I remember Penny
Highlands TodayThere is hardly a person alive who has never had a pet. It doesn't matter if it's a goldfish or a Great Dane, owning another creature somehow validates us as humans.
Published: May 17, 2009
Published: May 17, 2009
We love our pets as if they were family, and we feel that they love us back. Of course, animals are incapable of love as humans know it, but they do respond to us with an unconditional loyalty and protectiveness that's often missing in our human-to-human relationships. Animals hold no grudges and tell no tales. Maybe that's why they become so precious to us.
When I was just 6 years old, my Dad took my older brother and went to buy a dog. We'd had a mutt that stayed outdoors and eventually ran away. But this was to be our first true family pet, a purebred house dog. They came home that day with a Chihuahua.
Penny was what is known as a faun-type Chihuahua, slightly larger and with longer legs than most Chihuahuas. Her name came from the color of her coat - shiny reddish brown like a new penny. She was the cutest puppy, so tiny and sleek, with flashing brown eyes, and ears too big for her head.
Daddy carried Penny into the house and laid her in my mother's lap, where she instantly curled up and fell asleep. I remember Mama saying, "Leland, what on earth did you buy, a dog or a rat?"
Mama had never wanted a dog, but had given in to the constant begging of three kids. Now she turned up her nose and gingerly stoked the tiny creature. From that day on, Penny attached herself to Mama. She followed her around and was instantly in her lap every time Mama sat down. It was as if Penny knew who she must win over to find a happy home. Soon they were fast friends, and years later, when we kids were all gone, Mama still had Penny to keep her company.
Penny was an integral part of our family for more than 17 years. She became the watch dog when strangers approached and the official greeter when extended family visited. She especially loved my Grandpa Donaldson, who talked to her as if she were human. Penny would sit in his lap and cock her head to one side, trying so hard to understand.
Penny was the great consoler. When anyone in the family was sick or sad, she would nestle close to that person for hours on end. She also knew, intuitively, when a member of the family was coming home. I remember watching her go to the front window every day at 5:20, when Daddy was due home. A few minutes later she would start dancing around by the front door. Before his car turned the corner onto our street, Penny knew Daddy was home.
When I was in junior high, Penny was mated to another purebred Chihuahua and shortly thereafter we had four tiny, wiggling furballs. I watched their birth and marveled at how Penny instinctively knew what to do with her puppies.
I remember racing home from school each day to play with them. They were great fun, but before I knew it, they were six weeks old and for sale. Three sold almost instantly.
The last one was a blue Chihuahua. Like Penny's mother, he had the rare recessive gene that made his coat a beautiful silvery color. Daddy set the price higher for Blue, and it seemed no one was willing to pay it. We were beginning to think we'd just have to keep him. I secretly rejoiced; Blue had always been my favorite. Then one day, he was gone; sold while I was at school. I cried for an hour and moped for a week.
But that was nothing compared to the day, years later, when Mama called to tell me that Penny had died. We cried and reminisced together. A very special member of the family was gone.