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Written by Vicki Hinze

On December 21, 2007

Two years ago today, my beloved sidekick, Alex, died. It was a year before I could think about her without tearing up, and nearly another before I could speak of her without choking up.

We both worked at home and she was my constant companion for fourteen years. Her tags still remain on my personal altar; I see them and I remember all of her endearing and adorable qualities. The thousand things she did that made me smile–and shake my head. Experts say dogs have limited vocabulary and understanding. Extremely intuitive and sensitive, Alex understood more than many people–even spelling.

My darling husband would say, “I’m going to take Alex for a walk.” She’d get so hyper, eager to go, that he started spelling (versus saying) “walk.” If he was a letter off, she’d ignore him. If he spelled “walk” correctly, she’d get hyper, eager. So he started spelling “walk” backward. Again, a letter off, she’d totally ignore him. But if it was spelled correctly, forward or backward, she went into high gear.

She loved Milk Bone “cookies.” And when she wanted one, she’d lift her paw–her standard “please.” If that worked, great. If not, and she really wanted a cookie, she’d go get a sock–always dirty, always white–bring it to me and put it in my lap. That worked every time. Her no-fail get me a cookie method. (An FYI for anyone contemplating coercion. Spare yourself. This ONLY worked for Alex.)

Once, early on–she was about 2 or 3, I sat at the computer writing and she went outside then came back in and dumped a dead frog in my lap. No cookie, but I wigged out on her. She never brought me a frog again, though I’m sure she considered it a high form of compliment and me a dense twit for not understanding that. Then is when she started with the socks.

She loved to ride in the car–and at 110 pounds always, always wore her seat belt. We’d get odd looks, but hey, safety first. And she loved to eat ice. So much so, she earned the nickname, “Slush Gut.”

Once, during a hurricane, after the storm passed and we were out of the safe room, where we’d spent five long hours, she went to the fridge and tapped the ice-maker (her equivalent of having a much needed drink after a harrowing experience (tornado ripped across our front yard). She expected ice. She’d always gotten ice when tapping the ice-maker. But we had no power and no ice fell. That time, she kind of wigged out on me. I’ll never forget her, “What is up with this?” expression. Hilarious. And of course we gave her ice from the ice-chest.

Many, many wonderful memories…

Today definitely would have been a difficult day. Memories, even great ones, really crowd a body on anniversaries, especially because the body stares them in the face knowing there will be no more new memories made.

But as fate would have it, instead I’ve had two very good days–little miracles, actually–and they’ve balanced my emotional scale in ways I can’t begin to explain. My granddaughters have been with me. We’ve played games, played dress up, complete with jewelry and headgear and handbags (and it seems the gaudier the better–which deserves an article on gift-giving all of its own). We’ve created art, giggled ourselves into side-stitches making silly-face photos, built and demolished block designs, baked, had a bubble blowing contest (eldest angel won) and we did some computer artwork and lots of other “fun” stuff. It’s been a very full, very active two days–and I’ve loved every second of every minute of it.

The eldest angel remembers Alex and we talked about her today. With laughter and fond memories and twinges of missing her plucking at our hearts. But something significant was absent. That overwhelming sense of sadness and the heretofore inevitable tears. Gone, but love remained.

The girls were supposed to be with me to receive care. Instead, bless them, through their blunt and honest dialogue, their laughter and contentment at just being, they gave it. And I am grateful. Now, on future anniversaries, I’ll remember the gift I received on this one from them and Alex’s loss, which won’t be so stark because never again will it be standing alone. Memories of today will stand with it.

And a universal awareness emerges. Time doesn’t heal. Sometimes it does help. A little distance, a little life crowding now empty space that someone beloved once filled. But my angels’ gift was humanity personified. And I experienced its power firsthand. So time can’t heal. But humanity can dull the edges of grief, stand with it and make its burdens bearable.

A few days ago, I posted on faith my belief in holiday magic. Today that faith proved well placed.

Laughter and Alex… experienced together again… magical… thanks to two little miracles.




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