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Seven years later and I still can’t let go

Submitted by on Friday, 7 January 2011 One Comment

I say all the right things when the guys ask about Rita, and I go through all the motions when she comes up and nuzzles me.

But when they ask I lie, because they wouldn’t understand. I’m not sure I do either.

“Mommy, do you love Rita? Do you love her more than you did PC?”

“Of course I do, babes. She’s our doggy.”

Of course I don’t. PC was a paragon of a pooch who followed me through four states over 15 years, weeding out bad boyfriends and consoling me when the inevitable happened after I didn’t listen to her. She’d even tried to run Dad off when he proposed, growling when he said we could get married in “a year or two.” She licked his hand when he changed his timetable to the following year and bribed her with beef jerky.

Fifteen years. Wow. That still blows me away, especially since she was at least a year old, maybe two when I got her at the animal shelter. They were 15 good years, too, right up until the final few months. She’d developed congestive heart failure when I was pregnant with Big Guy, and after he was born incontinence sent her out of the house.

By the time he was 10 weeks old, I could tell the end was near. I was supposed to go to a party that night but I made an excuse. Big Guy and I spent most of the evening on the patio talking to PC. When Dad got home about midnight from a bartending gig, he went out to see her. He tried to coax her to eat, but she refused. He came inside, and she went to a far corner of the yard. I found her there the next morning.

For years Big Guy called her his “heaven doggy.” He liked to lord it over Boots that he had once had a dog, even though he couldn’t remember her. Oh, but I could.

I recalled a friend at work who’d gotten another pet only months after his paragon pooch had died. The new dog, he said, was the dumbest dog ever born. “Or maybe I just think that because I’m comparing him with the memory of the perfect dog. Maybe it was too soon.”

Maybe I waited too long and PC’s memory has morphed into Cliffordesque proportions. I just don’t get the warm and fuzzies from Rita, and other than the fact that she’s not fuzzy and she still hasn’t mastered the task of keeping my feet warm when I curl up on the couch, there’s no logical explanation for that. She’s great with the guys, and they adore her.

Perhaps my entire relationship with Rita will be relegated to one not unlike the way someone once explained her relationship with her sister-in-law. “Of course I love her. I have to. She’s married to my brother.”

It could be that some day this dog-owner marriage arranged by the guys will transform to something that truly moves for my heart. For now, though, sister-in-law love will have to do.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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