The journey of a thousand miles begins with...the perfect pair of shoes.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Longest Day: Pepper 1996-2010

June 21st is the summer solstice and generally the longest day of the year. Little did we know that it would be the longest day in another way. We had to make an incredibly difficult decision regarding our sweet Pepper and at the end of the day came home without her. I'll talk about her end later. Right now I want to talk about her life.  This is going to be long, so bear with me.

In early 1996, Mr. HH decided to join the military. He would be leaving for Basic Training a day or two after our first anniversary in March and I decided I wanted a dog to keep me company. I'd grown up with dogs and missed having them around. In early March, I looked through the want ads in the paper and found a litter of pups for sale for $50, which was well within our price range. I called and the lady said I could come have a look. They were the pups of a pure bred pug and a pure bred shih tzu who weren't supposed to get together. It was a cool Sunday morning and I drove out to their house listening to the Beatles Brunch. By the time I arrived there were only 3 pups left. One was busy digging a whole, another hiding under a blanket and the third ran straight at me and attacked my pants leg. I fell in love with her instantly. She was the one. I paid my $50, got the shot paperwork and carried my 4 lbs of fur and energy to the car. When I got in the song Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was playing. Pepper was christened. As the weeks went by, she grew and Mr. HH left for Basic. Pepper was great company for me and so lovable. Everyone (MOM, DAD) said she was ugly, but to me she was the most beautiful dog in the world. I called her my pretty princess.
As the years went by, she lived in Germany and back in the States. She was well traveled. In 2000 we decided to add Dutch to our family and she was not happy. She disliked the yippy, crazy little ball of fur that followed her every move, but eventually got used to him and accepted that he was part of the pack. She never let him forget that she was the alpha, but they grew to love each other and cuddled often when they slept.
In 2002, we were back in Germany and the biggest change entered her life: Indy.  From the very start she loved him. When he slept, she laid under his crib. If he cried, she ran between him and me until I got to him. If he was laying on the floor she was next to him. She gave him plenty of sloppy wet kisses that grossed me out, but never failed to make him laugh. She let him pull her hair and poke her in the eye without making a fuss. Indy loved her and Dutch so much that one of his first words was "arf" which he used for dog. No matter how many times I tried to get him to say "dog" or "doggie" or "puppy" he always said "arf" and is incidentally how Arf got his name (thanks to my mom).
She wasn't a big dog, but she was full of love and smart as a whip.  She and Dutch got out once when we lived in TN (Mr. HH wasn't paying attention and I wasn't home).  Mr. HH heard some noise at the door, but it was raining, so he didn't think much of it.  She was scratching at the door.  Since he wouldn't open up, she went to our neighbor and scratched on their door.  They brought her and Dutch home.  She knew what to do when she was in trouble.  She got off her leash several times (it happens when your head and your neck are the same size) but never ran off.   She knew she had it good.
Pepper had a lot of health problems over the years. She had to have ear surgery twice, hernia surgery and got severely ill a few times and constantly had ear infections. We spent a small fortune on vet bills but she was worth every penny. She turned 14 in January of this year and we had had a bad cough that she couldn't quite shake and slept more and more. She was mostly blind and couldn't hear well anymore. As the months went by her cough got a little better, but in May it got really bad. Going up and down the stairs got more and more difficult. Over the last week her cough was almost debilitating. We were worried and I cried more than once. I called the vet yesterday morning and took her in at 4pm. She was lively in little bursts, and her eyes were bright, but the cough was harsh and had to be painful and she panted constantly instead of breathing. The vet took xrays and showed me her heart which was enlarged so much that it was pressing into her lungs. He said she had congestive heart disease and wouldn't last much longer. We could treat it, but we were just buying time and eventually she would have problems getting oxygen. I broke down, knowing where he was going. I asked if I could call Mr. HH. I did and he was there in about 10 minutes. The doctor explained everything to him and said we needed to make a decision. We both cried. The people at the vet clinic couldn't have been kinder. They gave us time with her out in a small private park until we were ready. We sat with her and talked to her and told her how much we loved her and thanked her for 14 years of love and loyalty. After about 20 minutes we decided it was time. The vet tech came out to the park and put the medicine in the cathader they'd put in before we went out to the park. It took less than 5 minutes. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon. The weather was cool and breezy and the sky a beautiful blue. We were surrounded by trees and flowers. She sat on my lap and I felt her heart stop. My pretty princess was gone and my heart was broken. We sat with her a little longer and cried before handing her over. The hardest part was coming home without her. Indy cried when we told him. Dutch is depressed. He's almost 10 and never been apart from her. Arf has been extra cuddly and lovable.
We sat last night and talked about her. We have 14 years of wonderful memories. She loved to open presents. At Christmas she just stared at the presents under the tree. On Christmas morning she had to have her own wrapped present to her to keep her from trying to open all the others. She snored like a 200 lb man. We would giggle listening to her and often had to wake her up because we couldn't fall asleep. She loved to sleep on my pillow at night. She'd get behind me, put her paws on the back of my head and push to get me to move so she had more room.  She loved to get dressed up.  Due to her "plumpness" (she was NOT fat) there weren't a lot of things she could wear, but those she could made her crazy happy.  "Treat" was her favorite word, followed closely by "bed." She loved to lay in patches of sunlight on the floor.  She loved to take a bath and would hop in the shower with me every chance she got.  When she was little it got to the point where I had to lock her out of the bathroom.  When she got excited she had this little howl that sounded suspiciously like "NOW!"  I was her favorite person in the whole world. She loved Indy and Mr. HH, but she was a momma's girl.  She was the best $50 I ever spent and I'm so thankful for all the years we had together.

