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Rosie burrowed into my neck and stole my heart

“I want that little dog.”

It was a simple, declarative statement on a frosty Valentine’s Day. My husband looked at me, understood the tone as well as the words, and simply nodded.

Would we accept Rosie, a tiny old dog of questionable background, into our pack of two? Or was it a pack of 10? We already had seven pygmy goats and one very large Maremma livestock guardian dog.

Rosie would not come without problems. She was underweight, a mere slip of a thing at five pounds. Her heart murmur was significant. She would be on heart meds the rest of her life, with no guarantee as to how long that might be. Who knew how many homes this senior citizen had occupied before arriving at the veterinary hospital?

At the wise counsel of the vet, we slept on our decision. Rosie would need consistent care. Meds twice a day, frequent trips outside to relieve herself. In return, Rosie held the promise of companionship and deep devotion. I had experienced this with family pets that had entered and exited my life. But they had been just that: family pets. Rosie would be different. She would be my dog, the love of my life.

The next day, Rosie sealed the deal. At the vet’s office, she was placed in my lap. She wiggled to my shoulder, burrowed into my neck, and laid her head down as if to say, “take me.” For several weeks, Rosie and I did the dance. She ate, slept and kept me company. I, in turn, made sure she took her medications and understood household limits. Into her crate at night, out in the morning, a gradual routine taking shape. While it was love at first sight between Rosie and me, nothing prepared me for the firm hold this tiny creature would place upon my heart.

As the seasons changed, so did Rosie. Her tiny frame boasted three more pounds. “She has hips!” the vet exclaimed. Indeed, Rosie walked with a wiggle, head held high, seemingly saying, “look at me!” Her coat was thick and lush, her deep brown eyes wide and trusting. She graduated from her crate to our bed, a warm loaf between us.

That year gave way to another. Preparations for a trip to Ohio sent me and Rosie scurrying around town, despite the onset of a nagging canine cough. By that evening, Rosie’s cough had turned into an extended gasp for air. Scooping her up in a warm blanket, we headed off to the emergency vet. The vigil began. Ohio and relatives would have to wait.

At midnight the call came. One last time, Rosie had wiggled her way from a lap to a shoulder as she was lifted by the vet out of her incubator. She gave a tired little sigh as the big heart in her diminutive body stopped beating.

Rosie is buried on our hill alongside goats Vinny and Milly. Daffodils will bloom when milder weather returns to our valley. Perhaps the hole in my heart will be filled with another Valentine dog.

Jeannine Bertrand lives in Ashland.

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