The Paregien Journal — Issue 325 — Feb. 16, 2016
Stan Paregien, Editor
A Pet’s Death
Many years ago, in the dawn of the television era, I went through my regular nightly ritual. I watched the “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. That night one of his guests was one of my favorite actors, cowboy or other wise, the tall and lanky stammerer, James (“Jimmy”) Stewart. They spend a few minutes chatting Hollywood style. Then Johnny turned serious and said, “Jimmy, we know you’re a pretty darned good poet because you’ve shared your poems with us before. But I understand you’re going to read a new one for us that has special meaning for you.” And Mr. Stewart said, “That’s right. My wife and I had the companionship of our dog for many years before it recently died. So this poem is about that old friend.” By the time Mr. Stewart finished reading his poem, he was in tears and so was Johnny Carson and the whole audience, and no doubt thousand of viewers in their homes.
[NOTE: I have included that full poem at the end of this blog entry.]
Such is the bond between a good person and a wonderful dog.
Peggy and I certainly have had our share of wonderful dogs over the years of our married life. We bought Penny, a registered Rat Terrier puppy, early in 2000 when she was just a few weeks old. That was just outside of Edmond, Oklahoma. Over the 16 years of her life (103 years in comparative human life), she became a loved and cherished companion to Peggy and to me. Let’s be clear, though, Penny was unabashedly partial to Peggy.
That spunky, playful Rat Terrier won a place in our hearts right from the beginning when she was about the size of my hand. She was a natural hunter, often catching slow birds and small rabbits in our back yard. And she was a skilled “personal warning system,” alerting us to anyone or anything which invaded her space. She never met another dog, no matter how large, that she didn’t think she could beat in a dog fight.
For example, one fine day Peggy and I were strolling down Broadway Avenue in Edmond. We had Penny on a leash. As we started by a high-dollar antique store, Penny went into an aggressive attack mode to defend us against a perceived aggressor. She went into a barking frenzy as she strained at the leash to get at the offender. The “aggressor” in this case was . . . a 3-foot high stone statue of a lion. We got quite a laugh out of that.
Penny was very much a “lap dog.” She loved snuggling up in our laps and beside us on our recliner, and she was never in a hurry to get down. Sometimes Penny would sleep on our bed with us and she always wanted under the covers. That was because, being a short-haired dog, she was easily chilled.
In 2012, when we decided to investigate possibly moving to Florida, we made several trips down there. Mark and Joy Lombardi kindly allowed us to stay in his mom’s “seasonal home” in a mobile home community in Largo while we looked for a home. We searched from Largo all the way down to Venice for places which would allow us to bring our two dogs with us.
At one place there in Largo, we found a nice home in a 55+ mobile home community. We were looking around one day and stopped to ask a man, who was walking his dog, how he liked living there. He said he really liked it but also mentioned they had a one-dog per household policy. So we went to see the sales manager and told him our situation, that we had two dogs. He smiled and said, “Well, if they look alike, you could just walk them outside one at a time.” Obviously, the guy really wanted to make a sale. But we didn’t want to start off bending any rules, so we kept looking.
Then we found a very nice 55+ manufactured home community in Bradenton. We were assured by the sales person that there would be no problem for us to have two dogs there. “Lots of people have two dogs here,” she smiled. So we moved forward with plans to live there. About half-way through the deal, we were told in firm, no-bending-of-the-rules language that some people had two dogs because they were “grandfathered in” before the rule change. Now each new household could have only one dog, weighing no more than 20 pounds.
Yikes. That put us in a real dilemma. After weighing all options, including re-starting a search for a home, I made the case for starting our new life–with lots of travel in our plans–without the concern for a dog. So we finally decided to bite the bullet. We asked our daughter in Snook, Texas if she would be willing to take both Penny and Laddie (our stunningly beautiful miniature Sheltie). And she kindly agreed to do so, even though they already had three dogs of their own. But they do have a large house with a very large back yard. The deed was done a few weeks before we moved to Florida in June of 2013.
Penny had several more good years with the Magness family. But the last couple of years were struggles for her. Her vision was starting to fail and her hearing was going, too. And she had arthritis in her joints. She moved like an old lady in just getting around, but she moved like a whirlwind when she chased after a squirrel or after one of the other dogs.
Stacy told us about how loving and caring and protective that Laddie was regarding the senior citizen Penny. When all the dogs were fed and went out the door to play, Laddie would linger behind and escort Penny out to the yard. And he seemed to sympathize with her when she found it hard to walk.
Then Penny–at the relatively old age of 16–developed a reoccuring cancer. She began to stumle and fall, and lost her bladder control. We certainly agreed with Stacy’s reluctant assessment that the time had come to give dear Penny a deserved release from her great pain and suffering. Stacy took her to a local veternarian at 4:00 pm this afternon (Texas time). Penny is gone but will never be forgotten by those of our family and friends who were loved by her and who loved her so very much.
She was a blessing to us beyond any words we can say.
That is Stan in front, with the red tie. Peggy is just behind Penny. 2002 in Red Rock Canyon near Hinton, Oklahoma.
Peggy with Penny at Edmond, Okla., in 2007 [by Stan Paregien]
Our granddaughter, Jodi Paregien Barrow, and her son Dominic with Penny at Edmond, Okla., in 2007. [by Stan Paregien]
Peggy Paregien with our little reindeer, Penny, at Christmas in 2008. Edmond, Okla.
Our granddaughter, Jodi Paregien Barrow, gently stroked Penny into a completely relaxed position. 2009. Edmond, Okla.
“Gabby” was a beautiful little cowdog given to us by friends. However, she turned out to be much too energetic for us to handle. So after our friends took her back, Peggy discovered our next love–a rescued dog up for adoption at our Petsmart store in Edmond. Laddie was definitely a “keeper,” too.
A female pirate (Penny). Edmond, Ok. Halloween, 2011 – by Stan Paregien Sr
Christmas – 2012
Like her mother, our daughter Stacy Evelyn Paregien Magness has always had a kind and gentle heart, both for animals and for people having hard times. So she loved on and fed and cared for Penny, as well as Laddie, for nearly three years. We are so glad that, though we could not be there at the end of Penny’s life, Stacy could be. And so the last face Penny saw was the face of one who loved her as much as we did.
Well, as promised, I have inserted below a copy of Jimmy Stewart’s simple but emotionally charged poem about his dog, Beau.
Flash on Feb. 17: Hey, I just found a video/movie clip of Jimmy Stewart reading his poem (above) in 1981. Stop whatever your plans are . . . and take about three minutes to listen to dear ol’ Jimmy read that poem in his unmistakable style. You’ll be glad you did.
Here it is: