Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembering Tippy

I know that today is a day of remembrance for our Veterans, and believe me, I have utmost respect and appreciation for them. I hope everyone remembers to thank their veteran friends and family (I know I have) but that's not what I'm going to talk about today. Because today I'm at my parent's house, and it's lacking one sweet little bundle of puppy love, and right now my memories are filled with her. We got Tippy when I was 14 years old. My parents had finally caved to years of pressure and demands from my brother and me, and agreed that we could get a dog as long as it was small.

Since we lived in a townhouse at the time with a very small backyard, their demand made sense. We visited the pound at least four times, and each time we found a dog that we wanted to bring home with us, and each time we were informed a week later that someone else had adopted the dog. One of my mom's friends had a daughter who worked at the pound, and the friend was incensed that such a nice settled family was having such an impossible time bringing home a dog in need of a home.

So we found ourselves back at the pound for a fifth time, with our hope renewed. A furry little mop of a shih tzu caught my eye, and we cooed at him through the wires of his pen. He happened to be in a holding pen with three other dogs. Two of them were very shy and stayed on the other side of the pen, but a little black puppy with floppy ears and a tip of white on her tail trotted up to us and licked our fingers, blocking us from petting the shih tzu that we were trying to get at.

We weren't supposed to be looking at puppies. Our parents wanted a dog that was already potty trained. But when they let us into the holding cell that little black charmer stole all of our hearts. She flattened herself out like a rug on the floor, whippy tail swinging a mile a minute as she quivered with glee at the attention. There was something so cautious about her - she wouldn't roll over and let us touch her belly at all - but so hopeful too. She wanted the love, the affection, the attention, even though she kept her guard up.

As fate would have it, the shih tzu was already promised, but we took that little black bundle of hopeful, terrified love home with us the very next day. My brother and I trotted along as close to our mother as we could, reaching out to give our new puppy reassuring pats as her tail beat a happy tattoo against my mother's ribs. She was shivering, excited and scared, with on idea what was going on. The pound had named her Tippy, for the tip of white on her tail and the little tip of white under her chin, and we kept the name.

She was the best of dogs. Potty trained within two days. Incredibly smart. And also rebellious. She was a wonderful sitter, quick to lie down just like she was supposed, and fantastic at rushing to whoever was calling her name. Most of all, she was a great fetcher... the trick was getting the ball back from her. Tippy quickly decided that although chasing after the ball was fun, it was much more fun to make us chase after her in useless attempts to get the ball back. She was always faster than us.

Tippy was not a lapdog, although she would condescend to let us hold her for short periods of time. She never begged, but would stare up at us with pitiful liquid brown eyes, and you were just absolutely sure that she hadn't eaten for days. Guests were especially vulnerable to her assertions of starvation, and we had to constantly remind them to please not feed the dog people food. My grandfather was particularly bad about following this rule.

Although territorial, she quickly adjusted when we adopted another dog when she was 7 years old. She was a friendly dog and enjoyed playing with Peanut for the day, but it was obvious that she was shocked that Peanut was staying the night. The two of them ended up with a very sibling-like relationship. Young Peanut constantly poking at her older sister as Tippy growled threateningly but never did anything actually harmful, even when Peanut would shove her small face into Tippy's mouth.

But eventually Tippy became an old woman - and she acted like it. She stopped caring that getting into the garbage was "bad." She would root through any purse or bag that smelled like it might have food in it. And we had to start putting a diaper on her when we would visit other houses. Not because she was incontinent, but because she had stopped caring if she was peeing in someone else's home, even though she never had an accident in ours. Last Thanksgiving we were sitting at dinner at my Aunt's when my brother let out a shout and we all turned to see Tippy, leg lifted over her favorite corner of the house, peeing straight into her diaper. The look on her face after she turned to smell the puddle to find a still perfectly clean corner, had us roaring with laughter.

Tippy passed peacefully. A sweet old matriarch. I visited my parents two nights before she died, when her breathing had become more labored and her interest in food was shockingly low. She perked up for me, finished her dinner, sat at my feet, and even allowed me to hold her for a full twenty minutes. I am so glad that I was able to say goodbye to Tippy.

Today is the first day I've been at my parents since she died, and the house seems incredibly empty without her.


  1. This is a lovely eulogy for a great dog. Years later when you look back on this blog post you will be so happy you wrote it, pictures and all.