Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Destined for greatness

Oprah Winfrey is quoted as saying “I always knew I was destined for greatness.”  I can’t imagine what it feels like to know that you are destined for greatness.  I don’t know that I am destined for anything in particular. 

Unless you count black dogs who shed prodigiously and like stinky things. 

In honor of the 100th birthday of our beloved family dog, Pippi, I blogged about her loyalty, her joyfulness, her penchant for human food, cupcakes in particular, and her unique talent for carrying on extended conversations with us, the content of which only she knew.  Sadly, at the time I wrote that, unbeknownst to us, Pippi was already fighting bone cancer.  It was very difficult and painful to watch our family dog, always so trusting and so full of energy, fail.  In mid-June of last year, with deep sadness and reluctance, we all agreed that it was time to put her to sleep and relieve her suffering.  

The loss of Pippi left a huge hole in the family.  We missed having her greet us each day, we missed her being underfoot.  We missed those sweet brown eyes and that wagging tail.  We missed the constancy of her presence and her devotion to the family.  We realized that there never could be, and in fact, there never will be another family dog in quite the same way.  The kids grew up with Pippi, and their childhoods had passed.    We really could not imagine adopting another dog to fill that hole.  The Pipster was a full-fledged member of the family, not a replaceable possession. 

Besides, we reasoned, we often work late.  We like to travel.  We like our freedom.  Dogs are a lot of work, especially puppies.  We didn't miss the clumps of dog hair in the carpet.  Our mature cats would probably not appreciate a new puppy.  Logic suggested we should leave well enough alone.

So, we tried to be dogless.  Al, who always considered himself a cat person was surprised by how much he missed the Pipster.  I, clearly the dog person, tried very hard to become a cat person, and be satisfied with our very sweet 12 year old cats.

We tried.  We really did. 

It just didn’t work.

Al and I were out in Oregon in August of last year and went hiking on the Zigzag Ridge near Mt. Hood.  We talked about this and that and as it often did in those days, the conversation found its way back to Pippi.  I cautiously brought up the possibility of a new puppy, not really sure how Al would feel.  As it turned out, he had been thinking the same thing and we decided that someday we would get another dog, not to replace Pippi exactly, but to help offset the deafening silence of our empty nest.  We also decided that her name would be ZigZag, in honor of those beautiful mountains where we made the decision to forego logic and adopt another puppy.

Another month or so passed and one Saturday we decided to ‘just look’ at the area animal shelters to see if they might have any cute puppies. 

Here is where destiny seems to be involved.

Here is the story of how we got Pippi:

One day, Eric, Ellen and I went to the Oak Ridge Animal Shelter to ‘just look’ at puppies. (Al was at work.)   In one cage there were two female black puppies, probably lab/husky mixes, both jet black with perky ears and energetic demeanors.  They were about 9 weeks old and just incredibly cute.  They were both so eager to be adopted we had a hard time choosing one, but finally picked the sweet girl who became our Pipster.

Here is the story of how we got ZigZag

One day, Al, Ellen and I went to the Midland Animal Shelter to ‘just look’ at puppies. (Eric was in Ann Arbor.)  In one cage there were two female black puppies, probably lab/husky mixes , both jet black with perky ears and energetic demeanors.  They were about 9 weeks old and just incredibly cute.  (When we first saw those black puppies last summer we walked away.  They were just too similar to Pippi- eerily similar actually. But they were just too cute.)   They were both so eager to be adopted we had a hard time choosing one, but finally picked out the sweet girl who became our Zigmeister. 

We later realized that Zig’s birthday must have been within a few days of when Pip died, but we prefer not to think about that.  Just as we arbitrarily assigned Pippi the birthday of Halloween, we chose the Summer Solstice for Zig’s birthday.

Puppy Pippi
Puppy ZigZag

Despite visual resemblance, ZigZag and Pippi are not clones. Pippi was a food thief and a glutton, while ZigZag is not especially interested in treats- doggie or human.  Pippi would chase balls for hours, but never really played with tug-of-war toys or Frisbees; Zig loves her pull toys and flying discs.  In fact just today we shelled out another $30 for allegedly 'indestructible' dog toys to replace last month's set of 'indestructible' dog toys, now chewed to shreds. Pippi did a lot of talking and barking.  Zig was almost silent for months and even now only yowls occasionally.

ZigZag does share some traits with her predecessor however.

She sheds.  Boy does she shed! We have light colored carpets in the bedroom and this time of year, when she gets up from a nap, she leaves a dog-shaped furry black spot on the rug.  Just like the Pipster.

She loves her walks.  Just like Pip, she is so happy to perambulate the neighborhood that she nearly prances.

She chases squirrels from the bird feeders, leaves the birds alone, and just like Pippi, she occasionally tears around the backyard in circles, chasing nothing and for no apparent reason aside from the sheer joy of running. And just like Pippi, she runs with jaw-dropping beauty and grace.

But most of all, she loves stinky things.  This week alone, she has had two stinky encounters with some skunky smelling creature.  And just like the Pipster, she hates baths.  

Oprah may be destined for greatness.  I seem to be destined to have black dogs who shed prodigiously and stink. 
Zig at 1 year.  Still a goober.

Pippi at 14.  So dignified.

And that in itself is great.

Today I am grateful to be home.   I traveled far and wide this year and while I loved it all, I am grateful for the beauty and ideals of our country.  Happy birthday America!


  1. I think dogs are actually guardian angels. --Andy

  2. Great story - thank you-