunch of canned soft food (a major treat). And I went inside to bed.
Well, I didn’t see her on Monday morning. And I checked all her normal sleeping places. I would have preferred to keep looking, but I couldn’t be late to work. So when I got home on Monday evening, and she still didn’t show up like she had for the past couple of years. I looked around in all the places I could think of, and I couldn’t find her. Tuesday morning came, no Trixie. So Dad went out after he got off work to go look for her, and he found her. She had stretched out in the pole barn (which was the first dog run we built for them) and had gone to sleep. She just didn’t wake up.
Trixie would have been 16 in July. I think it was July. Pretty good for a large-ish size dog. Pretty phenomenal actually.
Going home to a house without a dog was kind of hard last night, as silly as that might sound. And as silly as this sounds, some part of me really hopes that there’s a heaven for dogs. Isn’t that silly? A place where she can run around and not be scared of water bowls. I never really saw myself putting up a post dedicated to my dog, but that’s what this is. Trixie was unique, and I’ll miss her. I guess what amazes me more than anything is that she was still the same dog I always had, even down to the last day. She never changed. I guess I never really comprehended how loyal a dog could be. Trixie was the first pet I had always really wanted, not that I disliked my gerbil or my parakeet or my pooping bunny rabbit, but Trixie was different. She was pretty amazing.