Nine years ago, I bought my father-in-law what I considered to be a GREAT Christmas gift; a Toy Poodle! He was retired from a lifetime of working retail and uninterested in getting a little job as some retirees are inclined to do. His one true hobby was playing golf, but I still thought he "needed" something else...he "needed" a companion.
Once I had decided to buy this special little Christmas gift, I excitedly hurried down and picked a puppy out, registered her with the name of Clarise (a truly good "French" name...), put her in my washroom for a couple of days and then presented her to him on Christmas Eve. Although the kids and I were really excited about giving him this little pup, I wasn't' sure how he would take to her. Ever since I had known him, he had never had a pet.
It wasn't long before I realized that it had been not only a good decision to buy Clarise for PaPa, but most likely the BEST Christmas gift he had ever received. She never weighed over 3 pounds and PaPa could be found toting her around in the crook of his arm at all times; she had become his constant companion. The kids and I would laugh and call her a "little princess" because he insisted that she would only eat out of his hand! And not only that, he mixed several foods together creating what we referred to as her "Doggie Chex Mix". Could this possibly be the no-nonsense fellow that I had met 30 years ago? Referring to Clarise as his "Baby"? Not only was she by his side during the day, but every night found her curled up next to him as he slept. During the past couple of years, PaPa had suffered some health issues and found himself being hospitalized. The only concern he had was not with himself but with "getting home to check on his Baby". This dog had truly woven itself into every fiber of PaPa's being.
When we got the phone call yesterday, I had no idea that Clarise had been sick. The veterinarian thought she might possibly have kidney stones. Papa took her in to stay overnight for surgery the next day. As he left the golf course that afternoon before finishing all the holes, he said he had to head over to check on his "Baby"; see how she did with her surgery. Robby's mother called not long after that. She was crying and we weren't certain what was going on. It seems that when the vet got ready to do the surgery on Clarise, he found that she was experiencing internal bleeding of some sort...and she didn't make it. PaPa was devastated. Mimi said he was heading home with her in a little box and wanted to bury her in the back yard. PaPa was 77 years old now and Mimi didn't want him to do this alone; could we meet them at their house?
Now, although Robby has had pets before, he is one to compartmentalize information and events. He understood that Clarise was important to his dad, but truly could not understand his close connection to an animal. He told me that he probably wasn't the right person to talk to him at this time. I told him I WAS; his job would be to dig the grave. As we drove over, I tried to explain that Clarise was his father's companion. She gave him a purpose to each day; she was someone for him to take care of. She kept him company when he was home alone. I wasn't sure I was getting through to him, but I was certainly trying. I told Robby that I would be buying his father another puppy as soon as he was ready for one. He looked at me and said, "I'm not sure he 'needs' another puppy". I replied, "I will get him one."
Everyone drove up about the same time and as I watched, I saw a very sad, old man take a small box out of his truck and slowly walk to the back yard. Robby's mother was openly weeping and I walked straight over to give her a hug. This was indeed a sad moment. Robby followed his dad and I could see them talking. I was hoping that my husband could somehow attempt to understand PaPa's love for this little dog who had been his constant companion for the past 9 years. As Robby dug the grave, Papa took Clarise's little collar and nailed to to the fence, while Mimi found a small trellis to place at the head of the grave. I gave PaPa a hug and rubbed his back as Robby explained that he understood that Papa was upset and that's what bothered him. PaPa looked at me and said, "But YOU know how I feel..." I nodded in agreement. As we pulled out of the driveway leaving, Robby looked at me and said, "Go get him another puppy; he "needs" one...get it tomorrow." Hmmm...perhaps my husband DID understand more than I thought he had. He understood that this little animal made his father's life a little richer, a little happier; it gave him a purpose for getting up every day. Mimi and I have discussed getting another puppy eventually. PaPa's 78th birthday is in April. I think another puppy might just be on the list this year. Not that this one will ever "replace " Clarise, but I'm sure PaPa could find another place in his heart for a furry little companion.