When Tilly rode with me, she perched herself on my center console, a paw resting on my arm as if to say, “Aren’t you driving a bit too fast?” or “Your next turn is coming up.” Maddie just crawled into Mommy’s lap and went with the flow.
Sometimes she would rest her muzzle on my shoulder while giving puppy kisses. I know it’s not smart to allow a puppy to ride on the console, but I grew up in an era when we pretended to surf from the back of a pickup truck. I was much more careful with the puppies than I ever was with me.
It is a memory I shall ever hold near my heart…because soon, memories will be all I have left. Tilly, Miss Matilda Sue, is nearing the crossing of her rainbow bridge.
Her fall has been rapid. We knew her sister was sick and near the end of her days…although she doesn’t seem to be any closer than when she was diagnosed with liver tumors.
After a suddenly rough night, Tilly is calm and sedate. She is in no pain. We watch her breathe waiting for the last breath. We have a four-thirty vet visit scheduled just in case. A good portion of me hopes we don’t have to make it.
Almost fifteen years ago she and her sister, Maddie, Miss Madeline Rue, adopted us, stealing our hearts as they did. Maddie is still with us, but I worry about how she will react to the absence of her sister. They have been together for almost fifteen years. Sometimes buddies, sometimes antagonist, always competitors for our hearts. Sometimes I hate the circle of life.
They imprinted on Linda more than they did on me. I didn’t mind…I imprinted on Linda too. It is also something I’ve found almost always happens, imprinting more on one than the other. Late in their lives, both blind, Tilly deaf, they would wander their pathways searching for her scent anytime she was absent from their side. I love her that much too. I’m always anxious when she is not around.
They were trouble but never troublesome…even when they escaped as mere puppies and traveled over a half-mile from home. I can remember the joy of finding them replacing the guilt I felt for allowing them to escape.
They came into our lives after losing our long, long, long term puppy, Sassy Marie. She was a stray who wandered up one day, skinny and skittish, and then left just as quickly…some sixteen years later all fat and Sassy. She knew she was nearing her time and just left, leaving us to believe she still roams the hillsides around our home. Maddie and Tilly won’t leave but will haunt us just as deeply…maybe more deeply.
Linda swore we weren’t ready for another pet, that we were just going to look. A friend’s relative raised Blue Heelers and their puppy had had a litter of sixteen. “I’m not going to get one, just going to look”, said she. “Not going to get one?” It turned out to be a question of how many. The answer was two.
We didn’t have a chance. Two puppies made their way out of a mass of wagging tails, pointy, upright ears, and blue merle fur with hints of buckskin brown. They demanded we take them and stole our hearts. No, we had no chance at all.
They were too smart for our own good. Tough knots. Brave and stubborn, they repeatedly put themselves in harm’s way. A snake bite here, a wasp sting there. Sticking their muzzles where they shouldn’t. There was no doubt they would have defended us with their lives.
My little co-pilot was odd from the beginning, with no Bentley mark and a crooked tail from a birth defect. Maddie is the perfect one, Tilly the interesting one…no they were both perfect and interesting. She is now scarred with a cauliflower ear and a gouged nose. Her imperfections were perfect. They made me love her even more.
They both brought me gifts but Tilly’s were the best and the worse. A very alive Brown snake that escaped and I hope found its way out of the house. Several possums…thankfully playing possum. One decided to resurrect from the middle of the dining room, leading us on a merry chase through the house. The other, carrying a half dozen joeys waited until I dropped her over the fence to waddle off as if nothing had happened. Tilly always stood over them with her lopsided smile, “Look, Daddy, I’m a good girl.” “Yes, you are.”
Tilly left us this morning (Monday) on her own terms. She lived on her own terms. I hope she is off somewhere chasing rabbits, trying to herd squirrels, barking at birds in the trees, ears up and tail pointing crookedly toward the sky. No longer deaf and blind…no arthritis, no longer in pain. Fifteen years was not enough…never enough. I love you Tilly and miss you terribly already.
Miss Madaline Rue April 1, 2005-December 16, 2019
Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM