It is with a heavy heart that I write this week’s blog. I’ll be honest up front. It deals very little with photography, but, like photography, our dog, Felice, was a very big part of our life and I believe she deserves a little bit more than a few phone calls and a Facebook post.
There are often two types of people when it comes to domestic pets: Dog people and cat people. I was raised primarily with cats. From my first beloved, pet cats Sunday and Sugar-Booger (who predated me in this world) to a host of cats to come both inside and outside my parents’ home, I was surrounded by them until I headed out on my own. During those years we had a few dogs come and go, but none really won me over to the other side.
In fact, although I can look back now and see which were good dogs and where we likely went wrong with the others, I can easily say a pet dog never really appealed to me for the first 23 years or so of my life and I really hadn’t found any dog or met any person who could change my mind. Then I met Liz.
When we started dating, she was without any live-in pets of her own outside of her dad and stepmom’s little dogs. However, it was quickly clear she was a dog person. She had had many pet dogs in her life and, opposite of me, had had run-ins with her share of off-putting cats, which had done did little to change her mind to the cat side.
Soon, I met Liz’s mom and stepfather and, with that meeting, came the introduction of a poodle named Tassie and Tassie’s baby (which was twice Tassie’s size), Felice. I remember this beautiful, long-hair, white dog (who favored her American Eskimo father more than her poodle mother) excitedly jumping on me whenever I visited my mother-in-law’s apartment in Reno, NV.
And I’ll tell you the instant I was won over by this sweet dog. I was at the apartment one morning, as I had a plane to catch later that day. The morning was calm (save for a lawnmower buzzing around outside) and I was perched upon the couch with a laptop trying to finish a couple of articles for the newspaper before my flight. My mother-in-law and Liz were both at work leaving me alone with the dogs, both of which had taken up napping positions at either side of my lap. That’s the moment I knew this was a great, and loyal dog.
Now, technically, Felice (or Weezie, as we later affectionately called her) was Liz’s dog from the get-go. However, she was unable to take her for the first few years of her life, so she stayed with her folks until the time was right. And that time came in 2005!
At first, it took a little getting used to for me, as, anyone knows, there are differences between owning a cat and owning a dog. Fortunately, I was already aware of how great this dog was! Problem was learning how to outsmart this very smart dog. She generally understood right behavior from wrong, but this made her no less mischievous.
One thing I always found amusing was the fact she wouldn’t even bat an eye at an available trashcan or reachable food vessel while we were there. However, the instant we left the house, all bets were off.
I recall the hotdog bun incident: We knew we had bought two packages, but could only find one. We eventually shrugged it off to error, however, later that evening, we spotted an empty, plastic hotdog bun wrapper on Weezie’s pillow. Funny thing was, this package had been up on the counter and Weezie was not what one would call a big dog. However, a little overhanging plastic off the counter was all it took for her to pull down a generous snack. No wonder she didn’t eat much food that night. If I had downed eight hot dog buns, I might pass on my usual portions as well. She had never done this before, but now she had learned how and, I’ll tell you, like with everything else she learned, keeping one step ahead of this dog was never fully achieved.
Through the years, Weezie continued to keep us on our feet, as she was very good at learning and adapting in order to figure out ways around our blockades. From trying to figure out how to get on the table and how to get food down from the table to how to get into the cat box, those gears were always turning.
But I will give her this. Her ability to learn and adapt served us well. She was relatively quiet and was quick to stop reacting to familiar sounds both inside and outside the house. This only left unfamiliar sounds, so, basically, if this dog barked, you listened! She was the ultimate in alarm systems! Nobody could get past this dog unless she knew them. Well, at least nobody could get past without you knowing something was amiss. You see, I would say her bark was worse than her bite, but, with Weezie, one might say she had a bark in lieu of a bite.
Weezie was a very passive dog and not aggressive at all. In fact, I had seen this medium-sized dog shy away from the tiniest of dogs. She was not a biter either, although she might snap at a fur-pulling child or obnoxious cat from time to time. Even when her instinct told her to chase a rabbit in the yard, a turkey in my parents’ woods, or a barn cat from next door, it left me wondering what she would do if she ever caught any of those agile beasts.
She didn’t even play with chew toys like most dogs (unless you got her really worked up) and she did not like to swim or get in the water either (even though she inexplicably dove into my parents’ pond once encouraging many laughs and puzzled looks from all of us).
Simply put, she was a gentle lapdog. She would love to be right at your feet, in your lap, or at your side with all the loyalty one might deduce from that. Even when that meant a strike to her dignity posing for all those themed Christmas and Easter cards we made. Whether we had her donning bunny ears or wrapped in Christmas lights, she was always game and sat patiently while her dignity was traded for a memorable moment.
Unfortunately, during the past year or so, her age had begun to slow her down a bit and she had started to become sick. And, last week when we knew her pain was beginning to surpass her comfort, we knew it was time to let her move on to a better place. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make, but we couldn’t bear the thought of the alternative and knew she deserved better than that.
Coming from this once cats-only, stubborn man, I will truly miss this dog. She was the best. She even won over the hearts of my cats-only parents who always looked forward to watching her when we were out of town. She was our first furry child, our traveling companion, our gardening companion, our navigator across the country, our mischief maker, our alarm system, and our loyal friend.
I will miss everything about her. I will miss the clicking her toenails would make when she would trot through the house, I will miss her snuggling up next to us on the couch, I will miss seeing her looking out the storm door at me as I pass by on the lawnmower, I will miss her romping in the snow (she loved the snow), I will miss walking and running with her in the yard, I will miss watching the cat “talk” to her and fruitlessly trying to playfully engage her, I will miss her shaking, bug-eyed expression as she anxiously anticipated a couple handfuls of fresh, homemade popcorn (I don’t think much else ever got her that close to the edge of her seat), I will miss howling to make her break into a full-blown, curl-lipped, head-tilted, coyote-esque howl, and I will miss giving her Christmas treats this year and watching her open her presents. Generally, I will miss our beloved Felice.
We love you, Felice. Enjoy your peace and we will look forward to seeing you again someday when we get there. I’ll even bring you some popcorn!