Whenever I think of my first dog, a little dachshund named Shy (because she was such a shy girl), I think of my father. My parents had picked her from a litter and given her to me. I was three and very innocent. (You'll see how gullible in a minute.) They placed the small ball of fur in my arms, and she licked me mercilessly. I loved her instantly. We slept in the same bed and shared many wet nose kisses.
My father trained race horses, and my curious little critter loved to visit the stables, walking in and out of the horse stalls. No one was sure what happened. Maybe she sniffed around a horse's hooves too much and incurred its wrath. To him, she was probably no more than a pesky mosquito. At any rate, the horse kicked her. She was severely injured. My father raced her to the veterinarian, but she died along the way. My parents never told me this. My mother didn't know how she'd tell me. My father said he wouldn't break my heart.
. . . Instead, they devised an elaborate tale. She was recuperating at the veterinarian's office. Please remember that I was three, not simply stupid. She'd eventually come home, my parents assured me. What I didn't know was that my father was searching for a dog that looked like mine. He journeyed from one end of New Orleans to another, disappointed with each visit and telling my mother, "They're not like our Shy." He eventually drove to Baton Rouge and found a dog, somewhat younger, that looked like my lost pup. My mother told me that my dog would be smaller because she'd lost weight. Like most three year olds, I believed my parents.
I slept with the new pup that night, never thinking she was a different dog. (She licked me just as much as my first precious angel.) Only years later did I realize the ruse my parents had devised, but by then, my daddy was gone. I never had the opportunity to thank him for his love and his sacrifice.
I can't look at pictures of me with my dachshund without thinking of him. Lately, my father's image has flashed before me. Was I patient enough after he'd suffered a stroke and heart attack? He'd given so much to protect me.
I love you, Daddy. I miss you.