Several years ago, my then very small daughter, wanted a dog. I didn’t want another pet. We had too many pets then, and adding another was, well, just nuts.
So naturally – we got another dog. Not just any dog… but a 2 time loser. A dog who, as a puppy, was so unable to be house broken or trained it had been returned to the animal shelter twice. It was actually marked by animal control to be put down on site if returned again. My daughter saw her at the animal shelter on the day of her final return.
There was something between that dog, and my daughter that clicked. My daughter didn’t pick her, so much as the dog picked my daughter. Which, frankly was how that little dog’s mind worked. So it came to our home. When I was told about the dog’s history, my only request was that I got to name it. I told my wife that if we kept it the dog’s name would be “Alimony”. And if she brought home anything else it was going to be named “Child Support”. So – in part out of spite – and in part because it was cute – the dog was brought into our family and was it really was registered with the name “Alimony”, or “Allie” as we came to call her. And for most people, and for most dogs, that would be the end of the story.
But this story is a long one, the dog’s uncanny bond to my daughter was such that for a dog that was to be put to sleep for it’s unwillingness to be obedient – my daughter could get it to do seemingly anything. It would ironically become my daughter’s 4H project, and a show dog, go to State Fair and receive a blue ribbon, not once but twice, showing for my daughter. It would win many ribbons, and it would dance and come alive in front of crowded stands, never once taking it’s brown eyes off my daughter… except for those occasions when it was trying to pick a fight with dogs much larger.
It became my daughters friend, and in many ways a mentor. There is a spirit, a stubbornness, that comes with being a very small terrier. It allows them to take on animals much greater than themselves and never flinch. Genetically, her breed was meant for fighting badgers and large rats. They have, no idea that they’re little, they have an objective – and they don’t give up. Size, shape, condition, odds, none of that matters to a terrier. And they project an odd set of qualities that causes them to think they can win, and often do, against all odds.
It’s part courage, part bravery, part determination, and part just incredible stubbornness to never give up, never give in, and never think the battle is lost, or worse – not worth winning. I suppose, if dogs are like their masters – well perhaps that’s where my daughter gets that quality. You have to develop that kind of heart from somewhere, that drive. It doesn’t’ come naturally to humans.
My daughter if she learned to be that way, well it was from Allie. Whose loyalty to her was incredible, and whose love, was boundless to the very end. Alimony out lived two of her younger dog peers (of course we had more dogs after we got her… this IS our house… if animal is lost, hurt, bewildered or just plain strange it winds up here… and for all my grumbling… I’ve yet to say no.). She got to be loved admired and adored by many, many people.
Admiring people aside… she had something that was the most important thing in the world to her – and that was my daughter. So despite the fact that she when given any chance would raid he garbage, or commit a dozen unspeakable acts to my things, all she had to do to get my approval was see my daughter – and wag her tail. There was a level of love there – that frankly – it wouldn’t matter what she did, for being that loving and loyal to her master… well, what’s a little garbage right? It picks right up off the floor y’know??
Allie developed some lumps a while back, in places where, well, dogs shouldn’t have them. And as she got older and older her arthritis kicked in, and on the not so good days, hopping up to lie on the bed wasn’t really something she was up to either. So, we’d help her up to her favorite places.
But she still, even on her worst days, would pop up, hop off where ever as if there wasn’t a thing wrong with her… and trot after my daughter whenever she heard her. She would grow older and more and more senile – often I’m fairly sure she had no clue who I was and I’d double the bet that she wasn’t really sure who she was, but she was cheerful about it. On several occasions we’d take her to the vet thinking maybe it was time. But it wasn’t. She still had things she wanted to do. She still had just a bit more enjoyment out of life, a few more tail wags, a few more barks, a few more French fries to steal and garbage cans to knock over.
But even the most vivacious of lives, comes to an end. Allies was very much like her entire life. It was cheerful, and full of zest, and even when you’d have thought she was gone – she heard my daughters voice, and her head came up, and her tail wagged one more time. As if to say, “I am so glad to hear your voice, and it’s okay.”, and then she laid her head back down.
Alimony’s life, was if anything, about what you could do with a life – if someone gave you the chance. She got her second chance – and she made the most of it. Doing things no one believed she could, never taking anything from anyone else, never backing down, never slowing down, never giving ground, never giving in. She was my daughters best friend, best ally, and in many ways, her best teacher about all that you need to learn to succeed in life.
She will be missed.