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Piper: First Dog + First Love
by Niki Bennick
(Houlton, Maine, USA)
Ever since the passing of my sweet pup, Piper, in March, I’ve been struggling with how to remember him. I’m haunted by the idea that I will forget some of my tender memories of him, that I will forget how his sweet kisses felt on my hand, or the feeling of his furry muzzle gently pressing into my leg.
It is hard to imagine that only 3 years ago I met this sweet boy, all 45 pounds of pure joy. He was 12 at the time, and still mistaken for being a puppy. He had a kindred spirit, the kind that swept you away from all of the problems in the world. He came as a package when I met him, with his human parent, Greg.
He gave me no choice in loving him. It was the purest kind of love; love that forgave my shortcomings and forced me to want to be a better person. His impact on me could never be quite fully described - his innocence so refreshing, his joy in living in the moment, his quiet way of saying I love you, and you are the most important thing to me at this very moment.
Piper and I moved from North Carolina to Maine to accompany Greg. Little did I know, Piper had traveled around the country in his short life far more than I had. I was just a southern girl seeing the world for the first time. Piper made my transition into a new place so much easier. He could care less where he went, as long as he had his essential needs - food, water, a yard to romp around in, a place to swim, and the bed of Greg’s diesel truck. I believe that’s all he really needed to be happy.
It wasn’t long before I realized that Piper became my dog. Piper, the dog known for not being able to sit still for 5 minutes, would snuggle with me on winter nights. He followed me everywhere I went. Sitting at our dining room table, I would have a flashing thought when things were quiet, “Where’s Piper?”, only to look down and see a ball of fur lying at my feet.
It is difficult to think of my memories of Piper without tears welling up in my eyes. Secretly, I am envious of others who knew him longer than I did. I feel my time with him was cut short. He gave me comfort in which I could never repay him. He gave me loyalty in which I will always be in awe of. I will forever miss running my hands through his fur. In his merle markings, his hair felt like wire, smooth but textured. But in the black markings on his coat, his hair was so soft, like downy feathers. Those were my favorite parts of his coat. When I would look at him, I would admire his beauty.
Our house is nestled in a quiet spot on a lake. Aside from the rustling of leaves in the breeze, the only sounds heard are the loons singing in the summer time. This was the perfect life for a dog like Piper. With no fenced yard, I could let Piper outside without worry of any busy traffic nearby. One of my fondest memories of Piper is yelling his name to come inside - but with no return. At the time it wasn’t exactly fond, it was worrisome. After about five minutes of calling his name, I’m quite certain my neighbors could hear me, and could hear the quiver in my voice as I became anxious he was not returning. But then I heard his bark echoing back to the house.
I listened carefully to locate where he was. By this time, the stars were shining above and the yard had become pitch black, the only light coming from the gleaming moon above. I ran down to the lake, careful not to trip on any protruding rocks in the path to our dock. Sure enough, Piper was at the end of the dock. Well, at the time our dock was being dismantled for repair, so he was on the section of dock that had become an island right off the shore. I still wonder to this day how he managed to get there. When I saw him, his soaking wet coat shining in the moon light, I couldn’t help but laugh. He stood there, still barking away. My only guess was that he wanted to go for a late-night swim.
I stared at him for what seemed like forever, trying to figure out how to get him back to the shoreline without going for a swim myself. I called him, and gave him the command to get in the water. He was so insistent that he was not going to leave that island. After coaxing him for the better part of half an hour, he finally obliged and jumped in the water, swimming to me. I couldn’t discipline him, I just hugged his wet coat when he came to me, and we walked back to the house. He was happy as can be.
I am so fortunate to have been able to learn valuable life lessons from Piper. He has given me strength on days I was weak, hope on days I was without, and comfort in moments of darkness. Thank you, Piper. Thank you for being my hero and for helping me see the world in a different perspective. I will miss and love you forever.