Stuart and Eli were babies together. We used to call them our little scruffy littermates. Stuart, or Grandpa Stu as we have been calling him in recent years, was our fifteen-year-old Cairn Terrier. He was the last of the animals who lived with us in our very first home in Edwardsville. He made the trek to St Louis with us for our city life and now spent these last seven years with us in the mountains of Vermont. What a wonderful life we all had together.
Let me tell you the story of how we got him.
Hannah and I were at the mall picking up her new glasses. This was fifteen years ago so she would have been six years old at the time. We hung out in the pet store while we waited for the glasses. Their UPS delivery was late so we had an hour or so. We saw this adorable little Cairn Terrier sitting in his food dish looking rather forlorn. She wanted him. So did I. But of course we only ever used reputable breeders. Who knew where this little guy had come from? I explained about breeders and pet stores and she wondered then why we had gone in. Well yes indeed why had we?
Eventually we made our way out of the mall and the conversation about responsible pet breeding continued. As did our recollections of that funny little reddish puppy in his food dish. Hannah uncharacteristically let it go. But I could not get that puppy out of my mind. For days I kept mentioning him to John. He assured me that we’d done the right thing of course and if we wanted another dog we should do some research, choose a breed and well you know, the regular drill.
Then two weeks later I had the dream. I dreamt our house was on fire and that little dog from the pet store had run around through the house barking and waking all of us up. He saved our lives.
Well that was that. I was supposed to have that little dog.
I told John who reminded me that two weeks had passed. I called the store. Yep. They still had him.
So after John got off work that day we headed for the mall. They had a little room where you could take your potential pup and play a bit and get to know one another.
Let me tell you this little recently and too long caged terrier was wild. He was nipping and darting and jumping. I could barely hold him in my arms. Johns said, in that deadpan way he always has of summing everything up, “honey I don’t think this is a love connection.’
But you know…….there had been the dream.
And so soon we were off with a wild puppy, a book on Cairn Terriers and a leash. The leash was completely useless. This guy was wild.
But he was funny too and so for the next few months we chased him as he darted out every open door. He and Eli, both scruffy wild little boys played endlessly. I have a book we made with pictures of the two of them. And then Eli started barking and STuart started talking. It was like they were learning a language together. Stuart “talked” to us his whole life. When one of us would come home we would get the Stuart style greeting which included a quiet rolling series of ruh ruh ruhs. It was not barking, although he did plenty of that too. It could only be described as a dog speaking. We were delighted.
Stuart went through the biting years when every repairman in our city house had to jerk his pants leg out of Stu’s mouth. The city, and our house renovations, made him nervous. Then we got Eloise, the calm lady who steadied him. He taught her to bark and then he took a vacation from his vigilantism against the repairmen/would-be terrorists. In fact in our next life he met Rick, the VT contractor who became one of his favorite friends.
Stuart spent his early years here in Vermont climbing endless mountains with John, the two of them leading our pack, John, Benjamin, Hannah, Eli, me Zoe the cat, Eloise who meandered at a more elegant pace, and eventually Pippi who waited daintily while Stu cleared the way. Stu ran ahead scouting out danger. He was brave and loyal and always needed work. Protecting us and later especially the chickens was his job. He would scout the perimeter, watch the chickens and bark at the foxes and raccoons who dared not come when Stu was on the job. He was the terrier with heart.
Our house never did catch fire and yet there was the obvious metaphor when the Peltier’s business disaster happened. We were failing miserably and publicly in a small town where we were everyone’s cocktail party chatter. It was hard to face. But every day Stu and John would head out into the woods. Eloise and I would come along sometimes and what I saw slowly seeped through.
You see Stu had an accident right after we moved here. He’d had eleven broken bones. It took an orthopedic vet flown in from NY to put him back together. There were pins and metal rods and a recuperation that required a crate and a sling we lifted him into when he walked that held up his hindquarters. But in just a few weeks he was back on that mountain. It was like a miracle sure enough. He had a goofy gait after the accident but he never stopped. He led our family on our annual long walks every Thanksgiving teaching Zoe the cat by his example how to stay with the pack. This was the little dog that could. He never gave up. He was my teacher when things got hard. So in a way I guess he had pulled me right out of a fire after all.
Stuart was our friend. And in these last couple of years when blindness came he faced that with the same aplomb that he had everything else. He adjusted and created his own path out the door and around our smallholding. He still came out and mingled at parties. He met Oscar and even dodged and faked a few plays with him in the living room seemingly giving him and us his blessing.
Yesterday he let him share his bed for an afternoon nap.
Stu we sure are glad we got to have all this time. We all loved you very much. We will miss you.