His name was Schnappsie. We called him Schnapps, for short. He was a good dog. He was quiet, he never barked, he didn’t shed, he ate all his food and didn’t make messes, and he was hopelessly in love with my mom.
From the moment she ‘rescued’ him from the kennel and made him ours, they had a special bond. He was always waiting for her when she left; always outside her door at night, curled up contently. He didn’t complain. He loved all of us.
When we adopted our puppy, Cookie, he was a bit miffed at not being in the spotlight. He ignored her profusely, even as she jumped all over him, taunting him with chew toys and licks to the face. She played, he ignored. They were adorable.
My mother was his goddess. She took him for long walks, petted him, loved him.
My father taught him to be a dog. He taught him to growl, to bark, to run in circles. He played fetch with him and my father was the one who told me the news.
The night before I had gone to bed like any other night, if a bit later than usual, and spotted Schnapps in the bathroom, an unusual spot for him, panting at me. I shook my head and patted him.
“Good night, silly dog,” I told him, and went to bed.
They were the last words I ever said to him.
I awoke the next morning and busied myself with my normal morning schedule. I was making my own breakfast and had noticed that neither my mother nor Schnapps were home. My father, however, was.
I pulled a waffle from the freezer and had planned to put it in the toaster oven when my father entered the room. I didn’t notice his grim expression. My younger brother asked where my mother and Schnapps were, and my father was silent for a moment.
“There’s something I have to tell you guys,” he said, and we both looked at him.
“Schnapps…he died, last night. We found him in the bathroom.”
Suddenly the waffle in my hand and I shared an attribute: frozen. I dimly heard my brother asking questions, but nothing registered. The morning was a haze.
My father drove me to school that day. It was raining. As I left the car, I looked back and saw my reflection in the window. There was still shock in my eyes. I wasn’t ready to believe it.
My father rolled down the windows and leaned over. “These things happen,” he said. “We have to take them as they come.”
But I wasn’t ready to accept it. I was in denial. From the moment I stepped into school I was a facade. Nothing out of the usual had happened that morning in the Blaxberg household, my friends would have told you. When I arrived home later that day, something itched in my mind. Something was missing; a familiar jingle of a collar, a gentle paw, a soft nuzzle.
I went to my room and sat on my bed, contemplating. I didn’t cry, I just thought. I must have stayed there for an hour, and then I got up and printed out a picture of Schnapps. I hung it on my door, and wrote, in my messy scrawl, ‘he lives on in our hearts’.
“I will not forget you,” I told the picture.
The next day I told my best friend what had happened. He took it to heart; Schnapps was loved by everyone he met. But I only told him, I wasn’t ready to tell anyone else.
Time went on, and the leaves fell off the trees; winter blew in, and time kept going. I started to accept the truth. I didn’t flaunt it, blankly remarking that ‘no, you can’t see him, he died in September, mmmhmm yep that is sad, isn’t it’.
It’s been more than a year now, but I still remember him.
He lives on in my heart.
Good night, silly dog.