13 May 2014

Animal Attraction

Shortly before Christmas our dog died.  Silke, our ancient corgi, was just shy of her seventeenth birthday.  Robin and I were heartbroken at the loss of this venerable and uncompromising herder of Deans.  We had all come a long way since the kids discovered her in a pet store in Virginia.  Naturally, we had not gone to the great commonwealth in order to get a dog, but to check out a college for Bridgid.  She did not select the school, but she and her little brother did select a wee doggie that was too young to have been properly weaned from her mother.  As it turned out her mam had been killed by a car. 
I said no.  The kids pleaded and promised good behavior for all their natural lives (they lied).  Robin interceded on their behalf.  The dog was purchased for a whopping thirty dollars American, and the die was cast.

This is what a corgi looks like
For the next four months, Silke (so named because her fur was...yes, silky to the touch) made not a sound--not a whine, whimper, bark, or growl.  Nothing.  I was convinced that she was mute.  Then one day as Julian was roughhousing with her on the floor, she emitted a tiny squeak of a bark.  We were all thunderstruck.  It might have been the roar of a mighty lion!  She looked as surprised as we. 

She never shut up after that.  Her vocabulary of barks, whines, snorts, moans, sighs, and even sneezes of impatience, were never-ending.  Having found her voice she became a full-throated participant in all things Dean.  Intensely opinionated, critical of innovation, and ever the protector of the status quo as she saw it, she set about keeping order within our family through both rigorous physical and mental efforts.  She despised a closed door and was intolerant of privacy in general.  She never tired of testing our rules while ruthlessly enforcing her own.  Anyone exhibiting uninhibited behavior was subjected to her racing around them in ever-tightening circles while being barked at incessantly.  I suppose this worked on cattle back in Wales.  She had no love of spontaneity.  Affection expressed with restraint and a proper sense of decorum was allowed and even encouraged--especially if that affection was directed at her.  All others need get a room. 

She never met another dog, cat, squirrel, or rabbit, that she liked.  She was completely indifferent to birds, however; even the large flock of turkeys that swept through our yard from time to time.  Didn't care.  It was like they didn't exist.

She also hated cars.  Not those passing by, but any vehicle someone might want her to get into.  No, thank you very much.  If she couldn't get there by walking she didn't want to go.  The only places a car took a corgi was to the vet's or the kennel--both bad places.  She didn't like veterinarians or kennel owners. They were added to the list.

In spite of all this, she was just what the doctor ordered for our little family.  She had arrived at just that moment when we needed her most--that juncture of adolescent angst and turmoil that rocks families and sows discord.  We had two teenagers and couldn't stop bickering,fighting, and challenging one another on every issue known to man, and some that passed human understanding altogether.  Silke would have none of it.

Either by crawling beneath the coffee table and peering out fearfully, thereby shaming us, or by interjecting her thick body between the warring parties, and reminding us to keep our distance, she did her part.  If all that failed, she would simply console the person most visibly upset and lay across their lap like an old-fashioned car rug.  Even during some of our stormiest times, we always found common ground in Silke.  Her antics, behavior, health, and happiness were subjects that we could all agree on and discuss civilly at the dinner table.  She was our family touchstone.

After the children went away to college and their adult lives, Silke became "our" dog--mine and Robin's.  She still went berserk when the kids came home, totally throwing us over for them, but as I grew grey, so did she.  More and more, she was content to be where I was, and go where I went around the house and yard.  I found she crept into a number of my stories; her character full-blown and ready to go.  In "Spooky" a dog tries to warn her master of something evil coming.  In "Whistle" a corgi goes missing, and when her mistress goes in search of her she finds the same fate.  "Little Things" features a corgi that helps fulfill her master's paranoid imaginings.

Silke is now buried in our back yard, watched over by a small statute of the Virgin Mary.  I'm not sure that's theologically correct, but that's the way it is.  What follows is a St. Francis Day joke that captures how I feel and provides some comfort: 

A priest was asked by an elderly widow, "Father, can my dog be with me in heaven?" 
After thinking it over for a moment, he asked in turn, "Would you be happy there without her?"  When the old woman shook her head emphatically, he added, "Then she'll be there." 

I hope so...I really do.





  1. David, a beautifully written tribute to Sike. He was lucky to have lived as a member of the Dean family.

  2. Please excuse spelling Sike for Silke. I'm up too early.

  3. I'm sorry about the loss of your old companion.
    You clearly gave Silke a fine, happy life.

  4. Thanks Fran, Terry, and Janice. Even to myself it seems ridiculous to be so buffeted by the loss of a wee doggie, yet there it is--undeniable and real.

    A quick apology to my fellow SleuthSayers: I was called away unexpectedly last week which is why I have been silent in the comments section.

  5. Good writing, David. Sorry for your loss.

  6. A sadly nice piece, David. Whenever we get a new pet -- and we are about to adopt a third cat this weekend -- I get a sad feeling knowing that with their shorter life spans there is a good chance that I will have to say good-bye before they will. But the good years at the front end always tip the balance.

  7. Really enjoyed this, buddy. Sometimes we don't realize how deeply we've let pets into our lives, until we lose them and are surprised by our response to that loss. I know it's happened to me in the past.

  8. I have had two wonderful cats in my life, Calais (18 years) and then Reba (16 years) - and both times, when they had to be put down (kidney failure; cancer), I cried like a baby and felt hollow for days, and for months kept expecting to see them when I came home. They are family.

  9. The pain of losing a pet is balanced by the happy memories. We recently adopted a shelter dog and since he is older we will have to endure the loss. But it will be worth it.

    Incidentally he is terrified by flying insects, most likely the result of a traumatic experience in his life.

    Nice tribute.


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