As a little girl, I hated dogs.
One of my earliest memories was of being chased around my front yard by a neighbor’s Great Dane who used to roam the streets. Looking back, I’m sure the dog just wanted to play, but from a three-year-old’s perspective he was terrifying. My grandfather used to keep a wooden baseball bat on the front porch to chase him away.
And so, for the first 12 years of my life, my family shared a home with a beautiful but anti-social white cat named Edel Weiss and I stayed away from dogs.
Then, a few years after Edel Weiss died, my parents met a border terrier at a friend’s dinner party. They were so impressed with how smart, friendly and adorable the dog was, they decided to get their own. So one day in February we drove to Virginia to pick up our new puppy.
Her AKC name was Bendywood Sleigh Belle, but we called her Belle. She was like a lot of dogs — she loved chasing squirrels, eating and playing. But she was unique as well. She was stubborn and never learned to fetch because she thought it was much more fun to train us to chase her. She learned words just by listening to us. LeCoco, Cindy, dinner, go, Grandma’s — she understood what they all meant. And she adored my father. He was the only one who was allowed to hold her on her back like a baby, rub her chin and talk baby talk to her.
Belle was such a good dog that my parents decided to get a second border terrier, a friendly but ditzy girl named Maggie. The two terriers became friends and as Belle aged and lost her hearing and then her sight, Maggie became her nursemaid.
Last week, Belle died at the ripe old doggie age of 15. I still can’t quite believe it and I’m not looking forward to visiting my parents this weekend and not seeing her there. Maggie wanders the house at night now, looking for Belle. And my dad’s voice choked up when I asked him how he was faring.
Belle left behind a family of people who loved her. But more than that, she was my first dog and the reason I love dogs today. Belle paved the way for me to say yes when my fiance proposed getting a Hungarian viszla puppy this year. Rugby is a smart, funny and loving puppy who wouldn’t be in my life today if not for Belle.
I miss her, but she left me better off. She was a good dog.