I will never forget the morning my sister phoned me, hysterical. It is usually the other way around, and I was stunned to hear the mania in her voice.
“I can’t do it. I am physically and emotionally drained. What was I thinking?”
To be fair, my sister was always the strong sibling. She spent years listening to me on the phone, often slurring my words. She became so unhinged at my drunken ramblings, that she asked that I not phone her after 3 p.m. She told me she was busy with the kids at that time, and I believed her: somewhere in the deepest corners of my mind I knew. I don’t remember what I said while drinking and dialing; but my sister was suffering at my hands, so I obeyed the curfew.
Back to Kennedy. A pit bull mix the family had adopted from a local Humane League, he was full of piss, vinegar and the ungodly energy of a pup. I had never imagined her having a dog, as she had seen first hand how I handled the passing of one of my dogs, and she had her hands full raising three precious children. But to say my sister gave it her all would be a discredit to sisters everywhere: she lived and breathed and trained (and retrained) the dog who was to be the love of her life. Kennedy was his own man, he didn’t like other dogs, and we assume he had a bad experience before the adoption. I remember our first meeting: he hadn’t entered doggy school yet, and to be honest, I was a tad intimidated.
“Come on up,” my sister yelled from the girls’ bedroom. “He’s up here.”
I have been taking care of dogs my entire life. My father bought my mother a golden retriever puppy the week I came home from the hospital. Chipper shared my bassinette, and when I went to kindergarten he broke through the screen window on my very first day. She was my childhood dog, and she was the best. She did everything with us: from sledding to fort building to board games, Chipper was our right hand gal pal extraordinaire. I then went on to have four more dogs, and I was the pet sitter of the neighborhood. I remember one Summer, both dogs I took care of were about to give birth. Their owners, when told that I believed they were mothers to be, shook their heads and laughed – silly girl, what do you know?
I can tell you that I knew better than they, and both families came home to litters of puppies. I recall our neighbors dog, an Irish Setter, who never looked healthy, always skin and bones. I would sneak out of the house and over to the Robinson’s to feed and play with the dog-often at night so no one would see me. I have raised an English Setter mix, Jesse; her son, a Dalmatian-and two golden retrievers. I had a chow-Labrador mix, Chipper II, with my first husband. I had no idea what we were in for, and I adopted him because he looked like a small bear cub. He terrorized us, our home and our friends-so I was prepared to meet Kennedy-not so much prepared for what happened next.
I sat down on the floor, my sister next to me with the pup on a leash. In one fell swoop he had me down on the floor, kissing and biting and licking. “I give….I give…..” My sister collapsed on the floor laughing. For the next few years she worked with Kennedy on a number of issues: the most serious-his propulsion to eat anything and everything in his sight. Eyeglasses, dog dirt, rocks, trash………you couldn’t trust him for a moment. When he was sick (prone to stomach problems) Courtney would sleep on the couch, so he wouldn’t be alone. Many nights were sleepless, and that combined with raising kids – I don’t know how she did it. She took him on daily walks-even though she was basically risking her life, as Kennedy could find trouble at the drop of the proverbial hat. No matter what they did, he would not warm up to other animals, but he was an amazingly loving, funny and outright stoic dog. His favorite toy, the tennis ball, kept him amused for hours on end. My husband loved to rough house with him, and we grew hopelessly in love with his antics.
Kennedy lost his battle with cancer on May 1, 2016. As the tears flow down my cheeks, I feel the need to tell the world that he was truly loved, truly treasured……and at the end of the day, that’s all a canine can ask for.
Rest in peace dear Kennedy. You will be missed.