As I sit here and find the right words to fill this edition’s column, it’s May 23. For most, just one date out of 366 this year. For me, it marks one year that I last hugged my beloved Igor and she gave me her last tail wag.
I posted on Facebook today, “You found a place in my heart that no one or thing had ever been or will go. And you’re still there, and it’s evidently a part of the heart that doesn’t heal, because it hurts as much today as one year ago.”
But, I don’t want to dwell on the pain of not having her here anymore. I’d rather celebrate her 16 years with us, and to limit the awesome times spent with her to 10 only scratches the surface, but I’ll apply my flea powder and give it a try.
When we first met Iggy, she was only two months old. We drove to a nearby farm that had pups for sale. Dogs of all shapes and sizes were gathered and Igor was the smallest and the most shy. I saw her looking at me from a far corner and asked to see her. When the owner put her in my arms, Igor laid her head on my shoulder and I was hooked. We became best friends that very moment.
When the time came for Iggy to be spayed, I took her to the vet and had to leave her overnight. The next morning I picked her up and she wouldn’t even look at me. She went to Denise, Emilie and Lauren. She was that way all day. Then at 3 a.m. she had to go out and she came to me. I carried her outside and from then on I was back in her good graces for the next 16 years.
Profile in courage
I know that Igor would have done anything for me, at any cost to her. One weekend when she was one year old we went to Nantucket to visit some relatives, and we took Igor with us. Of course we went to the beach and this was Iggy’s first encounter with the ocean, and she was afraid of it. Perhaps it was the motion of the waves. I’m not sure. But she refused to take a dip. I did. And as I was in the water, Igor paced nervously on the shore until she couldn’t take it any longer. I sensed she had to know I was alright. She plunged in and her swimming instincts kicked in and she swam to me. And she was hooked. She loved it. I was so proud of her that day for overcoming her fears to ensure my safety.
Something very fishy
I can’t think of a food that I liked that Igor didn’t. One of my favorites is grilled swordfish. Igor’s too. One sunny summer afternoon I grilled up a few slabs. There was one left and I left it on the kitchen table for one minute to wrap it up. When I came back, it was gone. I looked at Igor — she looked at me as if to say, “What’s up, dad?” all the while licking the remnants off her snout. How can you get angry at that?
The devil dog
When Emilie was at Notre Dame School, she, Denise and I would pray the Rosary together once a week. We would kneel at my bed and pray. But Igor wanted in too. She would jump on the bed and then proceed to lick us, nibble at the Rosary beads, or do anything she could to distract us. We never made it through a Rosary without laughing. It reminded me of the times when I would say the Rosary with my parents and I always tried to make dad laugh. Mom, not so much.
A love/hate relationship
Igor loved having a bath, and Igor hated having a bath. In the summers we had a wading pool to bathe her and that was a relatively simply procedure. But when it got cool and cold we would bring her upstairs to the tub. Denise would run the water and Igor would hear it and her countenance became one of concern. She would anxiously wait at the bottom of the stairs. I would then say, “You want a bath?” and she would swing her rear end toward me so I could carry her up. She wouldn’t go on her own. I placed her in the tub and Denise would scrub. Igor was always tentative during her baths, but when they were done and she shook off the wetness she was always proud as a peacock.
Are you going to finish that?
Igor was a pizza crust fanatic. When we ordered delivery she would first bark up a storm at the delivery person, then sit and watch all of us eat the delectable pies. Her eyes would widen when we got down to the crust. For 16 years I never got to eat a pizza crust.
I can do that
From her very first Christmas with us, Igor loved to see the presents under the tree. She knew there were some for her, and she instinctively knew how to unwrap the chew toys or treats. In fact she treated the wrapping paper better than the chew toys. Within 15 minutes, all of the chew toys were destroyed and the house was covered with white stuffing. She always tore off the heads first — just a little disturbing.
I love this stuff
Igor loved to play with toys, balls, balloons, even her food, but to go out during and after a significant snowstorm brought her extreme joy. She would plow into snow that was deeper than her height and just burrow through it. When she emerged she was coated with the white stuff. And catching snowballs was her forte. Then when we went in to warm up she would go to her spot at the sliding door to the deck and look annoyed that the snow was blocking her vision of the neighborhood.
One-of-a-kind birthday cake
On Iggy’s last birthday we knew it would be her final one with us. So ignoring all the rules we went to McDonald’s. I made a cheeseburger (one of her favorites, as usual) and stuck French fries in it for the candles. We put it in front of her and she gave us a kind of “are you serious?” look. The modified cake was gone as quickly as she would remove the head from a chew toy.
There are a plethora of other tales from the tail, but these warm my heart and will live with me forever.
We all miss you, you strange, wonderful loving beast.