This is a confession: I do not have a reputation for being the greatest animal lover in the world.
And the funny thing about that is the fact I do actually like animals just fine.
When my wife and I first got married we had quite a few dogs and cats, but as soon as we started having children I didn’t really want to deal with the daily routine it takes to care for the animals, so little-by-little we saw the number diminish as they got older.
Since then I seemed to get this label as the guy who didn’t really love animals. It’s really not true, but I’ve kind of laughed along with it anyway. The fact is, I do like animals and I especially got to like a dog named Molly, who took up residency with us off-and-on during the past eight years when her owner—my daughter Vicky—came to stay with us.
Molly is a Blue Healer, an Australian Cattle Dog that is obedient, protective, loyal and brave. She was all of that and more to Vicky and Vicky loved her more than almost anything in the world.
Vicky has a lot of my mother in her—the animal lover in the family.
My mother, Pat Chiri, founded the Animal Assistance League of Slidell and was honored at the new Slidell Animal Shelter several years ago when they named their new cat room after her.
My mom used to have up to a dozen cats at her house, and usually a dog or two as well. She is a dedicated animal lover. Much of her life has been spent taking care of animals and helping them have the best life possible.
Even as a single woman of short stature I can remember her working as a news reporter at the Slidell paper and hearing about some mistreated dog at someone’s house, usually coming in as a news tip. She didn’t care if someone pulled a shotgun on her she would march right up to the home and let the owner know, “you better take care of that dog and not leave it in the heat all day!”
Vicky was also born with a love for animals. Especially horses. She fell in love with horses as a pre-teen and as much as she loves the horses she has worked with (she has never owned her own horse) there has never been a love affair as great as Molly and Vicky.
Almost 10 years ago Vicky rescued a little dog from a neighbor who lived behind her in Hammond when she was at college. The owner left the dog in the backyard chained up all day so Vicky started feeding the little fellow, then finally went over and asked if she could have the dog. The owner seemed relieved and gave Vicky the dog, which Vicky promptly found a good home for since she wasn’t supposed to have dogs in her rental home.
Missing the companionship of a dog, she eventually went to the local animal shelter and looked for a Blue Heeler, a dog she always loved seeing pictures of. There in the last stall was Molly, quiet as can be as all the other dogs barked away. It was love at first sight and from that day forward I have never seen a dog love its owner so much.
Molly refused to sleep in any room without Vicky. She refused to let Vicky go outside without trying to follow. She rode in the car with Vicky almost everywhere she went. Whenever Vicky left Molly with us for a few days to go out of town Molly would wait each morning with the hope Vicky would be home soon. The dog truly understood who her best friend was and you could tell how much she missed her when she was gone.
As happy as Molly was with Vicky, I think Vicky was even happier with Molly. Even though Vicky would try to be tough with her at times, especially when they were around horses, we knew that the friendship and love ran deep. And truth be told, Vicky saved Molly’s life that day in the shelter, and provided Molly with a life of luxury.
As for me—even acting like Molly was “OK” to me—no one but Molly and I knew how much I sneaked her snacks late at night, or always gave her some of my steak. I even bought bone-in steaks on purpose so I could have a nice bone with meat on it for the girl. Molly was so smart that the teeniest sound of the microwave with me in the kitchen, or the crackle of a potato chip bag, sent that dog sitting next to me with her smiling face.
Molly was three years old when Vicky got her. Now, almost nine years later, Molly was aging and we saw it with a tumor that had to be removed, weight that was gained, and then in the past year, more trips to the vet since we knew “something was wrong.”
This week we all felt a pain in our hearts when Molly went to the vet again and we were told her liver and kidneys were failing. The vet tried to save her, but it was to no avail. When I took Vicky to see her the next morning we were given the bad news and my poor Vicky was inconsolable. I don’t remember ever seeing my daughter in so much pain.
For now nothing but time can make things better for Vicky. Her best friend is gone and she needs her. But I can’t believe that dogs won’t be waiting for us in heaven. Dogs have a spirit about them that shows emotion to their owners. They communicate love—and Vicky gave that to Molly, and got it in return.
I told Vicky that Molly is hanging out with Grandpa, and Grandpa Alberto now and I am sure they are happy for the company. I know Vicky will remember all the good times with Molly and know that they both were the best thing that could have ever happened to each other.
Kevin Chiri can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.