She started her life with us as Waffles, an 8-week-old in the shelter, Ry’s new puppy. A little black mini Australian shepherd-beagle-pug with white and brown legs (cinnamon and sugar paws), a white tipped tail, a charming milk-dipped chin and big brown eyes with the bugginess of a pug and the intensity of a herding dog. She was very sick with kennel cough. I had just had abdominal surgery, and little baby Sugarpaw and I lay in bed healing together for long weeks, quiet and companionable. When she was up and about, however, it all changed, and I swore I’d never, ever have another puppy again. The chewing and destruction of things and needle sharp play-teeth was more than any of us had reckoned on. We called her Suicide Pup, for the nectarine pit she swallowed (vet visit), the staple she swallowed (discovered at the same visit), the wild mushrooms she ate (home vomit remedy), and the time she jumped out of the car window on a busy road, which probably still gives the driver who was behind us bad dreams. She tried to get Bob the cat to claw her eye out, by shoving her face into him, and instead got a nasty little infected claw puncture just below the eye from which I disgustingly, horrifyingly pulled a large … well, lets just say something was living in there. That should freak out my mother enough.
But puppies grow up into dogs, thank god, and Paw was a one of a kind dog. She was beautifully sleek. Her odd eyes coupled with almost-underbite teeth and a tongue that would often just peep out from the end of her shortish muzzle made it hard to believe there was such cuteness in the world. She was very loyal and a great guard dog. Despite her 30-pound size, she could act intimidating when strangers came knocking, which comforted me when I was on my own in the house. She was an anxious dog, probably owing to her breed, but was able to have some happy years thanks to a great vet with a knowledge of medication. She loved her adoptive brother Jake and they enjoyed great bouts of ferocious-sounding play fighting, then would lick each other affectionately, tails wagging. She adored Ry and me and Mo, and many people who came to visit got the Total Adoring Love-Eyes Treatment. She loved to have her belly rubbed. She loved a spot of sun. Her favorite pastime was catching Frisbee, and she was amazing at it. She was strong, fast and athletic, and would have been a great agility dog. She enjoyed catching snowballs in the winter and tennis balls the rest of the year. She swam only once, and it was because she was desperate to fetch a stick from the current. She was a great digger. When I was in the garden I’d bring her out under the honeysuckle, and she just about dug that tree out of the ground. She had a project in the front yard that turned out to be a trench. When she dug, she made these little groaning, mumbling, whining sounds, like a Tonton from Star Wars. Her nickname was often Tonton. She made me laugh.
That was Sugarpaw. The vet, observing her after her death, believed she probably had a brain tumor that caused the extreme heightening of anxiety and aggression that occurred at the end of her life. She’s buried now beside Bob and Sunny, and various pet rodents of Ry’s, behind our house, in the shade of a pine. I hope the Frisbees fly free where you are, sweet Paw. Our Good Dog.