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  • We decided the kids needed a dog, the universe answered with a client giving away puppies, the product of an illicit doggie tryst that the mother of the house was none too pleased about. It was perfect timing for our family; the puppies would be weaned and ready for adoption by Christmas 1999.

    We met at the appointed time at a playground across from the owner’s house to view the puppies. All of them were fumbling about, unsure on their paws, squealing for attention or their mother, all puppy breath and downy fur. “Mayo” seemed the most companionable one to me, black with a bit of white at the end of her tail, named by the owner’s kids because they thought it looked like she had dipped her tail in mayonnaise.

    Christmas Eve came, time to bring “Noel” (formerly known as Mayo) into our home. It was cold that year and we had hoped to leave the puppy outside until morning for the big reveal but it just wouldn’t have been fair to the puppy. Santa placed a note on the kennel that said “Noel got too cold in the sleigh so I had to drop her off to you early, please take good care of her.” The black lab puppy with the big red bow was ushered into our family with much love and excitement.

    As it is with most puppies even though she was the kid’s pet, the responsibility fell upon us, the parents. She was scared of the vacuum so I held her like a human child on my shoulder with my left arm cradling her body while I vacuumed up her messes and fur, until she got too big. When she was bigger she could not be contained by baby gates and broke my husband’s tooth with her skull racing for a treat that he held too close to his face. Never viscious, just very excited by food, always. When our family was broken by divorce and the new wife wasn’t a fan, Noel came back to live alone with me.

    She has been called the most expensive mutt ever. She has survived having been hit by a car, chronic seizures, an 18inch stomach/intestine removal for eating a boy scout belt, a rancid reproductive infection with spleen lesions, allergic reactions to food dyes, the loss of the white part of her tail, dental and hematoma surgeries. The last surgery was blamed on her “shaking her head too hard”.

    I’ve stood and cried and prayed at the vet twice while they have instructed me to say “goodbye” to her. I’ve gone into vet bill debt and awoken to find she had eaten my money from my shift the day before. I’ve come home to find her sitting on the porch because she shattered out the front window and then didn’t know where else to go, without a scratch on her, at least three times? She has had one mom, two dads, four addresses.

    As I write this it is a few months away from Noel’s 13th birthday, she will be a teenager. She now has hip dysplasia and some days it is an effort for her to climb even the first stair. Right now she is snoring inches away from me and I already hate the day that my “dogter” will stop snoring and sleep forever.

    Every day for almost 13 years I have said “I love you, be good girl” every time I have left the house.
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