Friday Flashback – Pax

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When I was young, my first pet was a hamster. I named him Super Ben and even made him a little cape to wear. Sadly, he died in the first month of owning him (nothing I did, I swear). Turns out that replacing a dead pet on the very same day that it died is a great way to alleviate a child’s grief! Thanks to Mom, I quickly recovered from the loss and named the new hamster Super Ben 2. He lived a long and full life.

We then bred guinea pigs for a few years. There were some valuable life lessons learned in that venture. Hermie, the dad, was a randy little rodent and kept his poor spouse, Rosie, in an almost constant state of pregnancy. No matter how we separated them, he managed to get his claws on her and, if he couldn’t get to her, he preyed own his own daughters.

Yup… Major life lesson number one was that phone call from the pet store owner informing us that one of the baby girls we had sold him was pregnant.

Major life lesson number two was coming home after school to find the runt of the litter dead, having been trampled by his siblings during a feeding frenzy.

The pet that my sister and I really wanted was a dog but our parents said no. We thought they were terribly mean but they knew what they were doing. They both worked and we were too young to look after and train a puppy. We continued to beg and plead over the years and, once we were both in Junior High school and coming home by ourselves at the end of the day, they relented. But there were some conditions…

Dad insisted that it be a boy (he was tired of being the only male in the house) and Mom claimed naming rights.

We found an ad in the paper. Just outside the city, there was a family giving away puppies. My sister and I could barely sit in our seats during the drive out, but the excitement fizzled as we pulled up to the address given in the paper. I have a memory of old cars and scrawny dogs everywhere. There was even a dirt floor inside the house. It was like we had driven onto the set of Deliverance. A blind kid on the porch playing a banjo would not have seemed out-of-place. No word of a lie.

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My dad had done some research on picking out a good puppy. Each in turn, he flipped the males onto their backs while holding them down with a hand on their belly. Only one furry bundle didn’t struggle. This docile little he-pup would be our dog. He was a Beagle/Black Lab mix and was the cutest thing we had ever seen.

Before we left, my dad tried to give the family some money for the puppy. As much as it looked like they needed it, they refused. In later years, we often thought about this family… and then we reminded our dog to be grateful for his life of privilege.

Remember how my mom had claimed naming rights? Well, she named him Pax which is Latin for peace. It also happens to be the name of one of the Jolie-Pitt kids, but Mom was way ahead of her time on that one. (We though it was hilarious that Angie gave her son a dog’s name!)

Pax was an amazing dog. He was gentle, playful and loved all of us beyond measure. Dad’s puppy picking method worked. Pax was easily trained and readily obeyed the boundaries of the house. He was not allowed upstairs in the bedrooms (except when Mom and Dad were away… shhhh) and he would never set foot in the formal living room area, knowing that it was strictly off-limits. He even refused to cross the threshold to open his Christmas stocking.

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The Beagle/Lab mix was quirky combo. We couldn’t walk him off a leash because his Beagle nose would catch a scent and he would be gone. Periodically he would even slip out of his collar from the backyard run and we wouldn’t see him for the rest of the day. He had a Yellow Lab girlfriend named Fred and the two of them would often escape to roam the subdivision together. He would stroll home around 3am, give one bark to be let in and sleep off his adventures the whole next day.

The Beagle/Lab mix also caused some confusion around the water. His Beagle side made him loathe to jump in, but the Lab couldn’t stand to see us go out on the water without him. He loved to canoe, but his favourite water-sport was windsurfing. He would ride on the back and, when the board tipped up, he would hook his paws over the side to hang on. I would often fall off before he did. If one of us took a board out and left him ashore, he would bark himself into a frenzy until he finally worked up the courage to jump into the lake and swim out to us.

Pax was with us for sixteen years until a quickly spreading cancer necessitated us putting him to sleep. The decision was made while I was home in between my travels for work and my final farewell to him at the airport was heart-wrenching. I said goodbye knowing that Dad was taking him to the vet the next day and I cried for the entire trip from Halifax to Atlanta. After he was gone, I called my sister, who was living in Ottawa, and we cried long-distance with each other for hours.

This was our last picture together.

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They boys have recently started asking for a dog. Like my parents, we are saying no. The Husband and I work long hours and we aren’t home from morning to evening. I have told the boys that they will need to be older and more responsible before we can welcome a dog into the family.

Don’t worry boys… it will be worth the wait.

