McGinnis: Puppy loveWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | email@example.com
It’s strange, the emotional connections we can make in a world of social media as the Internet lets us closely follow the lives of people we may have never even met. I have made friends who I have always been hundreds of miles away from, but who I love like family. And through following celebrities on Twitter and the like, I have grown to like them — or at least the face they show in public — as people.
But still I was surprised at how saddened I was last week at a particular bit of news — the death of a pair of celebrities’ pets. Felicia Day, the talented creator/star of “The Guild” and the mind behind the YouTube network Geek and Sundry, lost her dog Cubby. And the very same day, actor and geek icon Wil Wheaton revealed his family had lost their oldest dog Riley.
Thanks to their masters’ work and social media, I felt like I knew these animals. Cubby made appearances on Day’s Geek and Sundry shows, and seemed a very lovable pup. Riley was a regular fixture on Wheaton’s Twitter feed, her goofy grin usually accompanied by Wil’s caption, “I’M A DOG!” symbolizing the enthusiasm Riley had for life and her owners in general. So the news of their departures hit home.
But there’s more to it than that, I think. Most of us, at some point in our lives, have made a connection to a dog. Not just any pet, mind you, though I have cared about cats and other animals (my current house cat, Sammie, would bristle at the idea that I didn’t have room in my heart for other furry companions). But there’s just something about their personalities and the relationship we have with the dogs in our lives that makes them unique, and cements their place in our hearts long after they’re gone.
My first dog was named Daisy, a lovely small brown pup we got when I was very young. I can still remember the bristle of her fur as she plopped next to me on the couch, or her joy when we’d let her out to go running around our property in the country. Daisy was a strange combination of rambunctious and meek — I remember her getting easily excited, but never jumping up on anyone or even barking loudly.
Spooky was another matter. A larger black dog who turned up on our doorstep the day before Halloween (hence the name), Spooky was much more of a mutt who loved simply being a dog and running free behind our house. He was much more adventurous than Daisy, which led to my first real sense of loss as a child — the day he was hit on the road outside our house.
A while later, Daisy simply went outside one day and never came back. I remember spending days on our back porch calling for her, but there was never any sign, leaving a wound in my childhood that has never quite healed. Never getting a chance to say goodbye to something that meant so much to you can hurt much longer than even a tragic farewell.
A few years later, my family once more adopted a new puppy, a roly-poly ball of black-and-white fluff named Max. He was fun and excitable in that way that only puppies can be, and we tried to keep a closer eye on him after what had happened with Spooky. One day during a bad snowstorm, I lost my grip on Max as someone was coming in our door and he bolted outside. He was hit by a tractor driving by. I have never forgiven myself.
Eventually wounds heal, though, or at least enough time passes that the pain can be dealt with. We adopted another puppy not long before I started at university, a collie mix by the name of Missy. She lived with us the longest, and I grew to love her more than any other pet. For years, whenever I would come home from college or my new home here in Toledo, her bright eyes would greet me and she’d jump up with excitement, no matter how old she got. She was forever a puppy in her eyes — and mine.
We lost Missy to old age a few years ago, long enough for my dear nieces to have met her and grown to love her, too. I thought of all this few days ago, as I was walking my parents’ new dog, Jammer, a Basset mix with great hound dog eyes and seemingly endless energy. My nieces were outside playing with us. Suddenly my oldest niece looked up at me and said simply, “I miss Missy.”
A few tears welled up in my eyes as a thousand memories of her flashed through my mind. I thought of Missy, and Daisy and Cubby, and Riley, and of all the dogs we love throughout our lives. I thought of how there are emotional holes in a home that can only be filled by floppy ears and understanding eyes. I thought of how I remember each one that shared my life’s journey, and how no matter how much time passes, they will forever hold a place in my heart.
“I miss Missy, too,” I said to my niece. “She was my puppy for a long time.”
“She was everybody’s puppy,” my niece said. “Because she was so beautiful.”
Yes, she was. They all are.
Jeff McGinnis is Pop Culture Editor at Toledo Free Press. He can be reached at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.