Nearly twelve years ago, back when I was finishing up my associate’s degree at Sawyer, my fiance Kim and I happened to be visiting the mall. We always liked to stop in at the pet store and talk about the kind of dog we wanted to have after we were married.
On this particular summer day, a little white ball of fur caught our eye. He was absolutely adorable. Though we had never done it before, we asked a pet store worker to bring the pooch out so we could see him.
He was eight weeks old, and he didn’t have a name yet. He took to us immediately, and we bought him on the spot (for quite a sum, too – he was a purebred maltese).
It took us a few days to name the little guy. I kind of liked the name Sisko (in honor of a character on a TV show I happened to like) but it really didn’t quite fit. But after a few days of playing with the little fella, we noticed that instead of running, he tended to bounce everywhere. So we decided to name him Tigger.
Tigger had a big “brother” named Cody. Cody was my mom’s Shih-Tzu and was a few olders. He didn’t particular care for Tigger at first, but the two became friends. I think their friendship was sealed the day the massive dog across the street ran after Cody. Cody took off running, but Tigger jumped between them with his little mouth yapping like crazy. After that, Cody didn’t seem to mind Tigger being around him so much.
A few years later, after my mom had moved out and my dad started staying with us, he bought a dog named, ironically, Pooh. Much like Cody had been annoyed with Tigger at first, Tigger was quite annoyed with Pooh. Pooh, sadly, was already very old when we got her and passed away after just a few years.
It’s funny, isn’t it, how we grow so attached to these little critters. We project aspects of our personalities onto them, imagine sometimes like they can see and hear and respond to us in almost human terms. And oh, I was attached to Tigger. Before Kim and I got married, Tigger lived with me. I paper trained him and housebroke him. I made him a little playpen in my room for those nights I had to study. Despite the frustrating howling at bed time every night for the first few weeks, Tigger and I became good buddies.
There’s nothing quite like the love of a pet. They don’t judge you. They’re loyal, and always there when you’re sad. They are an anchor in a life that can sometimes be chaotic and uncertain. Which is why, I think, when they grow old and die, it hits us almost as surely as if it were a human member of the family.
We had a few scares with Tigger this past summer. He choked on his food at one point (twice, actually) but we revived him and he was fine. Then a few months later, he started coughing a lot and we found he was going into congestive heart failure. The doc gave us pills to help fight it, and he had a wonderful fall and winter with us… opening his Christmas presents, playing in the snow, snuggling with his hairless, human brothers and sister (and parents) and being loved.
So while it deeply, deeply pains me to bid my little furry counterpart farewell today, I take comfort in twelve years of loyal friendship, movie nights snuggled between us on the couch, walks in the park, and trying to push his way into my spot on the bed. Tigger was the very first dog I ever owned. My very first step into adulthood. My very first real slice of responsibility. It almost seems surreal to swing my foot as I sit in my chair and not have him rub his back against it. Or look over at the couch and not see him in his spot. The presence of his absence is echoing loudly in our home today, almost deafening. But soon, that will fade, and we will be left with a dog’s lifetime of special memories of happy days when our lives were made richer by a little white ball of fluff named Tigger.
I’ll never forget you, little buddy. Our time was short, but it was happy, and it meant the world to me. Rest in peace, Tigger Maley. You’ll live forever in our hearts.