“Then she fretted, ah, she fretted,
But ’ere six months had gone past
She had got another poodle dog
Exactly like the last…”
Please forgive my laziness if this stanza originates from another author, but Barbara Pym used it without a credit in the novel Some Tame Gazelle. Miss Pym assigned the passage to one of her characters as an uncharitable opinion of one who could find love, lose it, and easily replace it. The quote sticks with me because of a deep and abiding love, the loss of which I continue to feel sharply from time to time.
I often state that the best days are those when we live in the moment without sticking to a rigid plan. Go where your heart takes you, and let the hours unfold as they will. You’ll surely be blessed in unimaginable ways. That’s what happened a little over 26 years ago when I was out running errands and came home unexpectedly with Phoebe, a nine week-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
I wasn’t totally unprepared. I’d loved the breed for years, and had read three books on the care and feeding of these clever dogs that will loyally support you when they’re not trying to push you to your limits. I simply wasn’t prepared that day to take on the unexpected responsibility. I hadn’t purchased any equipment, food, or toys, and I hadn’t even spoken to the landlord about a pet deposit even though he was pet friendly. I was aware of a possible litter, but there is usually a waiting list. The day unfolded as it should, and I showed up with a sweet puppy that quickly decided I wasn’t “all that” after she spent a few hours with me.
She eagerly jumped into my arms when we met, and I knew she wanted me to facilitate her escape from the other dogs. Yes! I love you so much! Now please take me with you! I knew she was communicating. I introduced her to my animal-loving neighbor Diana as I got out of the car. Love at first sight between those two. My roommate came home a few hours later to see Phoebe, already unimpressed with me, halfway passed out on the dining room floor. She preferred the hard surface to my arms. She rallied enough to feign some enthusiasm with him before she sauntered back to her spot under the table. I could imagine what she was thinking. Of all the humans that had to show up, it had to be that chatty one who never stops talking to me, and now there’s this taller one who thinks he can tell me what to do. Just wait, Stringbean, I’ve got plans for you!
During her first vet visit, the doctor asked me how familiar I was with Corgis. “I’ve read the books.” And was I aware that these little connivers will try anything and everything once to see if they can get away with it. “Be sure that you are firm and let her know who’s boss. If you’re lax just once, she’ll continue to misbehave. She’s smart and trainable, but make sure you’re the one doing the training.
I was frazzled as a new parent in those early months, but Phoebe was the best dog I’ve ever had. Quite soon and throughout her life, she understood me. Without words, and using only a couple of distinct sounds, I could signal my intentions and she complied. She got into trouble a few times, but her transgressions were usually accidental. She once gnawed the corner of the sofa, but she somehow managed to lift up the fabric panels so that no one could see the damage. She once pulled a string on a rag rug that caused her to greet me at the door with her head hung in shame, but I managed a passable repair so that the damage went unnoticed for a year. We made the best companions even if we were occasionally put out by the other’s need for independent thinking.
I could write a book about her cleverness, but everyone’s dog is clever. So are people’s cats. We love our pets, and are heartbroken when they’re no longer with us. Phoebe has been showing up in dreams lately. She has over the years, but two recent dreams were especially vivid. I realize now that she’s been gone the same length of time that she was alive, and yet it’s still not long enough for me to consider filling the void she left behind. I’m just not ready.
© 2020 by Patrick Brown
To learn more about my books, especially the three featuring Maggie Lyon, visit my author page at: http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1