She’s the one I tried to return or exchange. Twinkie was just about the prettiest blond Cocker Spaniel you’ve ever seen, but from the start, she was cantankerous, feisty, independent, and one could say, an introvert. Humans were around to feed her, with only a few deemed worthy to touch her, and even then, when she’d had enough, she let you know it. I’ve been bitten quite a bit over the 15 1/2 years of her life. Recently I noticed that it didn’t hurt so bad now that she’d lost some teeth.

Yes, I tried to take her back or get a replacement. She would bite me when she was only 7 weeks old, and I didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t the normal puppy biting. That can be cute. This was gnarled faced, nasty biting. The breeder wouldn’t take her back, and so I figured that we would make the best of it and stick together.

Over time, I learned that turning my back on her bad behavior would lessen her aggression and so we started getting by with one another. If people didn’t try to touch her, she would wag her tail but always had a  “Look but don’t touch!” attitude. So I just told people not to touch her and things would be fine. I always felt that she was missing out, but we let her live life her way.

Once, my daughter and I drove to visit family and brought her along. She behaved well enough, and enjoyed anybody who fed her. My mom was alone with her one afternoon when Marissa and I got back to my parents’ house. Mom told me that she had fixed some popcorn and that Twinkie loved it! She would throw, Twinkie would catch.

When Marissa moved off to college and I was single, I enjoyed Twinkie’s company. She would get so excited when I put a bag of popcorn in the microwave, and she’d eat about half the bag with me. I never felt alone with her around.

As the years passed, I was surprised at how energetic she remained. She never had any major illnesses, rather a lot of chronic ones along the way. All were typical for Cocker Spaniels – ear infections, skin growths, fatty tumors, etc. I have a terrific vet (who now is my daughter’s mother-in-law) and always had the best care for her. When she turned twelve, I expected to see a lot of change due to aging, but I really didn’t. A bit of arthritis, so meds were added to peanut butter each day and she lapped them up.  Then thirteen and fourteen, no dramatic change. Fifteen came last November, and still, she was energetic even with two torn ACLs. She just kept going, but the chronic issues were taking a toll.

Last week, I took her to the vet for yet another skin surgery to remove a growth that had begun bleeding regularly. One would require a skin graft if removed. We took care of the worst, cleaned and packed her ears (which had ablation surgery a few years ago) and brought her home. More meds, and a fashionable new Victorian collar to keep her from chewing where it itched.

Twinkie just couldn’t get comfortable anymore. Medicine and attention just didn’t make her better. I could keep going with band-aid treatments, but today I made the decision not to.

I never thought it would be this way. I figured she would die on her own, or an illness would be so catastrophic that there would be no real choice for me to make. I just didn’t expect it to be this way.

She lay on a blanket just after the doctor administered a sedative. I laid down beside her, petting her and telling her I loved her. The procedure continued, and I felt her last breath on my face. Robby buried her at the top of our hill near a cedar tree.

IMG_1556It’s a really empty feeling now. I have a taste of grief, though not as large as so many others in the world. I pray this reminds me to hold others near in prayer so together the world will feel better.

For now, I’m going to leave myself with this image: Mom (who passed in 2007) sitting now with Twinkie, throwing her some popcorn and laughing when she catches it. It’s a nice image, isn’t it?

About N. Neelley Hicks

A social innovator in communication strategies & technologies for global development, Neelley is the founder of Harper Hill Global. Check out her game-changing work:
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4 Responses to Passages

  1. Mary says:

    I think your Mom throwing Twinkie popcorn in Heaven IS a beautiful union of those who’ve gone before you -waiting until it’s your time to join them. To me, as Christians, we are blessed in knowing where we will all be again, for eternity! Love you Nancy! You are a beautiful person, inside and out!!

  2. Neelley, I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my two old companions last year, and I know just how you feel. I love the image of your sweet mom sharing popcorn with a young, spry, healthy pup! I am sending love. Beverly

  3. David says:

    So sorry to hear about Twinkie! She sure shared a lot of experiences with you guys. I’m sure Mom is enjoying her company now!

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