Her Name was Spree

Her name was Spree.  Even hearing her name now, years later, I smile.  Spree.  She was old already when I first saw her…well, older than I was.  She was a whippet.  Her fur was short and white with two patches of graying brown fur dotted with black spots, one over her left eye and the other down her back.  I struggle to find the words to describe what Spree was to me.  I find myself calling her a companion even though I know she was more than that.

I was six-years-old when I met Spree.  She belonged to my grandpa, Bob, and his wife, Dawn.  The first time my family went over to their house, my parents explained to my brothers and me that our grandparents were ‘dog people.’  This was all very strange to me, as we had never owned a dog and the closest that I had come to having pets had been a rabbit that my dad accidentally left in its cage outside during the winter and had died.

We walked into the door of their basement and I was confronted for the first time in my life by, well, dogs.  The tan walls were covered in pictures and paintings of dogs: Dobermans, whippets, and shih tzus.  And there she was.  Spree.  Curled up on a faded blue couch.  She jumped off the couch and landed lightly on her feet.

I held out a shaking hand, she sniffed it for a moment, then pushed her long snout under my fingers.  I felt the tip of her nose, like wet sandpaper, scratching under my palm.  My fingers gently touched her smooth fur.  Her fur radiated warmth as I traced the hard bone underneath, up to her skull and around the back of her ears.  She pressed her head against my hand and looked at me, her eyes so big that I couldn’t see the whites, so dark that they could almost have been black.  The entire time we were at my grandpa’s house, Spree walked alongside me, her fur never far from the touch of my fingers.

One of my most frequent memories of Spree is while I was sitting on the couch, watching the TV, Spree lying next to me, her head on my leg.  I was what my parents would frequently call a ‘couch potato’ when I was younger.  Watching TV shows was my favorite pastime.  Whenever I was over at my grandparent’s house, Spree and I would sit on the couch together for hours.  Sometimes, as she was curled up beside me I would lie down and rest my head on her stomach.  When I slept over she would use her nose to lift up the covers and slip underneath.  I would fall asleep with her nestled against the back of my legs.

I must confess at this point to a fact which frustrates me to no end.  I do not have any more happy memories of Spree.  I know that for the next two years I would play with her, watch TV with her, read with her, sleep with her, but I cannot recall any specific moment of it.  My last memory Spree was the last time I ever saw her, the week before she died.

She was walking slowly, limping on one of her hind legs.  I could see the pain in her dark eyes.  My grandpa told me that she was sick.  I couldn’t understand it.  She looked the same as she had that day on the couch four years ago.  Her fur felt just as smooth, the bony ridge of her spine felt just as hard, her ears felt just as soft.  He said that they couldn’t do anything for her.  That they were going to euthanize her so that she wouldn’t be in pain anymore.  He said that they wanted me to understand.  They brought her so that I could see how much pain she was in.  When we went to the table to have dinner, I wasn’t hungry anymore.

My grandpa called me the next week.  Spree was dead.  I hung up the phone and stared at it because I had no idea what else to do.  How was I supposed to react?  I felt a heavy weight in my arms, in my head.  I lay down in my bed and stared at the walls.  They were white, decorated with blue triangles.  I hated that wallpaper.  But I didn’t see it, all I saw was Spree.  I felt the weight spread to my chest.  Spree was dead.

My grandparents have owned many dogs in their lives.  When Spree died I couldn’t understand it.  How could you give so much of yourself to something, when you know that it can’t last?  But I have since come to realize that it does last.  Even though Spree is gone, I still remember her and I still love her.  And through Spree, I discovered a love of animals, especially dogs, that has grown with every passing year.  They can bring you joy on a sad day, give you the motivation to get out and walk around.  And even when they pass on, their memory will last.



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