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Who Saved Who?
Monday, 29 October 2012

AMERICUS — It seems like only yesterday I was writing about my new friend, Zippy the flea-market Chihuahua. Our relationship almost didn’t happen. It was 2006, and I had just lost both of my parents within a 13-month period. Zippy was their dog and she was ill-behaved by our standards. We just didn’t want her.

I was sure she’d be trouble. A “yipper and barker” of the worst order, Zippy’s first two years were filled with unwarranted neglect. My ill and aging parents simply did not have the energy to train a tiny puppy. She was well-fed and kept warm, but they simply didn’t have anything to give this hyperactive little dog.

When the time came we took her. Three times I tried to find her another home. Three times she was returned to us. Finally we gave in and opened the door to our house and the key to our hearts. It was one of the best things we ever did.

Over the last six or seven years she has been my constant companion. I tried never to travel to places that didn’t welcome Zippy. I had to leave her a few times, but only with a trusted friend. Otherwise she sat in whichever chair I sat, slept next to me in the bed and stayed snuggled up to my right side. The closer she got to me the better she liked it. I can assure you the feeling was mutual. Recently, when I had some surgery, I caught myself thinking just how much easier it would have been to feel better if I’d had Zippy snuggled up next to me in the hospital bed.

I know every reader thinks their dog is the greatest. Usually the term “great” is reserved for a noble Labrador Retriever or some other heroic large-breed dog. Usually they are good “lie by the fireplace” or obedience trained breeds. Not in this case.

She was tiny. At just a bit over five pounds, she seemed a bit incomplete. She resembled a butterfly emerging from its cocoon … omewhat folded up. Her ears flopped and her legs were a bit crooked but her heart was huge and in the eyes of her “daddy” this was the greatest dog that ever lived. I’ve had some mighty, mighty, good dogs but none compare with Zippy.

I’ve written before that if I could talk to my parents one more time and I only had five minutes I would tell them how wrong I was about their little dog. I would tell them how sorry I shut her out of my life for those first couple of years. I would tell them that, aside from my wife and children, I just really loved that little dog. I would also tell them about the night Zippy died and about the night my heart broke.

We were at the beach. It was only a couple of weeks ago. Zippy and our almost-as-wonderful-but-not-quite-as-good little mutt, Muffin were having the time of their lives. They lay in the sun and rode in the elevators. And they did what dogs do best. They slept.

On Sunday, Zippy had a dry cough. When it persisted, I took her to the veterinary emergency room. She was treated for kennel cough and dismissed with medication. Tuesday morning about 4 a.m. she died.

I don’t know what happened. I don’t care. All I know is that very suddenly something very dear and irreplaceable was snatched from me in the middle of the night. All I know is that nine years is not long enough for a small dog like a flea-market Chihuahua. It wasn’t enough time for a truly fine dog like Zippy.

We buried her under the grape arbor along with Abbey, her buddy. As pagan as it sounds, I think I’m going to order some sort of little marker that will at least last as long as I do. And for all the time I have left I hope I get a lump in my throat every time I think of Zippy — the greatest dog in the world.



Boyce E. “Stick” Miller lives in Americus, Georgia. Contact him at stickmiller@gmail.com

 
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