Ingrid was the boss of the house, the boss of the toys, the boss of the boys, but never, ever, the boss of me. She was my princess and in her last year, everything she requested was hers without question. If I was busy on the computer and she wanted to push her head under my elbow to demand some petting, I stopped typing. When we came in from outside at night, she sat facing the fridge, looking at the top of it like a star gazer, waiting for me to take down the jar of treats and reward her for nothing more than coming back into the house. I dread taking my shower this morning, because she was the bathroom girl and i always wobbled getting out of the shower in an effort to avoid stepping on her. But the bed -- that was the throne from which she ruled. I bought her a leather ottoman last year to help her climb into it which she did immediately without any prompting or instruction. She slept on the lower right quadrant of the queen size bed but sometimes inched her way up next to me which displaced the anxious, pacing, desperate Luinigh, who was afraid to get back into the bed because she'd rise up like a dragon and snap at him to ward him off. She didn't dislike him. She just loved her role as queen and liked to wield nocturnal power. Then again, she would assert herself diurnally, too. I would find his tennis balls in her crate. She took them just because she could. And again, he would whine and pace back and forth until I took them from her to quiet him down. He never thought to bring a toy into the yard but Ingrid would not leave the house without one, much like a lady who doesn't leave home without her purse. Sometimes she would reach the patio door and suddenIy stop -- I could see her thinking, "Wait. Let me get my purse" just before she turned around, found a ball, and carried it outside, where she waved it at Luinigh without any intention of releasing it to him. Last night the bed was empty even though Chester was there and Luinigh slept in it for a while; it was as if a Divine outline had been drawn in the space she kept for so many years, almost eerie. Neither dog would roll into that space or walk through that spot en route to a more comfortable position. I thought the big L would revel in the extra footage he was allotted but no, he spent most of the night on the floor in the exact spot onto which Ingrid fell during that violent seizure, the last place she occupied in "her" bedroom. Her house, her bedroom, her kitchen, her yard, her couch, her special chair A house full of animals now bears an emptiness too familiar, too eager to return. That's how Ingrid came to me. When my soulmate IWS Seamus died unexpectedly, a black hole usurped his space for months despite the fact that my schnauzer and Frenchie were there.. Four months after his death, in April nearly 14 years ago, I brought her home from Georgia. The moment she entered, the hole was erased, the grief instantly transmuted to a what I thought was irrevocable light. But yesterday it returned. Grief is sneakly like that, stubborn and persistent. It invites me to took elsewhere, where the joy can eclipse the darkness: the eager girl who loved travel and couldn't wait to jump and claim hotel beds as hers, the painfully shy girl who did not like the show ring and after three failed attempts was relieved to be just another homegirl, the air-snapper who objected to other Irish Water Spaniels getting my attention, the paw, that adamant and surprisingly forceful paw hooking my arm and pulling it to her, the cancer survivor who almost didn't make it but who romped in the yard just days after so huge an ordeal, the bashful girl who hid from every guest and cowered when strangers approached her in my house, the nurse who sensed my father's cancer and relinquished her shyness to sit alongside him with her her paw in his lap, comforting him, the water dog who didn't much like the water or at least pretended she didn't, that silly protruding tooth smile she invented for photos, not the first four footed love I lost, not the last, but the most faithful, compassionate, intelligent, loyal, trustworthy, humanoid and loving friend I've known. I missed her in the first second she stopped breathing.
I suppose my mother had something to do with me loving animals. From the time I was five, she was bringing home creatures small enough to go undetected in our Brooklyn apartment: turtles, tortoises, and a half-moon parrot with whom I bonded so deeply that the memories of having to give him up (I had severe allergies) still fly at me like unwelcome shards of glass. I remember crying in the back seat of the car, my father double-parked with the engine running while my mother returned the bird to the pet shop. When she came back outside, she was holding a large tortoise, waving it at us, a permission seeking gesture for my father, who banged his hand on the steering wheel and yelled, "Goddamn it, Rhoda!" But we won. The tortoise came home with us. The parrot story goes deeper than simple loss of an amusing companion (which is never simple, anyway). At the time, I was five and silently enduring molestation at the hands of my paternal grandfather. I won't delve into the psych