“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” — Agnes Sligh Turnball
I met Tinkerbell when I was nine. My brother, Michael, and I went with Momma to the feed store [I grew up on a small horse farm], and the store owners had just gotten a Jack Russell puppy. She was mere weeks old, barely bigger than my two hands. Michael and I sprawled on the floor with her and played for hours. I remember it now — still so clearly — and wonder why Mom let us stay that long; surely, she had things to do. But there’s no way I could’ve come between children and their dog either. Momma offered to buy her from the store owners that day.
Tink didn’t actually become our dog until a year later. The owners originally declined Mom’s offer, but their store and home were on a main road, and Tink’s energy couldn’t be contained to a single yard and they were worried about her running in the street. Mom brought her home, and Michael and I were in heaven. We didn’t like her name — she was definitely more Captain Hook than sparkling fairy — but we couldn’t bring ourselves to change it.
Looking back on it now, I’m pretty sure our trip to the feed store that day was divine intervention, evidence of soul mating between a dog and her family and her place in the world. Because there was no better place for Tink to live than on a farm, miles from a main road on every side. She was free to chase [and kill] groundhogs, roam pastures and lay in the sun. She loved the barn. The mere mention of the “b” word sent her ears up and had her pacing at the door. Sometimes she was bad, but in the best ways. She once chased Alli Goff [Ex-Georgia coach Ray Goff’s daughter] and her very fancy pony through a round of two-foot fences [jumping every one] at a horse show. [Mom was mortified, but Alli won the class, and Tink became famous around our showing community.] She loved Mom and accompanied her everywhere. And she adored us, her kids. She was the Queen B of the house and protective of everything, nothing more so than the two tiny humans she bonded with so early in her own life. We played together. We caused trouble together. We danced together. We slept together. When Michael and I would come home from college, she would abandon her normal perch in Momma’s room to rejoin us upstairs, alternating between our rooms. This Easter, at 17, with bad lungs and a worn-out heart, she climbed the stairs to sleep in my room with me. I knew she was old and haggard, but it never occurred to me it would be the last time.
Momma and I talked on Monday, and she told me she thought she was going to need to put Tink down that night. Mom thought she’d had a heart attack a few days earlier, and she wasn’t doing well. I was worried and upset and starting to make plans to cancel my evening to go home, but it still didn’t feel real. And then Mom called that afternoon and said that she’d found Tink when she’d arrived home. She was gone.
Tinkerbell was 17. She lived the kind of life we all hope to — free and full of love. But I’m still crying thinking about losing her. I haven’t been home yet, and I know more tears will appear when she doesn’t greet me in the driveway. But I am so grateful for her. So glad that she was my dog and I was her child.
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they go.” — Will Rogers