Today my family's dog, Deja, passed away. She was a tough old girl, a Shetland Sheepdog who lived 2 years beyond her vet-given expiration date. One could say that she was just super-strong and staved off cancer like a trouper. But we often joked that she just didn't realize she was sick, that she was oblivious that she was supposed to be moving on from this world...some time ago. So she stuck around for quite a while and surprised everyone.
She made it through 15½ years.
My family, we're dog people, and we're the sort who consider our pets as family members. Our dogs get portraits painted of them—by my grandmother, Libby LaSala (you rock, Nana!)—and they each seem to have more photo albums than either my brother or I. We loved our dogs.
We lost Thumper, our previous dog, after only seven years—much too soon. It was a heart-breaking and fast-acting incident. But Deja? She more than doubled Thumper's age, lived out a long and happy doggy life, replete with good table scraps, sprinkler chases, frisbee-throwing runs, an endless stream of mischievous antics, and of course a hand-puppet penguin archenemy. (All dogs need their own nemesis.)
Her full name was Déjà Vu. I think we named her that, in part, because we tried to have another Thumper, and it's no coincidence we chose another Sheltie. What we got was no replacement, just another wonderful dog.
My brother, incidentally, wanted to name her Jabberwocky. Another day, John.
Deja was a howler. Shelties normally aren't. As a newborn pup, she hung out with a litter of Alaskan Malamute (the Siberian Husky lookalike breed), and they taught her their wolfish song. We heard it often: whenever she was lonely and sometimes, it seemed, just for the hell of it. It also became an unwelcome rooster wake-up call set to go off well before any conventional alarm clock. My parents, and many houses guests, can testify. It was sometimes adorable, but usually it was annoying, heard most often in the wee hours of the morning. Now we'll miss it badly.
And fondly remember 16 years of good memories. I was a junior in high school when we got her, just a fuzzy little dog in ball form that stuck to our family like canine Velcro®. Since 1995, I've only seen her when I've seen my parents—on holidays and occasional weekends.
My brother called Deja a positive force in the world. And she absolutely was. She was a furry little piece of the animal kingdom set loose in our civilized world. A tiny piece of the wild, a shard of chaos and levity running amok in our home that kept us sane with her insanity. Most dogs are that way. And Deja's particular brand of sweetness and sassiness made everyone like her. She was friendly with everyone, once she stopped barking at them. She embodied man's best friend.
Sleep well, Deja. We dearly miss you.
And say "hi" to Thumper for us, would you? She's most likely hanging out by the food bowls, eating the other dogs' breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Doggy Elysium.