This month, my sweet little puppy would have turned 17 years old. She passed away in September of 2004, just a few months shy of her 16th birthday.
She came to us when I was only 15 years old - just when my family needed her most. She provided a calm centre to the whirlwind of rage, fear and hurt that engulfed my home then. She was a much needed source of humour, mischief, and unconditional love, and I believe her presence helped my family through some very difficult times.
I still remember the awe I felt the first time I held this small, shivering bundle of fur in the palm of my hands. I would cup her warm little body close to my heart, bury my nose in the soft fur of her neck, and inhale that sweet puppy smell. She was so small, and delicate and vulnerable then - totally dependent on us to feed her, take care of her, and carry her up the stairs, for her legs were too short to make it up by herself. We would hear these small barks from the basement, and find her looking up at us accusingly from the bottom of the stairs. They were completely insurmountable to her, despite her stubborn terrier spirit.
I missed most of the last 5 years of her life, busy with my new life in Toronto. I made the most of my holidays at home, trying to squeeze a year's worth of time into 3 weeks.
We went on joyous walks through the dog park together. With the snow crunching under my feet, and the sun shining brilliantly in the crisp winter of the Calgary sky, I felt totally at peace. My westie would run around the park, suddenly stop, realize she was alone, and sprint back to me, fur flying in all directions. It seemed as though she was smiling when she ran back, as if to say, "Even though I've only been gone for 5 seconds, I missed you like it was 25 years. Make sure you don't leave the park without me!"
I miss the cute sound of her crunching her food in her teeth.
I miss how she begged for apples and cheese.
I miss her scratching at the back door to be let back in - how she would bark demandingly if we kept her waiting for longer than 30 seconds.
I miss how much she loved to go for car rides - how she would smear puppy snot all over the windows in her excitement at the great outdoors.
I miss the little sighs and grunts she made while sleeping - her feet twitching gently, as though she were dreaming about running free though a fragrant, green park.
Most especially, I miss taking naps with her - the warmth of her weight, the soft furriness of her ears tickling my nose, and the feeling of love, security and contentedness she gave me.