When I was 12 years old, my family finally got a dog: a toy poodle named Tilly. When she arrived, she wasn’t even 4 lbs of bright apricot colored hair, and we were so thrilled. Considering my sister is allergic to fur, we never thought we would have a dog – but there she was! She immediately became attached to everyone in the family, but especially my parents, who, at the time, were the responsible ones in the home and able to teach us the kind of care that Tilly needed.
Tilly slept in their bed every night, with occasional trips throughout the house to check in on everyone else. I always knew when she was peeking into my room to make sure I was there, and alive. It was a rare, but very special, moment when she would come all the way and hop into bed with me for half an hour or so, only to move on to my brother and sister.
One of the best memories with her any of us will ever recount is teaching her to sit. Tilly wasn’t even 1 year old yet, and we put her on the dining room table (children: do NOT try this at home), and we all took seats around the table. Tilly was so ecstatic: everyone was focused on her. She ran back and forth among everyone like a ping pong ball. We let her calm down a bit, and everyone would take turns saying, “Tilly, sit.” I think it was a bit much for her, because she didn’t really get it that day, even though she did get it eventually. But I also think it was a bit much for my brother, who when taking his final turn at trying to teach her screamed, “Tilly, shit!” Thankfully, she didn’t obey that command either, and the rest of us fell to the floor laughing.
As we three kids moved on to college, and our own lives and dogs, Tilly remained with my parents, living the high life. They spoiled her rotten, feeding almost exclusively human food, letting have total run of the house at all times, bringing her on road trips and with them pretty much everywhere.
Last week, just a few months before her 17th birthday, Tilly passed away. Heartbreak cannot quite suffice to describe the emotions we feel about losing Tilly. She was my first dog, my brother’s first dog, probably my sister’s only dog, and to my parents, she was truly another child. We will miss her terribly, and simultaneously cherish the memories we made with her. And we will hold our current dogs so much more tightly, recognizing their worth in our lives and honoring Tilly by loving them.
We love you, Tilly.