She came to live with us when I was maybe four or five. She was kind of a town dog, I think she belonged to a friend of ours, but I don't really know. I may have even stolen her. I would stand on a corner and yell, “PPPPPPPPEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPPPPPSSSSSSSSSSSSIIIIII!”, and she would come running from wherever she was. Yes, I had a big mouth, but we also lived in a very small town.
So we took her. Adopted her. Stole her. It's all just words, the end result is I was made for that dog, and she was made for me. She slept in my bed at night. She played in the yard with me. She took naps with me. She sat on the floor and watched tv with me. She knew all my secrets.
I don't know what happened to her, but she was deathly afraid of noise. Anything – thunder, the 4th of July, would send her running to the closet for safety. My mom says someone tied her up and threw firecrackers at her. That makes me so mad. And makes me want to cry.
We were robbed when I was young and she was there. The men were wearing baseball hats, and were mean to her and locked her in the bathroom. I'll never know what they did to my dog, but I do know that every time she saw anyone in a baseball hat, she would turn from this playful, loving creature into an attacking bitch, barking and going straight up bat-shit crazy. The minute the hat came off the head, she was loving and ready to play.
We moved when I was almost ten, and took her with us. Maybe that is where the stealing comes in. I don't care. I wasn't leaving town without her.
This dog was my best friend. In my darkest times, she was there. She was my confidant when I felt I had no one. She was my joy. She always had a smile on the ready for me. She taught me about selflessness – because everyday, when I would come in the door, she would stop what she was doing and come running to me.
Pepsi died when I was 16. She had cancer and we had to put her to sleep. I didn't deal with it well. I didn't cry. I just turned around and walked away. At 16, I was too selfish and adolescent to comprehend that she didn't leave me on purpose. She was old, probably fourteen or fifteen herself. And she was sick. Looking back, I know it was the best thing for her.
So, why, 17 years later, am I writing about this? Well, a couple reasons.
First, I have not had a dog of my own since. I have lived with people who had dogs. I housesit for people and take care of their dogs. I have taken these dogs into my heart and they are all mine. I am a very fortunate dog-lover – I have many dogs of all shapes, sizes, and breeds that I can call my own. Each one of them has taught me lessons about love, patience, selflessness. The look on their face when I walk in the door makes my heart jump and brings a smile to my face. Within them, they hold my secrets and my truth, as they have seen it.
Second, I am getting a dog soon. I am moving in July to a place where I can have a dog. I am so very excited! I find myself looking at dogs for adoption on the internet. I wonder what breed I should get. I know the dog I get will not be a pure-bred, as I only want to adopt or go to the humane society, but I do need to be picky. Still, I find myself looking mostly at labs.
Pepsi was a lab. My beautiful black lab. With a red collar.
But here's the thing. I find myself feeling guilty about wanting a dog. I feel like that will hinder her memory. Even though all the dogs I currently have in my heart haven't moved her from the number 1 spot, I somehow feel that getting a dog of my own – one that will sleep with me, hike with me, watch tv with me and know all my secrets – isn't right. As much as I want my own dog, as much as I need my own dog, I still feel bad.
Maybe it is because I haven't mourned properly. I didn't do anything to toast the life she lived and the impact she had on mine.
So I'm going to.
I am getting a tattoo. I'm getting a tattoo of a black lab with a red collar on my hip, right where she came up to when we were both standing up. That way, both of my dogs will always be with me always.
I have dove into all the photo albums for pictures to take with me. I have found three good ones and I will take them all. In every one of them, I see her love and remember her big brown eyes and loving smile, just as I remember it in my head. I'm grateful my memory hasn't failed me.
Writing this has brought tears to my eyes more than once. It's good. I feel her with me.