Today, I lost one of my oldest and dearest friends.
Nearly 10 years ago, I came to live in my forever home with three really great humans. Although I was a very young pup at the time, I knew right away that I would love it here. Then, as now, I would want for nothing.
It was easy to see that all of my physical needs would be well provided for; plentiful food, safe shelter, a cozy place to bed down. And, in terms of attention, love, and human companionship (including nearly limitless ball play), I couldn’t ask for more.
But I must admit that, at first, I wasn’t at all sure about living with my other two housemates — Sunny, an orange Somali, and Whipper, a pure Abyssinian. Both had been living here three years before I arrived and, as such, they knew all the ins and outs of the place. Both were physically bigger than me, and both already had a firm heart-hold on the three humans. I was new kid on the block and I’d be less than truthful if I didn’t admit that I was just a tiny bit nervous.
Now, for those of you who don’t know, it can be very dicey for a Jack Russell Terrier to live under the same roof as any other small animal of a different type, including (and maybe especially) cats. And while I’m incredibly loving and friendly, let’s be honest, it’s not easy to turn your back on hundreds of years of natural hunting instincts. Indeed, many experts strongly discourage the co-habitation of “us” with “them.”
But, for 10 years, we’ve made it work.
Almost from the start, Sunny and I had a much different relationship than Whipper and I. While I consider Sunny to be my brother, I immediately found him to be aloof and, frankly, just a bit strange. He pays little attention to me and when he does, it usually involves a swipe of his paw in my general direction, accompanied by a no-nonsense hiss. It didn’t take long for me to get the hint and after a while of publicly going through the motions, we simply have agreed to live in a perpetual state of détente. Nothing more.
Not so for Whipper and me. We became buds.
Of course, with species pride at stake, neither of us could truly let on. But, then again, neither of us needed to. We were fully comfortable in our own respective skins.
When I came along, life changed, just as it does when any younger sibling arrives. It didn’t take me long to start finding all the good spots in the house… that warm spot in front of the picture window, the cool spot just below the air-conditioning vent, the soft spot on the leather sofa in the front room, and the ultimate spot: safely nestled in the small of Betty’s back while she sat, working, in her office chair. All of these coveted places were first occupied by Whipper, who never seemed to mind sharing them with others, least of all me.
Whippy and I frequently would play together. Sure, there were the obligatory games of dog-chases-cat. But, much to my surprise (and I’m sure to the surprise of others), there were plenty o’ games of cat-chases-dog. Secretly, I think those were my favorite. Whipper also had a “licking gene,” meaning that he felt compelled to lick pretty much anything in sight. And, yes, at times, that included me. (And, yes, at times, the licking was reciprocated by me.) Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of bickering between us — I was, after all, the little brother. Not to mention a dog. Some days, Whipper would have none of my shenanigans. Other days, he would cut a wide swath around me. But mostly, Whipper just loved others and was not afraid to show it (often he would nuzzle and purr and lick so hard that he would actually drool).
We had lots of good times together. And I know that that’s probably not normal. Nature would tell us that we never were supposed to get along. But we did. I mean, with a guy like Whipper in the relationship, how could we not?!
About three weeks ago, Whippy became ill. His eating slowed and it became clear that this was much more serious than a quickly passing bug. My humans did all they could to encourage him to eat (including hand-feeding him — even a little of my own food, which he seemed to enjoy when nothing else would work). They were lovingly there for him until the end, attending to his every need and, above all, helping to ensure his comfort. But today we are heartbroken.
I miss my friend and brother already. They don’t come any finer than Whipper and it will take some time to heal. But I am truly grateful to have had him in my life. In a nod to a Broadway favorite, his paw print is forever on my heart. Albeit a very heavy heart.