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Puppy Love

An essay of sorts that I wrote the day that my beloved dog Mac died. It's been quite awhile since he passed away (summer, 1994) and I still always look for him when I visit my parents. The house isn't the same. I miss him. My cats are wonderful, but... Mac was a part of my life for a long time. Anyway. The essay says it all, I think. - Laurel


"Puppy love" is such an idiotic phrase. It seems to belittle the love of puppies. Come now, stop laughing, I'm quite serious.

My first love was a puppy. Rather, my first loves were a parade of Scottie dogs: Augie, Sonja, Sandy, Heather, Mac.

Augie was old and grey when I was born. I tugged on his tail while he was sleeping and he bit my hand. I still have a cross-shaped scar from the resultant infected wound. I got out of the hospital on my first birthday. Don't let this fool you into thinking he wasn't a nice dog; the bite was a reflex, and from what my parents say he felt guilty for a long time afterwards.

Sonja was a black pedigreed scottie that my folks purchased while in Germany. She could talk. At least she talked to me. And she was one of the most intelligent creatures I've ever met. Yes, I do include humans in that group. She watched over me when I was a child, and barked if I wandered too close to the stairway. Fiercely loyal and ever mindful. She was a wonder.

When Augie was gone, we adopted Sandy. A lanky wheaten scottie pup. The shyest dog I've ever seen. Sonja found him funny, I think. Wheaten scotties are rare, and his temperament was as light as his fur colour. He was quiet and thoughtful and loyal and true. But he had a bite when he needed one. He would've done anything for us, yet he was shy about it. Quite becoming, really. Endearing. The original sweetheart. He even smiled.

When Sonja died of cancer at age 10, we adopted Heather. By this time, I was old enough to go along and help pick the puppy out. Heather was a ball of black scottie energy. She took to jumping off of the backs of davenports at an early age, usually in an attempt to startle Sandy. That she did. She tormented him a lot, but I think they had a good time.

They must've had a good time, because on September 15th, almost thirteen years ago, she had a bunch of puppies. Only three survived, at first. My folks and brother favored the oldest pup, a female brindle we called "muscles" for obvious reasons. I pitied the runt called "red" after the colour of yarn he wore. He died after a couple of weeks. Which left me playing with little "blue" or "boo-boo."

We sold Muscles, but by this point I had everything plotted out. If my folks tried to sell boo-boo, I was gonna run away with him.

This, indeed, was serious puppy love.

After about a year passed, I figured the coast was clear and I could put away my runaway plans and gear. "boo-boo" became known as Mac or puppy or mackie or any number of names. His official name was "Whirlwind of Westedge," though I have a funny feeling we never got the paperwork done. Whirlwind was an obvious choice as he had a tendency to spin around in circles when you let him outside or walked anywhere near a leash.

The house was crowded for a couple of years, with three dogs. Heather's fur had turned grey and she had grown rather obese. I guess childbirth does take a toll. She was my teddybear, though, the cuddliest creature alive and a swell dustmop. Sandy was still a sweetheart, lord knows how he put up with Heather and Mac tearing around tormenting him. I think Heather taught Mac how to jump off of the backs of davenports just to remind Sandy of her youthful days.

Somewhere I have a picture of the three of them laying on the floor of our van on a camping trip. nose to tail to nose. Quite cute. Wheaten, black, and grey. All different sizes and colours of scottie.

Sandy reached the age of 10 and his health started to fail. Ultimately we had to put him to sleep. We were left with a teddybear and a whirlwind. Oh, did I mention that our whirlwind had a tendency to lick everything in sight. Mac licked the furniture, us, the floor, just about anything. Kindof a weird little dog, Mac. But sweet. From puppyhood he learned to "bop" me. Whether I was a foot away from him or five feet away, if I looked at him a certain way, he would suddenly jerk his head forward as if to bop me on the nose with his nose or mouth. Strangers thought he was going to bite me. Ha! Little did they know. We played this game for years.

Heather was a big ball of energy until she simply slowed down. I sensed it, but I always have been really in tune with our pets. My folks, on my recommendation, called the vet, but he said there wasn't anything he could tell them over the phone. They thought she was fine. I knew better. That night, Heather curled up at my feet while I was watching television and never woke again. My folks tried to resuscitate her, that was the hardest thing I ever watched. I simply couldn't bear it. I was young then, and went through "I told you so" syndrome for awhile. And I wrote horribly depressed poetry. Yes, I was quite the teenager.

This left us with Mac. And a cat that had adopted us somewhere along the way. Of course they didn't really get along. I think it was an agreement they had just to make our lives more complicated. They got perverse pleasure out of watching us figure out what to do with the cat when Mac wanted in the house at the same time as she. And so on.

We'd always had two scotties, but my folks were getting older and didn't think Mac would adjust well to a new non-family-member-scottie. So we just had one spoiled little scottie. One sweet slurpy boppy whirlwindy puppy, rather. He was always a puppy to me. To us. He had lots of Heather's traits, and Sandy's too. So we didn't miss them so much, because we had Mac.

I really would've run away with him.

Mac was my puppy, from when I was 9 years old on up. When my mom would yell, both Mac and I would head downstairs and he'd bop me on the nose and make me laugh. When I was a teenager and my folks just didn't understand me, Mac did. Mac listened and understood, of course. He sensed when I was upset and would then jump up and sit with me or would lick my face or bop me in the nose until I smiled. And it's not easy to make me smile when I'm upset.

Mac was there when I was talking to my first two boyfriends on the phone late at night and no one was supposed to realize I was up. He knew. Mac knew all my secrets and never told. When those relationships ended horribly, Mac was there always. He loved me unconditionally and always understood. He never betrayed me and always knew how to make me smile. And he always knew when I was really upset. And I'm hard to read.

Mac was on those family outings. We went camping together, we visited grandparents together. He heard the family fights and was as bothered by them as I was. Yet he'd find a way to perk me up just by being there. He was always happy to see me when I came home from college. He even managed to visit my first apartment just a month or so ago. I think he approved.

We grew up together, Mac and I. We had a friendship that lasted thirteen years and that's a rare thing. Rarer still is how well he knew me and my family. How he always knew my moods and always knew just the right thing to do. He always let me hug him. My first hugs were from Heather, and later Mac. In a family that doesn't show much affection outwardly towards each other, we showed it to those dogs.

So don't ever scoff at "puppy love" or try to use that phrase to write off some juvenile crush. Please don't.

In the last few weeks, Mac's health declined. The vet says it was very sudden heart, lung and liver failure. I went home a week and a half ago to see Mac and was bracing myself for the worst. Funny, he greeted me as enthusiastically as ever. He was on a special diet and medication and my folks were trying to keep him from overexerting himself. He was breathing hard, yet... for all appearances, he was still my puppy. Always my puppy. He bopped me harder than he has in a few years and licked my face and got my glasses all blurry and made me smile.

That's puppy love.

My folks called this evening to tell me they had to have Mac put to sleep this morning. Now I know why today is so like a fall day... grey and cold and rainy. So like those romps Mac and I took on the rocky Lake Superior shore when we went camping. Now I know why I felt so lonely and sad today.

My best friend is gone, and I'm not sure what to do. In the past, I always had Mac to bop me on the nose. And make me smile.

Don't scoff at puppy love. Cherish it while you can. And treasure it, always. I will.



© Copyright 1994 Laurel Krahn
If you want to distribute this bit of writing, I'd really appreciate a note to let me know. And credit where credit is due. Thanks.

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Revised: 10/29/96 / Laurel Krahn / email