When I was five years old, my parents brought home sister border collie/ blue heeler mixed puppies for Emi and I. We named our pair Rosey and Freckles. Rosey was mine. She was calm, sweet, gentle and affectionate. While on family vacation just a short time later, we got a terrible phone call from my grandpa who was pet sitting for us saying that Rosey had tragically died. This was just months after we had all witnessed our other border collie, Angel, get run over, and not long after I had to also get rid of my beagle, Blue, because he ate the neighbor’s chickens. I was understandably traumatized and absolutely heart broken. The thought of getting another dog to just lose tragically was nowhere in my mind, and I entertained the idea not once in the months to follow. Then, one summer day, my parents packed the whole family into our car and drove out to a farm where I thought we were getting vegetables from a friend of dad’s at work. We pulled up to a slew of fluffy border collie puppies everywhere and my attention was sparked immediately. I got out and ran around with the black and white balls of fur that resembled multiple soccer balls floating across the grass, short stubby legs below them. I picked up one after another kissing them on the nose and day dreaming about what I would name them. I somehow hadn’t caught on, and wouldn’t until leaving with a new family member in my lap, that we weren’t at all there to pick up vegetables. After some time running around with puppies, out of the corner of my eye I saw a smaller one sitting with two other pups in the corner by himself watching from afar. He was tri-color, the only of the litter, and absolutely the most handsome. He was sweet and gentle, waiting to be picked up. I walked slowly over to him, grabbing him and cuddling him. Needless to say, we left with Snickers that day (affectionately known as Snickers Kisses Cheves or Snickerdoodle). He was mine, and would be for the next 18 years. The first week of having Snickers at our house, I ended up sleeping on the hardwood floors next to him every night as he would wail alone in the dark. I would wake up with scrunched eyes and a yawn to puppy howls from all the way across the house. And, because I was terrified he would get thrown out or daddy would regret allowing me to get a puppy, I would grab my pillow along with one of my hundreds of stuffed animals and make my way to laundry room where I would sing to him and lay close until was hushed asleep.
Snickers was a funny dog. Though the quiet, smaller one of the litter that day I took him home, Snickers was frankly a terror. Snickers would grow up to be an exact replica of the seven year old girl who raised him. Loud, frantic, skittish, goofy, spastic, full of hugs and kisses, and an absolute mess. I am certain part of his insanity was from my howling in his ear all the time, because I thought it was just so funny how he would sing back to me. (I was 6, so don’t call the doggy police on me that I was abusive.) Until Snick was about 11 years old, he was nothing short of crazy, but I can’t honestly imagine him any other way. I remember trying to walk him on a leash once which led to him dragging me through the bushes out front of our home. He was a wretched guard dog, because he just wanted to love on everyone in his path (or herd them). He couldn’t sit next to you for even two seconds without accidentally nipping you while licking you or taking a tooth to your chin from jumping up over and over to get your face just right. It is like he just had to let you know he loved you. When we moved to Oklahoma City, Snickers and Freckles made the trek in the back of our stock trailer attached to the truck. They did perfect the whole 9 hour trip from Bulverde until we got just north of Norman. Then, out of nowhere, Snickers thought for some ridiculous reason climbing up the side of the trailer (with merely bars on the sides and no roof) was a good idea. Honestly, if we weren’t in rush hour traffic, it would have been sort of impressive. The next hour included slamming of the breaks every five minutes to knock Snickers down from jumping off the top bar out the side of our trailer to his doom. Like I said… insane. Then, when we first moved back to Bulverde from Oklahoma, Snick and Freckles got out of our gate. We searched for them for hours after school; I was horrified they were gone. We asked some of our new neighbors if they had seen two borders come running by and they said, “We sure did, they were having the time of their lives.” Moments later, we drove by the water tower to find them sitting under the trees as if waiting for us to find them. I grabbed that dog, kissed him and then smacked that butt of his. “Don’t you ever leave me again!”
I think he understood me, because he never ran away again.
Aside from being a lunatic, Snickers was a big ole wimp, too. Firstly, he couldn’t stand up to Freckles, the alpha woman. It got so bad that I had to start sitting on the food barrel every night to make sure Snickers ate or else Freckles would nip at him and eat his food after she was done with her own. I didn’t mind doing it, though. He hated water, he hated rain, and definitely hated thunderstorms. Attempting to give Snickers a bath meant practically pinning him down to get a splash of water and a dollop of shampoo on his body. As for rain, or really any weather to be honest, you couldn’t so much as crack the door open or he would dart in, forcing his way through your legs while probably knocking you over. Then, you better plan on him being in for a while, because there was no chance of getting him back out no matter how hard you tried unless you drug him across the floor. I can’t tell you how many times we had to all chase Snickers around the house, slipping and sliding, before finally getting a hold of him. After we would finally corner him, it took each of us grabbing a leg to carry him back outside -absolutely wiggling and wagging his way out in the process- because he was simply hell bent on staying in the house.
Snickers was a terror, no doubt about it. But, silly as it may sound, for me Snickers represents my youth. He is truly just about the last thing left of my childhood, the last thing left that existed before we all grew up and went separate ways. He is one of the last things all five of us had a hand in together, and it is for that I love Snickers the most. Two Christmas mornings ago, Snickers had his first tumble and I knew time was running out. His legs went different ways and he howled for me as I desperately tried to move him and put him back up on all fours. He spent that Christmas inside right by my legs the entire time, a very rare occurrence since daddy believes dogs are for outside. I held onto him with everything I had before we left that year, terrified the next time I visited he would be gone. I held on for memories, for smells, with thankfulness and joy. In a sense, I feared that if I let him go, the memories and the last ounces of my youth would be gone forever with him.
The last two years, Snickers has lived far longer than we could have ever hoped. He was a trooper, and every time we braced ourselves for the end, he got just a little more life to him. Today I mourn memories just as much as the physical presence of Snick. I have never lost a family member before, but surely this is what it feels like. Dogs are a part of the family, no doubt. If you’ve ever lost a dog, I am sure you can cope with me when I say I feel as though a sibling has died. The constant friend who was around for kisses when I was sad. The constant presence of someone who didn’t care how you looked, they just wanted a pet on the head and scratch of the belly. It’s moments like today I question why we even do this to ourselves, get dogs to have to lose them. But, when I think about all the memories with Snickers and the laughs I had because of him, it was worth it. Snickers and I grew up together, he just did 7 times faster. The pain of loss means it was well worth the time and effort put into something before it is gone. You know what I mean?
I hope this piece brings you joy, not sadness. I hope it spurs up memories of dogs you’ve had. I hope it makes you cry a little, tears of joy for what once was. If you’ve never had a dog, you might read this and think I am the crazy one for mourning an animal. But, dogs are more than that. They are staple pieces of the family. Rest in piece, Snickerdoodle.