Saturday, January 5, 2008

Dog Heaven

By Cappy Hall Rearick

Our sweet Tallulah suffers from congestive heart failure, which is progressing cough by cough more rapidly than we want it to. Each morning we wake up hoping that Tallulah will be as lucky while at the same time, fearful that she has hacked her last while we were sleeping.

For years, I have made fun of this sweet animal by writing about her silly antics in my columns. We named her Tallulah BLANKhead for obvious reasons, given the fact that she occupied the Alpha pecking order tail-end position, and it appeared to us to be permanent.

There is another four-legged female living rent-free in our house. Sophie Sorrowful, the aloof feline rescued from the clutches of the grim reaper, allows Babe and me to give her affection only when she is bored out of her mind. Miz Sophie, who has never set one of her delicate paws outside of our house, is mindful that Tallulah, Babe and I are her entire world. When Tallulah's time on this earthly dog run has run its course, Sophie Sorrowful will undoubtedly earn the entitlement to her given name, if not her birthright. In any case, it ain't gonna be pretty.

For fourteen years, Tallulah has been our pet, child, companion, playmate, comforter, burglar alarm and four-legged food disposal. The day she finally ascends to that all-you-can-eat canine banquet in the sky, bless her heart, she will leave behind a large, empty dog bowl and an even bigger emptiness in our lives.

Tallulah may be half-blind and probably totally deaf, but there's nothing wrong with her smeller. All I need do is walk through the kitchen, whether at mealtime or in the middle of the night, and she is always there for me to trip over. Tallulah is the only dog in town with a documented eating disorder. She can sniff out a box of dog biscuits, triple layered in heavy-duty foil and secured with duct tape.

On Christmas morning, 2007, I found all my carefully wrapped gift packages ripped open and scattered throughout the house. In the middle of the den, an overweight Cockapoo lay flat on her back, legs flopping over like wilted celery stalks, while she snored and farted in consecutive order.

Propped upright beside her was an empty container of Milk Bones. Unlike the rest of the mess, that box was in perfect condition as though Tallulah had taken out the treats one by one before popping them into her mouth. Yeah, like THAT could happen.

My brother and I grew up with dogs. There was Penny, and then another one whose name I can't remember, probably Nickel. After that, there was Susie Q who fell up the stairs and died while my brother was in the service. He was really attached to that dog, so Mama and I felt obligated to mourn and carry on something awful in his stead.

Daddy hired some workers to dig a hole in the back yard so he could lay the little dog to rest. When the hole with Susie Q, wrapped in her raggedy old blanket, was once again filled back up with dirt, Daddy stood looking down at the gravesite while Mama and I watched from a window inside the house. I'd like to think he was saying a few kind words about our deceased canine sibling.

As any pet lover can attest, our animals often become extended family members, substituting as children to some of us. People who have never experienced the joy an animal brings to a household have missed much. Those who can only see dog hair and fur balls, instead of unconditional love and devotion, must be lacking an important gene. The way I look at it, we are given the privilege of co-existing with our pets for a few precious years, almost as if we're being served a tiny bite of heaven.

Everybody knows that all dogs go to heaven. I suspect when Tallulah finally makes it to the Pearly Gates, she will be wagging her stubby tail, smiling in that lopsided way of hers, and blissfully chowing down on an eternity of T-Bone steaks, medium rare. Our sweet, goofy Tallulah Blankhead deserves no less than that.

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed,
and some few to be chewed and digested." —Francis Bacon