Our first rescue dog Feliz passed from this life in 2008 after sixteen years of sharing her love. As we knew it would, her death broke our hearts.
Grief manifests itself in many ways. For a long time, we heard the click of her nails on tile, still saw her shadow at the door, and we lingered at the garage, waiting for her to show and claim a biscuit. All of those moments were products of our wishful thinking and old habits are hard to deny, but it’s amazing how well she trained us. If Stephen King’s story in Pet Sematary were true, we’d gladly welcome her back to this life, even if she were the spawn of Satan.
That’s how much we loved her.
Her full name was Feliz Navidog. Yes, she was a Christmas present, but not for us. We had given her to my parents with the caveat that if they truly didn’t want a puppy, they could return her to us. (What were we thinking giving a puppy to my elderly parents? HA!) Within two weeks, back she came. In hindsight, she was the best present we ever got. We nearly called her Boomerang, but in Spanish, the word Feliz translates to ‘happy’ and that suited her just fine. She always had a smile on her face.
When she was a pup, she had a dark muzzle, one ear up and one down, a curled tail and an unfaltering bounce to her step. People often asked us what breed she was. In truth, she was a German Shepherd Chow mix, but we lovingly called her a “Somma Dog”—because she was somma dis, somma dat. But one man’s mutt is another man’s idea of perfection.
Feliz had many admirable skills, despite her questionable lineage.
She was a practitioner of puppy telepathy, transmitting her thoughts to us with a meaningful stare. She also spoke the language of human beings with unfailing accuracy, developing an extensive vocabulary. Balancing a biscuit on the end of her nose then tossing it into her mouth had become her signature move. And in later years, she mastered sign language when her hearing was failing. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Every morning of her life—without fail—she awoke for the sole purpose of pleasing us. We saw it in her face and felt it on her warm wet tongue. She never tired of the routine or the mundane, even after her joints got stiff and her eyesight grew dim—because in her mind, she was always that puppy with a bounce in her step.
It took us a long time to get over her death, but after I blogged about my grief, many people responded that it wasn’t about trying to replace her, it was about giving another deserving rescue dog a good home. That’s when we made up our minds to move on and open our home to more rescue animals. We now have four rescue animals, two dogs and two cats.
They are (we are) Feliz’s legacy. One life matters.
Dogs remind us that love should be unconditional. In their world, friendships begin with a well-placed and unerring sniff—completely devoid of an ulterior motive or personal agenda. If you pass the sniff test, you’re in. No cover charge and no membership fee. And with a mere wag of a tail, a dog can make you smile and lift your spirits. We can all learn from them—because their love comes from a higher place.
Share your favorite pet story with me today. Funny or sad, we love them all.