Twenty pounds of curly grizzled silver fur. She had the soulful eyes of a a monkey and in fact Monkey along with Pippo was one of her many sweet nicknames. She was just twenty pounds and yet she ran the place. She was the alpha among Bernese Mountain Dogs and Goofy Terriers, teenager boys and moms and dads who could always use a hand managing the brood.
Pippi came to us during Hannah’s senior year in high school. She came as a healer. And then she left the same way. Hannah had a little sadness her senior year in high school. She yearned for love and along came Pippi to fill the job. Getting your heartsick daughter a puppy is an age old mommy trick. Getting your high school senior, who will soon be leaving for college, a puppy means you are adding another dog to your family no matter what you actually tell yourself.
Pippi was Hannah’s and she was ours and we are all grieving for that little joyful independent spirit who has been telling us all what to do all these years.
I used to imagine Pippi showing up with her briefcase and threatening to turn in her resignation. When Eli broke the TV screen flipping pennies she actually curled her lip. When we got Oscar she rolled her eyes. Then she got right down to the hard work of training him. She never shirked her duty no matter how we tested her patience. Just the week before she died John emailed me and Hannah the following…
I was in the driveway redirecting the water flow away from our steps when both Gabby and Molly came over. Oscar, Vi and Olive started barking and jumping like crazy at the mud room door. I opened the door and looked down at Pippi who said, “Lemme out there,” in a sighing sort of way. She walked around Gabby and Molly silently. All the dogs stopped barking. I let her back in. Laura’s dogs went home, Pippi strolled past our dogs and said, “Idiots.”
Without a sound she’d corralled the visiting Westies, Gabby and Molly, Benjamin’s Italian Spinone, Olive, our Berner, Violet, and Oscar, our Wheaten. That little girl packed a punch.
She also had a sneaky side which was in direct proportion to how much she loved to snack. While the builders were unendingly building our neighbor’s house, as the months turned into years, our Pippi was in heaven. The building started just as she hit middle age and her waist had begun to spread. We’d added a new low fat kibble to her diet. She was decidedly unamused. Happily the builders weren’t in on the diet plan. She’d sneak out with a plaintive look that mimed needing a break from the pack. Then she’d walk over to the building site every morning and smile her coy little smile at all those worker dudes. They, as it turned out, were completely smitten. Pippi learned all about doughnuts and pizza that year. We just thought she was having a private morning toilette behind the tree line, only somehow she gained about three pounds. Her people didn’t know what was happening. We thought perhaps the new dog food must have a misleading label. No one believed we weren’t slipping her cheese. Hannah would come home from college and wag her finger at us. And then one day John secretly watched her as she went behind the treeline and then a few minutes later when she came marching along Kent Hill and down our long lane with something hanging out of her mouth. She waited while he opened the door and marched inside triumphantly carrying her pizza crust. And the mystery was solved.
Pippi lived in Hannah’s arms til she was about six months old. Her feet barely touched the ground and she went with her everywhere. Then as she grew up she spent long evenings in John’s arms during the worst of the Peltier’s years. In recent years she slept curled between us like a warm little loaf of bread. I haven’t been able to get really warm since she left.
A couple of weeks ago we had a medical crisis and within about twelve hours John and I were en route to Tuft’s great Veterinary hospital when she died in our arms. Hannah was on another highway coming fast from Manhattan. We were singing the Oh Pippi song and murmuring our love and then we all cried together across the miles. By the next morning Hannah was home with us gently petting Pippi’s soft ears one last time while Oscar stood elegant guard at rapt attention.
It took me awhile to be able to tell this. We are still telling our Best of Pippi stories every day.
Pippi you left us better than you found us. But this was way too soon sweetie.
We love you Pippi. We will always be grateful to have had the time….