Hairy, smelly, snoring love

Kristine Gill

I took my dad and sister to visit my friend’s new puppy over the weekend. We’re an animal-loving family and so this trip was both typical and exciting. When Melissa opened the door to her apartment, we were immediately greeted by the sight of a perfect little schnauzer-terrier mix perched on the couch opposite the door.

After much squealing and petting, we got to talking about past pets. My sister and I jumped at the chance to talk about our favorite pet-related topic: Our dog Sheba. I’ve written about Sheba before. She’s a 12-year-old beagle who we like to pretend is purebred. She’s one of the happiest dogs in the whole wide world, she has an unrivaled passion for eating and sleeping, her snoring shakes the house at night, she has a thyroid problem that makes her the butt of every weight-loss joke when friends and family visit and she’s dead.

You might not have guessed it had you been listening to my sister’s animated description of Sheba’s behavior this weekend. So in the middle of her story, I gently and dramatically placed my hand on her shoulder and said, “Katie, wrong tense.” She smiled that knowing and sad and embarrassed sort of smile, and we all had a good laugh. We had to laugh. It was better than crying.

Yes, Sheba died last May, at the tail end of my freshman year here. I got the call from my hysterical mother who, for Sheba’s entire life, had claimed she possessed a very strong hatred for the dog. A few hours later I sat curled up on my futon, tears streaming, eyes blurring and choking on my sobs, as I listened to my mother’s description of Sheba’s final moments before she was put to sleep at the vet. If you’re not tearing up right now then I don’t know what your problem is.

The grief we felt after Sheba’s death was quickly suppressed with the purchase of a Mother’s Day puppy, but we’ve never really gotten over our first dog. The terrors we experienced with the new puppy made Sheba seem all the more angelic as the dog up in heaven. But when we reminisced about that fat little beagle who made all the weird noises, had those fatty tumors and that weird breathing problem, it wasn’t with some delusional sense of perfection.

We remembered Sheba for what she was: our favorite little pain in the ass. She was the dog that licked every corner of the kitchen floor for dusty crumbs, peed in the middle of the living room when she just didn’t feel like going out in the snow, raided garbage cans and refused to wake up from her comfy space next to the couch when it was time to get in her cage at bedtime. She was the kind of dog who didn’t care to cuddle, but was always up for a little rough-housing. She was perfect, but she was not immortal.

If I think about her death hard enough I can still work up some tears, but I find I’d rather tell funny stories about her or talk about how soft her ears were and how her breath smelled. I think reminiscing like this is good practice for when actual human relatives die.

In conclusion, I feel it’s better to have owned a dog and watched it die a heart-wrenching death than never to have experienced the curious combination of unconditional love and frustration that comes with owning man’s best friend. Right? . right?

Rest in peace Sheba.

Kristine Gill is a sophomore newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].