Cajun didn’t actually sit at my dining room table to eat her meals, but then neither do I. At meal times she assumed her favorite crouch beside the chair where I also read, nap, work on my laptop, watch television – and sometimes curse at politicians.
Cleaning up after me seemed to be one of her life’s missions. This gentle, yet nimble golden retriever with the perpetual smile and a tail that could beat perfect time to the MSU fight song, could catch a wayward crumb in midair without any warning.
Her crowning achievement was keeping my kitchen floors spotless. The only thing she refused to lap up with gusto was the Civil War “hardtack” I once attempted to make for a program at the library. I think she confused it with clay pot shards.
Cajun knew all my secrets and kept her good sense of humor with an impish, yet perceptive grin that assured me my foibles were safe with her. She watched me with amusement as I stashed my mail and other papers in the oven when friends dropped by unannounced. Then, I swear she stifled a giggle hours later when I preheated the oven for a lean cuisine and baked my mail to a golden brown.
She lived for those times when I lapsed into a chocolate binge with a carton of Moose Tracks. I would pick out all the chocolate parts then save a few calories by placing the melted ice cream on the floor for her to lap up. Of course, that was before I learned sweets weren’t good for those of the canine persuasion (although she most definitely was NOT just a dog). In spite of her human diet, she still lived to the ripe old age of 94 (in doggy years).
On the morning she died she was still chasing her old nemesis – the hated red squirrel that has tormented us for going on four years.
Old age and painful joints kept Cajun from being a real threat to “Ole Red” but she always made the effort anyway – particularly if someone was watching.
At 8 a.m. on Sunday, Cajun went to the great doggy heaven in the sky where I hope no squirrels are allowed. She died while my son “B” and I sat beside her assuring her everything was going to be okay. After she took her last breath, we took her to his hunting camp near the refuge where she loved to swim with the catfish and bream. We buried her in a beautiful site underneath the oaks overlooking the lake. I fashioned a headstone from one of my treasured Chicago bricks.
I suppose Rebel – my fearless little Boston bulldog – will assume Cajun’s mantle now. But he’s been hiding under the bed since Sunday morning when all the crying began. The only human emotions Rebel has known in his short life were unbridled mirth and the occasional confusion caused by memory lapses on the part of his human roommate. Such unspeakable sadness has not invaded our home in a long time.
The anguish of losing a devoted family member was too much for him, and for me. I felt like crawling under the bed with an old shoe. Instead, I pulled out photograph albums and remembered all the good times.