Mitzi

We’d been lying in the shade together for quite a while. I was on my back, hands cupped behind my head, she on her side facing me. I talked about things bothering me at the time while she stared intently into my eyes. I was just a kid but I remember knowing how lucky I was to have her by my side. I noticed her long eyelashes each time she blinked, but I didn’t love her for her long eyelashes, didn’t love her for her perfectly white teeth, and didn’t even love her for the way she seemed to adore me.

She was still looking directly into my eyes when she burped in my face, wagged her tail twice, and continued chewing on a stick.

I loved her because I was a boy and she was a dog.

Mitzi was a collie. I was only nine when we went as a family to meet the litter. I don’t remember which one of us picked her, or whether she picked us, but in short order we were on our way home. Mama and Daddy in the front seat while my sisters and I in the back fought over whose lap the fuzzy puppy should ride home on.

It would take a lifetime to tell about her lifetime and anyone who’s loved a dog knows the telling doesn’t do it justice. You have to have felt it. As a puppy she was hugged and kissed constantly. As she grew up she was naturally our best friend. As she aged she earned the respect of family and friends as an intelligent, faithful old girl. We treated her like any other member of the family.

Because that’s exactly what she was.

During those years Mitzi made hundreds of trips to the pasture, ran countless miles behind our bikes, refereed dodgeball games, gave us away during hide-and-seek, and waited patiently while we worked in the garden. She was a happy constant when we returned from school and she didn’t just wag her tail; her entire backside swayed when she saw us coming. Many families have several dogs over the years, my family did too and we loved them all, but as a nine year old boy that collie puppy was the dog. Thirteen years into her life, I was twenty-two and that happy old collie was still the dog.

When she fell ill it happened fast. I went to work but called home later to check on her. Mama hesitated but told me poor old Mitzi had died. Back in those days, in spite of regular vet trips starting with her spaying and continuing with regular vaccinations, heartworm prevention was not what it is today and sadly she was a victim.

I hung up with Mama and went to tell my boss that I needed to go home. When she asked why, I said there had been a death in the family. My phrasing had nothing to do with dishonesty. It was to me the genuine reason. I’d heard she had a dog at home so surely she would understand.

She expressed her condolences and asked who had died. When I said “my dog” there was a pause before she giggled slightly and said she just couldn’t let me go home for that reason. With no one who could easily cover for me, I’d have to stay. I left her office and talked to my coworkers who agreed to cover for me, no problem. I then let my boss know I’d made arrangements for coverage but she repeated to me that no, I needed to stay.

I left.

There was nothing I could do when I got home; Daddy and one of my sisters had already buried Mitzi there in the same pasture where she’d played all her life. Nothing I could do, but to stay at work with that load of grief would have been pointless for me. It was Friday and on Monday I’d talk to my boss about it again. If I still had a job.

It was a sad weekend. We cried, laughed, talked about Mitzi and talked to Mitzi. Family and friends called to say they were sorry. They treated her death as though she’d been a real member of the family.

Because that’s exactly what she was.

Early Monday morning I learned from coworkers that my boss had been very unhappy about my leaving on Friday after she’d told me to stay. I started working and waited for my fate, but my boss didn’t come in. On Tuesday she was there.

I tried to read her face as she walked towards me. My boss said nothing as she handed me the envelope and walked away. I looked at it, puzzled she’d said nothing, and ripped it open expecting my dismissal letter. It contained nothing official, just a small card from her to me.

A sympathy card.

I learned later why my boss hadn’t been at work the day before. Sadly, her own dog had been hit by a car over the weekend and in spite of the vet’s efforts, it hadn’t lived. My boss was understandably upset and stayed home that Monday. She had let management know her absence was due to a death in the family.

Because that’s exactly what it was.

Stuart M. Perkins

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136 Comments

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136 responses to “Mitzi

  1. Stuart, this was so touching, well-written, but even more so evocative of any dog-lover’s feelings on the loss of a pet. I, too, had a collie as a child, Jill, that I dearly loved and as an adult our first family dog, Heidi, was absolutely one of my best friends and my “hairy daughter.” I miss her to this day, three dogs and thirty years later. So glad you have joined Senior Salon. Jo

  2. Reblogged this on ChristianBlessings and commented:
    Memories of a loved one .

  3. Wow! I’m teary, great story!

  4. Wow. This piece was powerful! I’m sorry to hear about the loss of Mitzi. May she rest in peace.

  5. Your stories are so touching and always bring joy. Loved this so much.

  6. C

    reading this makes me miss my dog again… thanks for making this story, and thank you for following my blog aswell 🙂

  7. Jeff

    Mitzi was a total sweetheart. Loved by everyone who knew her. I always thought of her as Flip’s girlfriend.

  8. Just fabulous, dear Stuart! Vividly illustrates the tensions that dog lovers navigate in so many ways, while our dogs are so totally worth it. Thank you! Would love to see a photo with it.

  9. Touching piece. Pets are definitely part of the family. We had a cat named Mitzi (wonder if it was after Mitzi Gaynor?). Loved that cat, and the house felt a bit empty after she died.

  10. theurbanblender

    My heart was touched by this story. Dogs are so loyal and the most fabulous companion…..

  11. Moist eyed my new friend; moist eyes…..

  12. What a beautiful story, thank you. I lost my dog many years ago, and have never been able to replace him. I now am aunty to a wonderful collie called Marty…the whole atmosphere in the house changes when we come to stay. x

  13. Oh, golly, this brings it all back. Beautifully written! I lost my Spitz many years ago and cried for months afterward. Don’t even want to think about the day I’ll lose my precious Sheltie!!

  14. Loved this. And congratulations on your earlier post re your essay in “Virginia Living.” You might want to look at deepsouthmagazineonline.com for another outlet for your work. No pay, but the folks there are wonderful to work with, too.

  15. This blog entry about Mitzi stuck a nerve with me because our 19 year old cat, Max was suffering through end stage renal disease when I read it. On August 4 we lost our Max & my grief & sorrow have been as deep as yours about Mitzi. I did a blog entry about our Max & mentioned you & Mitzi in my entry. The love we have for our most special 4-legged family members is indescribable & I appreciate you sharing your love for Mitzi with those of us who follow you.

  16. Tammy

    What a wonderful story. I think most of us can relate to losing a beloved pet – some of the most bittersweet feelings ever. Excellent writing!

  17. A most lovely testimony to your wonderful friend’s legacy. Thank you for sharing this. It brought me back to a time when I lost my best friend, my Dog of Ten Lifetimes. Really beautiful, Stuart.

  18. this piece makes me think about my own dog that i had when i was a kid. sadly, i left home for an overseas schooling and my dog died when i was in overseas. i wasn’t attached to her, as she was kept and treated as a guard dog, more than a family member. i grew up in a society/culture where a dog is not to be treated as a man’s best friend. thankfully, now a days things have changed and more people here where i live are more passionate about having a dog as a companion, a friend, a family member. but this post triggers past memories, and making me wished i had treated my dog with more love that she deserved. she was a kind and patient one. god bless her.

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