Almost 16 years ago, in suburban Atlanta (read Alpharetta), a little girl ran down from upstairs where she no doubt stayed in during "off-times". We were in the kitchen talking to the person who thought she had to give up her baby. We were on a lark (more of that in a moment). Everyone was so excited! Seconds later, I caught a flash of something slide by the kitchen door and out of sight. Huh? Only moments later did a cute little whippet puppy gallop into the room (and instantly into our life).
You see, we had met a whippet in the south of France while on an over-the-top vacation. So, we thought we might add a second dog for our Ellie (a golden retriever). We studied the breed, thought the whippet at a bar in Cannes was fabulous, had time to go see an available puppy, and could always say "maybe another time".
No such luck! This little angel romped up to me and before we could come up with questions, I drooled, "I'm in love" (or some other dramatic response).
Needless to say, we went home with sweet Mona that day. (Mona was her puppy name, because she had a way of whimpering in a low moan.) This was to be telling. This dog spoke and listen (in English). Upon arrival to our lives (that's Ellie, Paul and me), she was a terror. Ellie was nipped at constantly, until our puppy was worn out (at which point she collapsed and snuggled on top of Ellie).
When she wasn't wildly scampering, our baby was simply beautiful, graceful, elegant, and nothing like a plain dog. Because Mona was from a reputable family (ie. breeder), she needed a formal name. At that moment in time, nothing could have been more beautiful and lady-like than Sarah McLachlan. Her latest album had a song that was so heavenly inspired that I had to anoint our child "Sarah's Full of Grace".
As a forerunner to all things good, Sarah didn't necessarily have it perfect. She was our first dog from this glorious breed, and it wasn't long before she had to have a friend (ie. whippet people don't just have one!). Within a year, Mary Louise showed up and took the C.O.A. crown off of Sarah's head and bitched her way to prominence.
Though she often played second fiddle to all the others that were to come, she carved out a space in our lives. She was the one you couldn't find (hiding from her overbearing "sister"), the one who wouldn't be held down, the one who wanted squirrels so bad she was willing to risk her life to run across Boulevard and be hit by a car, the one who would fight a possum because it was trespassing on her turf.
Finally, her moment for all eternity came when she played the role of loving Aunt to a litter of puppies who needed her life skills (since their own mother was exhausted by the whole birthing thing!). Sarah jumped right into our project and loved those kids like they were hers.
Soon the puppies took all the attention and Sarah was back to role of under-study. I believed she learned to use this to her advantage, as friends and neighbors decided they should pick her as "favorite", since we had so rudely pushed her to the side! This was the first era of "Poor Sarah".
Relief came when life changes allowed her to have a new home with bushes. She could explore and chase small vermin! She escaped her over-bearing, twisted sister woman, and had her own space. Ivan and Frances are who they are because of their dutiful Aunt. Her claimed to fame during these days was appearing in Bark Magazine's smile photos. (January-February 2012, page 24)
When her daddy moved out west, the threesome became a pack of 4. Almost instantly, the domination games of Mary Louise kicked in and "Poor Sarah" era 2 had begun.
With age came a more sedate lifestyle, and seclusion from some of the activities of the pack. Walks were still important, even though at times she held us up. Up to a week ago, she still gathered herself up to act excited about eating, going outside, and getting a lick of leftovers. Mary Louise started realizing that there was nothing left to dominate, as Sarah didn't have the energy to deal with that old stupid game. So, Mary just plopped down with Sarah and quietly enjoyed her company.
As Sarah became weaker over the last few months, something beautiful also occurred for me. She could no longer fight being held in the bed...she had to acquiesce. Now was my chance to take advantage of a situation. I finally got to snuggle and love on her like I always wanted, and she was powerless to stop me!
A week ago, I had the joy of holding Sarah in my arms as I came to terms that she was about to leave us. I had a moment to fully digest just what she had meant to my life, my family and my friends. Today would have been her 16th Birthday, and I am lucky to have had those years.
As your namesake sings, "(We) will remember you."