If you're a dog person, you'll understand. If not, skip this and check back tomorrow!
Our miniature schnauzers were born of the same litter on December 8, 1991, a year after we were married. When we first took them home in early January, my husband held one in each hand, their scruffy faces mirror images of each other, and I snapped a picture. As puppies, they scrambled around in a little cardboard box until they found their way through the hallways of my dog-friendly office.
We hung a Dog’s First Christmas ornament from our tree the next year, my hand on my belly, wondering if I’d ever love this person inside me as much as I loved those puppies. By then, Madison had taken to lying in my lap each night, sprawled on his back, emitting tractor-beam love rays from his soulful eyes. Mollie, aloof and thin-skinned, slunk nearby in a fluffy red sweater impersonating a cat.
Once our son dropped the first Cheerio from his high-chair tray table, the M&Ms, as they were referred to by a dear friend, (founder of Best Dawg Rescue, Inc!), accepted him as part of our family. After that, they’d pose lion-style, guarding their brother’s playpen, or curl into puppy puzzle pieces in front of the fire, inseparable also in their dreams.
For years they went to work with me, barking whenever someone traipsed past my door. The humans learned to watch where they stepped, because Mollie and Madison claimed the halls as their personal racetrack, running laps until they collapsed under my desk. In December, as truckloads of popcorn tins, dark-chocolate almond bark, sugar cookies, oranges and poinsettias arrived at the office, we carefully perched the dangerous treats out of snout range. A week after their birthdays, I’d scold myself for forgetting to bake them a non-chocolate cake. I’d make it up to them by stuffing their Christmas stockings with yummy treats and rope toys.
A back-to-back storm blanketed fifteen inches of ice-topped snow on one Maryland December. The M&M’s matching-sweater-ed bodies pranced on top of our backyard skating rink, only occasionally falling through and needing rescue. In December 2004, we drove twenty-one hours from Maryland to Texas to hand deliver our Christmas gifts to my husband’s family. For thirteen-year-old dogs, the M&Ms traveled well, especially after we slipped a tranquilizer to Madison, a known car-sick victim. That trip, after realizing Dallas winters were preferable to Maryland ones, we planned our move on the long return drive.
Though we happily gave away our winter coats, I packed the dog’s sweaters, thinking there might be a week or two where the wind would sneak through their thin fur. Even the M&Ms sensed a change in the air, frolicking excitedly between our moving boxes. Unfortunately, Madison didn’t live to see his first December in our Texas house. But I placed his ashes on the mantle next to his statue likeness.
This year, Mollie didn’t live to her sixteenth December and her ashes and statue are cuddling next to Madison’s, as is the sweet puppy picture I captured so long ago. We like to think they are sprinting around a race-track in heaven somewhere, and resting near the fire, nibbling chocolate bark and poinsettias.