My life started with Jeannie. She was a yellow lab and she was the sweetest thing. She’d let me sleep in her bed; dress her up; and race her through our garden, without ever questioning me. I was the tiny human she was protecting.
I don’t know how often I’ve heard the story of me sleeping in my crib in the garden when I was a baby and a delivery guy walked in, apparently too close in Jeannie’s opinion. She got protective over me and bit him in the butt, chasing him straight out the door. What a good girl.
Two weeks before her seventeenth birthday, she had a stroke. I remember that morning so clearly. It was a Saturday, blue skies already so early in the morning, which is rare. I saw Jeannie lying outside in our garden, my parents sitting in the grass next to her. They looked so sad, so upset. They told me she had a stroke, but eight year old me didn’t know what that meant. I told her it was all okay, that she’d get better. I promised her. But, my dad had already called the vet to put her down.
Later that day, we went to my grandparents’ house to burry her next to Lea, another yellow lab who had died years earlier. I remember the last time I saw her, my dad told us to say goodbye. She looked so tired and ready to go to dog heaven.
My parents said they wouldn’t want to get another dog for another five years, but a few months later, we got Pepper.
When we visited Pepper and his brothers for the first time, I’d never seen a dog get so competitive over food. He was just a little, black dumpling with fur, so clumsy and already so, so sweet.
I can’t believe it’s been seven years since we got him. We taught him everything you would expect children to teach a dog: we taught him to jump, hop on tree trunks, roll over, play dead, balance food on his nose, shake, sit on chais, and probably so much more that I just can’t think of.
One thing you must know about Pepper, that I’ve just mentioned, is that he would do anything for food. But, also, that he would eat anything in this world. When he was four months old, he ate my sock straight from my foot. A year later, he ate my toy horse, some tape, and another sock. He ate an entire mango, including the pit, and a whole loaf of bread, making him so sick that we had to bring him to the vet. One time, he wanted to eat the raspberries in our garden, but,, instead swallowed an entire branch of the bush, which obviously got stuck in his throat and had to be surgically removed. He still has a scar from it, that idiot.
When I left to go to boarding school, the thing I missed the most was him. I begged and begged my parents to bring him with us to California and they did. Right now, he’s 10,000 kilometers away from home. He loves the beach, the American food, the attention he gets for his shiny coat, and his smile. What a dog.
I don’t know how many more dogs I will have throughout my life, but I sure hope it’s a lot. I can’t imagine myself without a dog and I hope I’ll never have to. They certainly deserve to be called man’s best friend.