A dog's life

Chrissy was a former Death Row inmate, whose sentence was commuted to house arrest, when we brought her home from the Animal Shelter. Still, she felt the Call of the Wild, and lived in absolute certainty that beyond the friendly confines of the fences of our backyard, there were kitties and squirrels running amok, and other puppies wanting to play. So, Chrissy sought every way she could to see more of the Outside. When a misplaced winter boot knocked off a chunk in the side gate, leaving just enough room for a black nose and two black eyes, ever after the puppy Chrissy used that spy hole to peer out at the Town.

The house where we lived was old and odd. At one time in its history it had been rented out as two apartments, upstairs and down. In the back, there was a rickety wooden staircase leading up to the small deck by the upstairs door. The kitchen and downstairs bathroom were a single story, attached to the back of the house, next to the stairs. From the deck atop the stairs, the puppy learned she could slide through the rails and step on to the shingled roof of the kitchen.

"What's that?" asked my wife, standing at the bathroom sink. She heard a noise on the roof above her, and looked up to see the puppy's tail swishing above her. The dog had walked over the crest of the kitchen roof, so she could peer around the corner to see the World, and now she could also look through the sky-light down into our bathroom. We ran out to the backyard to rescue the puppy. Terry, the next door neighbor, hollered out, "Hey, Steve, you've got a dog on your roof."

From then on, we had to block the stairs, so the puppy could not go all the way to the top. So long as we lived there, the dog lounged on the stairs. When she grew too old and wide to fit through the rails, she liked to sleep under the stairs, on the cool bricks, peering out at trespassers in the alley behind the house -- the kitties and squirrels and sometimes dogs and people. If they trespassed too long, Chrissy would run up the length of the yard to bark at them through the wire fence. As for the squirrels and the kitties who dared to set foot inside the fence, the puppy chased after them, hoping to sink her teeth into their swishy-swishy tails.

As Chrissy became old, we moved from the old house with the rickety stairs to a new place, in a neighborhood with many dogs, and bunnies and squirrels, and little girls who called out, "Hey, can we pet Chrissy?" There was an exciting boy-dog across the street. Chrissy won every staring contest with the curious young cows who caught her eye in the field behind us.

But in the years at the new house, our walks got shorter and shorter. At first, she could walk to the other end of the street, then just to the stop sign, then just two doors down, then one door, then to the mailbox, then not at all. To the end, she took in a breeze like some people take in a concert, with her head back, eyes blinking, enjoying the the full range of the symphony of scents. Her last day was Wednesday, a sunny day, the hardest day.