Last week, on 23 May 2014, we lost Sydney the Wondermutt. She was 13. She was, unto the end, not just a good dog, but a loyal member of our family.
Many of you know already the story of Syd, but I want to write it down anyway. I want to remember, for in my memory she lives still.
When Sherry and I got married, right after college, we talked about wanting a dog. I said I wanted a rescued dog from the shelter, and ideally it would be a she (less leg-lifting) around 8 months old (good age for having a pup without having a pup, I figured). My ideal, I said, would be black-and-white, half-Border Collie, half-Australian Shepherd — and we would name her Sydney, I said. For the Australian capital. We shared a laugh.
We couldn’t get a dog back then, since we lived in a campus apartment, but we started looking as soon as moved to Rochester and bought our own home. It was a fun adventure. Our realistic hopes were that the new dog be (1) a puppy, (2) medium-sized, (3) not too yippy, and (4) not too hyper.
It was hard to hit even requirement 1 on that list, much less the whole lot. We looked and looked, hitting seemingly every pound and shelter in upstate New York. We began to despair.
It was then that we found her: Nana, a we puppy at the city pound who seemed to fit all the requirements. Cute as a button. Half-chihuahua, half-pitbull.
I kid you not. She was a little funny looking, this little mutt (pithuahua? chihuabull?), but she was sort of endearing, too.
Nana hadn’t been “fixed” yet, and so she couldn’t go home for a few days. We put down a deposit to hold her, then started walking to the car.
We were not, either one of us, very convinced that Nana was right for us. But I recall that it was Sherry who voiced it: we should take just one more trip out to the big animal shelter, Lollypop Farm. We’d been there before, to no avail, but we should just give it one last shot.
So we drove out.
Lollypop Farm is a big place, so when we got there we split up. I was about two-thirds around my wing of the place when Sherry approached, with the most amazing smile on her face. She’d found something she wanted me to see.
We walked over, and there she was, sitting in the shadows in the back of her kennel space: an 8-month old black-and-white female, half-border collie, half-Australian shepherd. Her hair was a little matted from the hardness of her recent days, but you could tell she was a beautiful, absolutely adorable pup. According to the sign on her cage, she had been raised by barn cats on a local farm, she liked to jump fences, she was scared of thunder, she went by the name “Moo-cow,” and she answered to “Here, kitty-kitty.”
I don’t remember which of us made that call — “Here, kitty-kitty” — but sure enough, she came. Out of the shadows, up to the bars, and right into our hearts.
Since her passing I’ve been thinking about the funny and wonderful times we had with her, even through the issues we had in those early months — while we were reprogramming her from “Moo-cow” to “Syndey” — as she went through a chewing phase that maimed two of my stuffed animals (Super Grover and the Whistlepig), a shoe, and a fly-reel case. I’ve been thinking about funny stories, like how she also loved to dig in the backyard anytime we left the house, a nasty habit that we cured by leaving her in the backyard, driving down the street, then sneaking into the house and up into the attic: from there we watched and waited for her to dig, then shouted out a booming “NO!” from the window. To the end of her days, she never again wished to displease whatever deity disapproved of this behavior.
Mostly, though, I’ve been thinking how lucky we were to be a part of her life.
And how much I hope, to the end, she felt lucky to be a part of ours.