Rural Living

Dreading the Coming Absence of a

Long-Time Faithful Friend


by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

 Margo Oxendine

With time a cherished companion grows ever-more dear,

Even as her inevitable departure grows ever-more near. 

Well, Happy New Year to us all.  I certainly hope to have a happy year — who doesn’t? But I fear this might be the year I’ve been dreading.

Brownie and I are getting old. The troublesome thing is, dogs only have about one-fifth of our human life spans. And Brownie might be 15. It’s difficult to tell, since her “provenance” is murky, to say the least.

We — Brownie’s Dr. Ellen and Auntie Anne — are a little fuzzy on Brownie’s history. Apparently, she began life in Rockbridge County. She had a companion, Molly. Molly is either Brownie’s sister or her daughter.

Brownie and Molly liked to travel. Nothing much could keep them on their home turf, and their keeper decided to give them away. We don’t like him, but we’re grateful.

Brownie ended up with Anna Johnson. And Molly ended up with Auntie Anne’s mother, Connie. Occasionally, Brownie and Molly find themselves at Dr. Ellen’s. They are part-time employees — keeping an eye on the office, and greeting other doggies who might be fearful of a visit to the vet. Visitors are greeted with a wagging tail, and a nudge of the nose that, in dog verbiage, means “It’s OK; you’ll be fine!”

I latched onto Brownie when dear Anna became too confused to live at home with Brownie and Anna’s 40-some cats. Anna went to the nursing home, and Brownie and the cats were shipped to the pound. When Dr. Ellen found out Brownie was imprisoned, she brought her to live at the vet’s office.

I’d been looking for a little dog just like Brownie; fate and fortune brought us together, where we’ve lived happily since 2006.

Lately, Brownie and I have become what I call “Two Old Groany Girls.” Every morning, we wake up and groan and moan about our aches and pains. We’re both stiff-legged and hobbling when we get out of our beds. Brownie is now too old to leap up and share my bed. This is good, really, because Brownie liked to sleep sideways, her full length spread across the bed, in the middle, leaving me scrunched up in a corner. I do miss being awakened with a gentle lick to the face, though.

Brownie was never properly housebroken. She probably lived outside at her Rockbridge “home,” and then dear Anna, well, she had more animals than she needed. Thus, Brownie got in the habit of going where and when she had to go. I tried my best to break her of this habit, but was never completely successful. Most of the time, she lets me know when she wants to go out. But nowadays, there is usually a piddle puddle lurking on the kitchen floor when I stumble in there on a dark morning. Or a piddle puddle on one of the carpets. I really wish I had stock in the Resolve company; Lord knows, I buy enough of it.

Also, Brownie has begun tapping on the side of the bed at an unseemly hour — say 4 a.m. — to go outside. I stumble to the door, let her out, and then must wait for her to knock on the door when she’s finished. It’s unsettling. But it beats yet another piddle puddle on the floor.

Sometimes, she demands to go outside yet, when she gets on the porch, looks around as if to say, “Why am I out here?” I have to gently nudge her down the porch stairs, calling “Go piddle,” repeatedly. Most times, she gets the hint.

She’s also going deaf, I think. Or simply ignoring me. And her eyes are getting cloudy. She has lost about a third of her body weight, and at least a third of her teeth. Since we moved from dry food to canned, though, she is eating well. Dr. Ellen says Brownie has congestive heart failure. This makes me sick, too. Brownie carefully eats around the heart pills I have hidden in her dish, and places them on the floor. She’s nobody’s fool.

I’ve stopped getting upset about the puddles. And the state of my carpets. They are what they are and, when Brownie is gone, I will invest in re-carpeting the house. Turns out, there are very nice hardwood floors underneath; maybe I can show them off one day. But I dread that day. New carpets and polished floors will be no consolation, when my darling little companion is gone.

To order Margo Oxendine’s A Party of One, email, or call 540-468-2147 Monday-Thursday from 9-5.



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