A puppy crying in the middle of the night woke me up, not that I was sleeping very well anyway. Downstairs I crept, carefully navigating the steep steps, and avoiding the squeaky parts as best as I could. In the front office, a little ball of caramel curls and fluff blinked at me from her crate. I hushed her, and got her outside in the heaps of snow to do her thing, then cuddled her back inside where it was warm. Tea in hand, I returned a sleepy pup to her crate, paws warmed up and all snuggly warm, and I returned to my bed.
That was the beginning of my friendship with Mandy, my mom and Bill’s cocker spaniel, many years ago. I loved taking long car rides with them. She’d curl up on my lap and doze as we drove to the Lake, to Kingston, to Toronto. She wasn’t a lap dog – this was the only time she’d do this, for me at least. She knew I’d give her a treat before I went to bed. She’d come into my room and curl up on the bed with me in the mornings, a treat otherwise forbidden her. And when I came back to Ottawa after a long time out west for school or work, she’d be all wriggly-puppy full of tail wags and squirms in greeting. She started to age, and arthritis slowed her down. Play times grew shorter, romps through the woods slower, and she needed help getting up steeper places. Later, Cameron adored her, mostly from a distance. Mostly, he understood that she was growing old, and couldn’t play like other dogs. He didn’t’ really have much to do with her, but would talk about her lots once we got home.
Last summer was the last time I saw her. She’d grown old. Her joints hurt, I don’t think she could see or hear or smell, and she seemed so confused. In the fall Mom and Bill had to say their good byes. She was a loved puppy, and lived a good life.
I miss Mandy.
Early this month I got to meet their new puppy. Emma is full of squirmy joy, with impossibly thick and soft black curls. She’s got a certain elegance, almost like a princess attending her first ball, she seems to dance in full skirts when she jumps up on Bill’s leg for attention. She was curious and friendly, didn’t growl or nip even when Cameron harassed her and endlessly told her “No, Emma,” in his enthusiasm at finding someone smaller than him to boss around. But at the same time, it was clear that he adored her.
We – Cameron, Bill, and I – took her to Point Holmes, our favourite tide pool filled rocky beach. So many years ago we took a puppy Mandy there, where she tasted salt water for the first time, and was fascinated by the crabs. I remember a larger one, backed against a boulder, claws raised in defense, and Mandy barking away at it. Emma’s highlight? Starfish. She was amazing at prying them loose, and several lost limbs to her determined gnawing. Ew. One small one tenaciously clung to her ears, driving her nuts as she tried to chew on it.
In the car, Cameron was determined to have Emma in his lap. She didn’t want to settle down, of course. Too much to see! And if she did, it would’ve been Bill’s lap. She’s very clearly his puppy, and she goes just about everywhere with him. But once, she climbed onto Cameron’s lap, and allowed herself to be cuddled and cooed over.
She’s a sweet puppy, full of her own character and style. I wonder if she and Cameron will find a friendship like Mandy and I did?