For me, most days start off the same way. I wake up early and go downstairs to start the coffee and listen to NPR or the previous night’s episode of Rachel Maddow. Of course, I’m not alone. I always have my two four-legged companions, Barton and Emelius, to keep me company. Hardly a day goes by when I tell them (yes, I talk to them) that they’re pretty good dogs, but the last of the good dogs was Eglantine. Of course I don’t really mean that, but Eglantine was special and was there for a part of my life when I needed her the most.

Back in 2005 when I was in undergrad at Mercer, some friends and I went to the Macon Mall because I needed socks. We ended up stopping by the pet store. In a cage behind the glass wall, there was the cutest Pomeranian/Pekingese puppy. Even though she was by far the cutest puppy I’d ever seen, she was also among the saddest. She was the only one of the many dogs there who just couldn’t stop barking and whining. The pet store attendant said that her sister had been sold earlier that day and that she hadn’t stopped whimpering since. We asked to hold her. Having had no previous thoughts of getting a dog, I told the clerk I’d take her. I put down a deposit so I could get some puppy supplies and prepare my apartment for the new arrival. (I lived in an on campus apartment and was not supposed to have a pet.)

We returned the next day and picked her up.  From that day in October and for the next 10 years, I had a best friend. By most accounts, she was a perfect dog. She had the best personality and disposition of any dog I’ve ever seen. The first thing she ever learned was to jump into my messenger bag and lie quietly should any of the apartment staff come in for inspection. Whenever that happened, she’d get in the bag and I’d quietly carry her out and we’d ride around town until the coast was clear. Those were good times. When it came time to move out of the apartment, there was definitely some puppy-related damage. There were stains on the floor for obvious reasons and the face of my desk had been chewed up. However, I rearranged the furniture to hide the stains and had to pay a small fee for the desk. It was all worth it. Eglantine and I had our degree and the world was our oyster.

The next ten years flew by. Eglantine developed into a beautiful, slightly plump, and eternally happy dog. She had an insatiable desire for food. She loved anything I was eating. I know dogs don’t need table food and as time progressed, I stopped giving her everything I was eating. In fact, we found common ground with sweet potatoes since they are good for dogs. We both loved them, so every time I had one, I cooked her one. Sometimes, even when I had something else, I cooked her one for supper.

She and I went on a few trips together. We went to Atlanta once for the weekend. We had a ball – just the two of us in the hotel. Whenever I would leave the room, I would return to find her curled up in my suitcase as if she wanted to make sure that when it was time to leave I didn’t forget her. We also took a trip to Mississippi to see my now estranged sister. It was a fairly decent trip and I was thankful to have the company on the eight-hour car trip.

Toy breeds can develop a unique set of health problems. Fortunately, most of Eglantine’s held off for the first eight years or so. For a while she got a little too heavy and had a problem with her patella. She lost a little weight and was able to walk and play again. She had some allergy problems that affected her feet causing her to constantly chew on them. Nothing seemed to work until a new drug came out and soon that problem was solved as well. Common among toy breeds is also a collapsing trachea. Yes, she had this is well and, for the most part, daily prednisone tablets took care of this. She was happy, even as she aged and suffered minor health problems.

August 12, 2015 was a big day. Eglantine turned 10. I went to Kroger and bought some mini cupcakes and a bag of sweet potatoes. What more could a dog want? We fixed her birthday feast and I was able to get a wonderful picture of her eating an entire cupcake in one giant bite. Shortly after that, something just wasn’t right with Eglantine. Though her disposition never changed, she was having a little trouble breathing. The prednisone was no longer helping her. She was also losing weight. We took her to the vet countless times and she would get fluids, x-rays, and exams. There was nothing wrong that the doctors could tell. Perhaps she was just getting old. I was happy with that, but deep down, I knew something wasn’t right.

Eglantine made it to the annual Blessing of the Animals in celebration of the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Even though she felt bad, she was happy to see the other dogs and visit with the crowd that attended the celebration. That day, someone took a picture of us and it’s the last one I have of her and of us. I laughingly tell my priest, Rev. Kit, that she can’t bless any more of my animals, because the last time she did, Eglantine passed away within a week. Of course I didn’t mean that. Her time was just approaching.

The next week wasn’t an easy one. She quickly deteriorated and ended up spending days at the vet and nights at home with us. She had pneumonia. The last night she was with us, she had her favorite meal. Even though she was very ill, she leapt from the couch to get her sweet potato. That night, we carried her upstairs to the bedroom and she went under the bed and slept directly under me, as she had done for the last ten years. To say the least, the next morning wasn’t easy. She passed away quietly in the night. I wish I could have been there for her, but had no way to know it was coming so soon. It was the end of an era.

Eglantine now has a new home. Her ashes sit in a beautiful oak box on a table on a table in the living room along with her St. Francis collar medallion and the picture of her on her 10th birthday. Eglantine taught me a lot about life. She showed me that it was possible to love unconditionally. She taught me to be happy with the simplicity of life. For Eglantine, the secret of life was a sweet potato and nice spot to take a nap. She taught me to love unconditionally. I hope I loved her as much as she loved me. I think I did. I’m thankful every day for Eglantine, the times we shared, the friendship we had, and for the life lessons she taught me.