Have you ever had to say goodbye to a furry family member?

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19 responses to “Friday Flashback – Pax

  1. Pingback: Then and now | Escaping Elegance

  2. Such a sweet sorry. We had a cat that died in the exact same way when he was 10 (I was 13). He was a beautiful cat – he looked just like a real life version of Garfield – ginger coloured and overweight! He was called Duke πŸ™‚

  3. Oh. That was heartbreaking and beautiful. Like life. πŸ™‚ What a good mommy, your little ones are lucky. As will be your new dog someday when the time is right.

  4. I took one look at that adorable face and I knew Pax was probably the sweetest dog ever. What a face. I want a doggie!

    As you probably know, I grew up in an animal-loving household. At one time or another we had dogs, cats, guinea pigs, a hamster, goldfish inside and koi outside, turtles, frogs, canaries, a budgie and a parrot. My mother’s name is Joan and the neighbourhood called my house “Joan’s Jungle”.
    With all those animals, we faced death almost daily, but we never did develop good coping mechanisms. My brother took the family dog to Newfoundland to live with him because he was lonely and, while over there, the dog, a German Schnauzer named Fritz (go figure), died. It was winter, and my brother couldn’t bear to just leave him with the vet; he wanted to bury him the backyard of our family home in NS. So he took Fritz, put him in his buddy’s freezer and froze him. In the summer, when he was coming home to NS for a visit, my brother got a cooler (thanks goodness Fritz wasn’t a Bernese Mountain Dog) and put him on ice and drove home with him in the trunk of his car. Fritz was laid to rest in our family home backyard (which, incidentally, is someone else’s backyard now). RIP Fritz II.

    And while I’m at it, RIP Fritz I, Ellie May, Boomer, Oscar the Oscar, Mork, Kitty Darlene, Lenny & George. Perky, Pickle, Romeo, Hammy, Puss I and II, Sheena, Fellini and Killer.

    • Holy crap you’ve been through a lot of pets! Did the people who bought the old family home get a Stephen King-esque Pet Cemetery in the the deal? I love the story about your brother. Only a good Newfie would let a “buddy” keep a dog corpse in his freezer!

      And I’m in definite pet withdrawal… that’s why I’m always so willing to do cat feeding duty!

  5. I had sooo many pets introduce me to the concept of death as a child! Hamsters, bunnies, guinea pigs, turtles, kittens, puppies, etc…. We were never allowed to have an indoor dog so, naturally, I got a puppy when I was living on my own in college. That was the most difficult semester of my life– I constantly reminded my dog that if I hadn’t spent an (absurd) $1000 on her I would probably kill her. She’s a Rhodesian Ridgeback and unbelievably stubborn. But now she’s 5 and I love her πŸ™‚

    I don’t blame you for telling your kids no– you have to have time to train and discipline a puppy if you want to end up with a good dog. I can’t imagine volunteering for that whole experience any time soon!

    • I would definitely have a dog if I didn’t have kids. As it is now, I think I have a finite amount of nurturing in me. I have managed to keep the kids alive but all of my plants, even the cacti, have died from lack of water. And I LOVE Rhodesian Ridgebacks. I am a big dog kind of gal… no purse puppies for me!

  6. How do these children have such a way of getting us to give into the idea of pets? Children and pets just go well together I guess:) Great story!

    • Thanks TIA. For a long time my line to the kids was, “We’re not getting a pet who poops until I’m done taking care of your poop!” They’ve finally mastered that so now I need a new party line. πŸ™‚

  7. Anyone who cries over a dead dog is okay in my book. My black lab passed away a couple of years ago and I was suddenly overcome with a salty discharge from my eyes when I carried her into the vet. Now my yellow lab is 12 and so I’ll probably do it again here within a few years. Pax was a good pup! We’re dummies. We got a free puppy earlier this year and it’s nuts. You’re wise to put the boys off.

    • Thanks Don. Logically, I know it is wise to put off getting a dog but my heart aches for one something fierce! The boys don’t know it because I put up a tough front but, every time they ask, my heart strings get plucked and my knees weaken…

  8. I remember meeting Pax. You were both very lucky to have each other. You had a picture of him windsurfing that you brought to class once πŸ™‚

    I had a cat like that – Brewster. I still miss him today. However, he’s had a couple of successors, who we also love very deeply. It’s amazing what they bring to our lives.

  9. So true. When the timing comes together it will be great. Love your story πŸ™‚

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