This weekend was a tough one for myself and my family. Our Boston Terrier, Dolly Madison, passed away after 13 wonderful years as, essentially, the Queen of the house. She was my birthday present when I turned 11, gifted to me in an effort to cheer everyone up after a recent tragedy only a year beforehand. And Dolly did more than just cheer us up during that summer of 2003—she became an integral part of the family.
My mother always complained about her accidents around the house in those early years, and she always loved to wiggle under the back gate to go see her friends down the street, which subsequently got her into major trouble. But she was playful and bright; she cuddled on the couch in the crook of your knee during movie night; she would happily sleep in until noon and almost never woke up in the middle of the night. She knew when you were sad and would lick your face as tears tumbled down your cheeks. She would hear the word “walk” and start hopping around the kitchen in an effort to make you get out the door more quickly. She never met a stranger…and she chased our cat down the length of the kitchen almost daily (an activity that the cat actually started to enjoy, I must add).
I went away to college in 2010, but by then our relationship was cemented as best friends, and when I came home her tail would wag and we would play catch I would sneak her chicken under the dining room table at dinnertime when no one was looking. I would buy her a new toy that she would promptly destroy and we would lay on the couch all day reading and watching TV, only getting up to go on that W-A-L-K and maybe grab a bite to eat.
When she got tired, she’d stand by the stairs and stare, wondering when the hell we would scoop her up and plop her onto our beds. When she was sad, she would paw at us and sleep more (but she was rarely ever sad). When she was happy, she would bring us a toy and make us play tug of war. When anyone played a musical instrument (especially saxophone), she would sing along. When you crouched down for a kiss, she would plant one right on your lips (and maybe lick your entire face while you were at it).
She got me through all the ups and downs and the many emotions of middle school, high school, and college, and was a bright light in the tough times in the early months away from Georgia and in the crazy city of New York. The past year and a half, she would put away her camera shyness (getting that dog to look at a camera was like pulling teeth) and tolerate my mother’s phone to have a little convo. My mom reported that whenever she put me on speaker Dolly would come and lick the phone as a “hello.” I am convinced that she knew that though I moved away, I would always be back. I would joke that I was never coming home to see my family—only to see my dog.
The love of a pet is a precious, precious thing. Dolly was the one comfort that held true throughout all those years; when I was fighting with my family or desperate to be alone, Dolly was always there. When I was happy and celebrating, she was there. And as she grew old, she watched us grow up, change our habits, move out. She’s been there for all four of us, no matter the situation. She was the best dog a gal could ask for. We couldn’t have been more lucky to have had a pet like her in our family these past 13 years. We will miss her dearly, and love her forever.