By Amanda Pinto
A few months ago, when I doggie-sat for my parents in the house where I grew up, it was my responsibility to crawl out of bed at 7:30, open the slider, call the dogs, and let them outside for their morning pee.
“Abbie, Dixie!” I called, as I waited for the dogs to run toward the door.
It was only when I got back in bed that I realized I’d been calling a dog that has been dead for five years.
Dixie was a sandy-colored shepherd mix who I always thought looked sort of like a dingo. She was my aunt’s dog originally, but I still got to name her … sort of.
At 6, I was into fairy princesses, and when my cousins got a dog, I suggested she be named ‘Pixie.’ My aunt “misheard” my request, (or, as she told me later, thought Dixie was a name she’d be less embarrassed to holler after the puppy), and so Dixie was named. She felt like my dog. When her rambunctious-puppy-personality clashed with the much older dog she shared a house with, my aunt gave Dixie to us. And then we grew up together.
I remember chasing her around the yard and incorporating her into the games I’d play with my friends in the neighborhood. She could chew gum, we discovered by accident, and she could run—FAST. The knowledge that she’d bark at anything that came into our yard as we slept made me feel comforted and protected.
And she was an expert cuddler. I remember, as a teenager, after a bad night or before a hard day ahead, not wanting to wake my parents and crying into her back, arms wrapped around her body. She would stay with me as long as I needed her. I can’t remember what the tears were about but I remember who stopped them. And I remember her fur against my face. And the sound her chain collar made when she ran toward me.
Dixie wasn’t perfect. She was always skittish, couldn’t be trained to fetch a stick or a ball. Given the opportunity, she’d run away, leading us to chase her by car, as she zigzagged across roads, or galloped through the woods toward other dogs, in other neighborhoods. Or leading us to sit and wait. When this happened, I’d take a piece of her hard dog food and put it on my desk in my room. Holding it while I wished and prayed for her safe return.
When arthritis made her life unbearable, my mom made the difficult decision to put Dixie to sleep. I was in college. No one wanted to tell me, or knew how to. I remember how hard it was to take when they did.
Soon after Dixie’s death, my parents got a puppy; he’s a five-year-old dog now. Abbie, who was Dixie’s sidekick, her puppy tag-along, is 10. After I heard about Tesla’s death, I thought a lot about Dixie. I dreamt I walked into my parents’ house, and there she was in the living room where she always slept, frolicking toward me. In the dream, she left in a flash, and I was the only one who saw her.
I woke knowing that even though she’s gone, she will still come when I call her.
I hope those of you who loved Tesla find the same to be true.
Tesla’s Love is the blog for and about people who love animals. No one here cares whether it walks, crawls, swims, slithers, hobbles or knows how to fly, if there is a story about an animal that you love or loves you, this is the place to share that story. The story can be a tribute, a love story or a memorial. It can be about you, this truly is a site for people. Send your story and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org and we promise to post it here.