We have hundreds of photos of our first baby.  I have about 50 on my computer, and these are a few of my favorites.

In her favorite spot.

Her 14th birthday.  The hat was Indy's idea.  She tolerated it.  Note the look she's giving him.

Traveling with Dutch.


My sweet girl.

If you read this far, thank you. 


Satakieli said...

Oh man, I'm so sorry for your loss.

It sounds like she had a wonderful life and was a fantastic dog.


Sarah said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Pepper! It sounds like she was such a good companion. I can't imagine losing Beni, and when I read this, I cried for you all. I can understand how sad you all are. Hugs.

Formerly known as Frau said...

So for your loss! ((Hugs))

family of 4 on the move! said...

I am so sorry for your loss! She was an adorable little dog and I know she made your life better as much as you made hers better. I hope the other dogs perk up soon I know it is hard on them too.
Good thoughts to you all from all of us!

Allison said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. She sounds like the perfect companion. I'm glad you have so many good memories of her and had such a great momma's dog.

Rachel said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this :( I did tear up a little, my family has put 3 dogs to sleep over the course of the years, and it's always so hard. My heart goes out to you.

rockygrace said...

I'm sorry.

instant student said...

I am so sorry for your loss!

Melissa Miller said...

I'm crying now. I'm so sorry for your loss and understand all too well. I had my two shih-stzu boys Teddy and Bear for fourteen wonderful years. It is a hole that can never be filled. Time does help and heal.

She was a beautiful girl and my prayers are with you sweet friend.
Take Care. ~Melissa

Emily said...

Oh, I hate it that you lost Pepper. It makes me sad to think about the day that my little Shelby will leave us. Thank you for your sweet tribute to your little angel :)


Allison said...

So sad for you :( Got tears in my eyes reading about your sweet pup.

Sounds like she had a really great life, though, and you definitely did the best thing by letting her go peacefully.


Snooker said...

What a sweet tribute to your departed family member.
My condolences for your broken heart.

KimAustin said...

I am so sorry to hear about Pepper. I understand how you feel; it is a terrible loss. I know when I lost LilyRose and Frisky I felt like I had lost children and I still miss them very much. Pepper was a great dog and I am glad that you posted pictures.

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