I grew up with dogs. For a little while we even had three at once. A motley crew of black lab, golden retriever, and wired-hair terrier. Though she was busy raising four kids, my mom loved dogs, and insisted that we grow up with animals. She mothered the dogs as calmly and lovingly as she did the four of us.
Last year, the roles reversed, and I became my mother’s caregiver, when she became terminally ill from metastatic lung cancer. The seven months I spent in Pennsylvania caring for her at home, on hospice care, were the most meaningful of my life. My mom was a treasure, and I loved nothing more than to be in her company.
A little while before we knew that her prognosis was terminal, my sister-in-law, Beth, fulfilled my mom’s desire to have a dog in her life again. Though my mom always leaned towards big dogs, she thought that maybe she’d be better suited for a small dog this time around. It had been about five years since their last dog, Kona, a rescued chocolate lab, died.
Beth tracked down a tiny chocolate Havanese, and my mom named her Daisy. It was love at first sight. Unfortunately my mom’s condition began to deteriorate so Beth ended up fostering Daisy (she was still a puppy, having a very tough time getting house broken), bringing her to visit my mom as often as possible.
Thankfully, my dog, Arlo, was with me in Pennsylvania, and he helped keep my mom company. She’d always been one of Arlo’s biggest fans. One time, a number of years ago, after refreshing her collection of framed grandchildren photos, she told me, “You know, I realized I don’t have a nice framed photo of Arlo, and I’d like one.” She always made me feel like he was just as important a part of the family as her grandchildren. And for a woman without children, that meant the world to me.
In her last month of life, when it came to the topic of dogs, my mom suggested two things to me: 1) “I think you should get a second dog, to keep you and Arlo company”, 2) “And if you do, I think ‘Arthur’ would be a cute name.” (For now, I added Arthur to Arlo’s full name. If you must know, it’s Arlo Parker Arthur Hoover Freeman, the Third.)
My brave, funny, thoughtful, life-loving mom died six months ago. She’d just turned 72. I miss her every day.
I dedicate J.P. Dogs to you, mom. The craving, to tell you about this strange little dog blog thingy I’m starting, is overwhelming. You would have totally loved this, and I know you would have checked the blog religiously. Even if I would have had to walk you through technically, how to find that damn web page, over and over.
Thank you for teaching me, up until your final moments of life, how to delight in the little things. And for instilling in me your love of dogs. I don’t know how I’d get by without them. And I still don’t know how I’m supposed to get by without you for the long haul, but while I figure that out, surrounding myself with a neighborhood of dogs seems like a good start.