Reflecting on time spent with man's best friend

 Reflecting on time spent with man's best friend

Pepper came into my life about ten years ago, when I was 12 years old. Still mourning from the death of our first family dog Gatti, my family was reluctant to bring in any new additions. Nevertheless, Pepper was just pleasant enough, and perhaps I was just persistent enough to convince my parents to let us keep her.

Pepper had a life before she came to the Gray household. The veterinarian informed us that the 5-year-old mutt had a litter of puppies years before she became a part of our family. We always joked about how good of a mother she must have been. Her maternal instincts came out from time to time, protecting my brother and I from bigger hounds with a snarl or a growl. She even knew how to sit. Whoever lost her gave up one smart canine.

Needless to say, she was confused when Hershey showed up on our doorstep just a month later. Hershey, with the peculiar combination of Chihuahua and Terrier coursing through his brains, had spunk. Despite a slight size disadvantage from Pepper, Hershey immediately established himself as the alpha dog of the backyard.

Hershey may not have had the discernment stowed in Pepper, but he did have toughness. At the age of 12, he survived an attack from a neighboring Labrador that nearly took his life.

It took me a while to figure out they weren’t expertly trained. Pepper’s best trick was catching a dog treat when you threw it in the air. Hershey would sit down if you held a treat over his head for long enough, but that was always a major accomplishment. They begged for food at every given opportunity, winning a battle of will over my father every chance they got. Hershey was known to lick someone’s skin until you threw him off the couch. We just chalked it all up as adorable affection.

There was a summer when they escaped our backyard every day. Hershey’s prowess in digging led him under the fence, whereas Pepper developed a knack for simply opening the gate with her mouth when nobody was looking. They would run around and explore the neighborhood like a canine Lewis and Clark. We would always find them a block or two down the street, barking at their friends at either the Underwood or Emons house.

They always ran back to us when we showed up, as if they never did anything wrong. As if we were the ones who were late to the party. It was hard to stay mad for long. We loved those dogs.

Over the past few years, they quit running off as much. I never thought old age would get the best of them, but it did. Pepper quit going on walks several years ago. Hershey got to a point where he’d have to be carried home halfway through his usual routine. Eventually, a walk to the mailbox and back was a long trip.

Pepper and Hershey both died yesterday. Hershey lost his battle with liver cancer, while Pepper was in the fatal stage of kidney failure. We thought it was best for them to go to sleep together.

Since we adopted both of them off the streets, we never knew how old they really were. Veterinarian guesses told us they died at around 17 and 13, respectively. They will be buried next to one another, in the backyard they occupied for years. I doubt the squirrels and chipmunks will miss them.

I know I sure will.

 

Jake Gray is a senior majoring in economics and journalism. His column runs on Tuesdays.

 

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