OPINION

The Flatlander

There's A Hole In Our Hearts

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It was over the moment our eyes met. You were chewing on a plastic water bottle cap, fuzzy as could be, and all alone in that cage. Dana and Sophie didn’t know it yet, but you were going home with us. I already knew.

That was 10 years ago.

You were stubborn as all get out, but with the exception of just a few times, never much trouble at all. I will mostly just remember you (and I mean this as a compliment) as always being there, part of the family.
Yes, I complained about you, and sometimes even acted as if we weren’t friends, but we both knew better. We’d spent so much time together. You were a great listener, and always there for a hug when I needed one and no one else was around.


It was just a couple of weeks ago, we took that Saturday road trip to Jonesboro, chickens in the back, you in the front with me. I think you had a certain feeling of superiority sitting up there in the front. I remember we had a good talk on that drive.

If I had known you were soon to leave us, I would have said so much more. I really thought we had a few more years of getting older together.

You were a beautiful dog all nice and trimmed. Beautiful black and white patterns, and those two brown patches above each eye. Magnificent ears and paws. I know how much you hated going to the groomer. That’s why I always had a nice big bowl of ice water ready for you waiting back home. You always knew it would be there and ran straight to it. My goodness, you’d lap that water up for two or three minutes. I’m sorry it was such a nerve-wracking experience being there. We just wanted you to feel nice and cool without all that cocker spaniel hair all the time.

You had no real extraordinary demands. You liked your own beds, and the high place up on the couch. Lord knows I must have opened the door for you a million times as you decided you wanted to be inside with the cool air, or outside with us by the pool.
Mostly, you just wanted to be with us, wherever we were. That’s what made our friendship real. You were great at just being present. We can all learn from that.
You were Dana’s dog. Don’t think I didn’t always know that. If I’d been you, I’d have chosen her, too. I watched the relationship grow between the two of you. Those last several years Dana had a special love for you. I watched almost every single morning as she had coffee on the couch and you jumped up beside her close enough to touch.

Ah, but who was it you came to every single time when you wanted some human food? You knew who the soft touch was with food.
You were honestly so good and so little trouble, I thought you deserved a nice piece of steak or chicken now and then. I have forgiven you of all the money you ate over the years. At last count it was somewhere upwards of $17, including that five-dollar bill not long ago.

I never understood what it was about the toilet paper. You must have consumed a dozen rolls. And we’ll never know how many Xanax you ate that time you got into Alissa’s purse.

And oh, there was that one time, remember? So bad.

I forgave you for it long ago, but you’ll never appreciate what all I went through the Sunday morning you got into my briefcase and chewed a corner off my passport 24 hours before wheels up to Ecuador. I will never forget the look on your face chewing on that important document.

Guilty.

They literally almost wouldn’t let us in the country. In fact, they told me I’d have to get right back on a plane and go home. At one point, I was surrounded by men with machine guns. I’d traveled there enough I knew to stay calm and not take no for an answer. Finally, with the promise I’d visit the consulate’s office the very next day for a newly issued passport, they let us though. It was practically an international incident you caused.

We bought a 30-foot RV not long ago. Your belongings took up 20 feet of it.

And remember the time you jumped on me from the top of the couch and broke my rib? Good times. All forgiven.

We wrote two books together, you and I. Every time I took a break, you were right there waiting. You always believed in me and told me to get back in that room and write at least 1,200 words.

You were an honorary member of Dana’s Girls’ Club all those Monday nights with wine and cheese. I’m so sorry you had to endure all those episodes of The Bachelor. I know you didn’t like that show. Remember when you were just a pup how we’d always leave the Cartoon Channel on for you when we went to work?

I’m so glad you got to spend this last year with us at Tranquility Base. You really did love it here, didn’t you? So much room to roam and play. I found a baby rabbit at the steps yesterday and thought about how you’d react to that.

I’m so sorry those last days were so painful and that I wasn’t there in Jonesboro with you, but I know Dana gave you every comfort she possibly could. She was so worried about you feeling bad.

We put you right there in your favorite spot in Jonesboro, right by the pool. You will always be with us there.

Until we see you again, you keep Aunt Alissa company. I bet she was so happy to see you, and I bet you jumped right into her arms.

I love you. It’s only been three days, and I miss you so much. You will always be a big part of my life.

In memory of Snickers Paparazzi Watkins.

See you in next week’s newspaper.

(Steve Watkins is a reporter/columnist for the Stone County Leader. Write him at steve@stonecountyleader.com).

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