Our Lady of Saint Aidan’s

She was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs.

“How did you get here? You don’t walk!” I expected to find her in the dark closet where she likes to sleep.

She grinned, as she has for sixteen years. My duty is to delight you. Because she’s lost so much weight she looks disarmingly like she did as a puppy with huge ears and oversized nose. I gather her up in a towel and take her out into the pouring rain. I wait, standing over her with an umbrella. But she can’t go. She can’t even stand although I try to balance her upright.

I gather her back up and we nestle together in the warm living room. She focuses her energy in looking up at me with utter adoration. Can I do anything for you, dear one? “Yes, Lady, just try to be comfortable. Let me serve you for a change.”

She and her litter mates were named for vacuum cleaners. Eureka, Orrick, Kirby and Hoover, because corgi pups look like little dust balls. The boys were tri-colored, but Lady inherited her father’s stocky body and red and white fur. She loved hiding in small narrow places.

I brought her home on Christmas eve with a red ribbon around her neck. Because they were engrossed in the Dune stories, the children named her Lady Jessica of Caladan for Frank Herbert’s Bene Gesseret witch. We trained her by the Monks of New Skete dog raising books. I wished I’d had those books as a guide for raising children!  Intelligent working dogs live to please, and Lady strove to learn anything required of her. Already maternal, if anyone cried or even felt sad, she’d offer her nipples.

The following year a strangling depression hit my brain and Lady rose into her vocation – herding her family. Although disabled by the disease, I still had to get the children to school and myself to work. Lady got me out of bed and led me downstairs. It’s time to start breakfast, now let’s go upstairs and wake Grace, now go downstairs make sack lunches and finish breakfast and wake Patrick and now wake Grace again, now wash and brush your teeth, come on, you can do it, and the car keys are right here… During the times I was too sick to move, she draped herself over me on the couch. She offered me her nipples.

Bill and I married the year after that. Bill didn’t know what to make of such a small earnest dog. And he wasn’t sure about her sleeping in our room. So when we heard Bill coming to bed I’d whisper, “Under the bed, Lady!” and quickly, obediently, she’d hide for the night in the enclosed dark space she loved. But soon, Bill discovered Lady’s gifts. She didn’t bound and ramble through the woods like a big dog, but nevertheless she kept up with him on hikes, strategizing her ascents over and around obstacles. She won his admiration and became his dog. And for years she bound her loyalty to him, and remained merely obedient to me.

I believe those long hikes made her the muscled, powerful, long-lived dog she became. Until a few days ago she still ran from St. Aidan’s to St. Cuthbert’s several times a day sometimes jumping off all fours with excitement, part fox part rabbit, as she used to when she still chased deer through the hay fields. When we moved to the sisters’ farm we felt she’d earned retirement and didn’t try to teach her to herd, say, the ducks or chickens. She was content to herd us.

Just now, she heard Bill stir upstairs. She got up on her front haunches waiting patiently but fully alert, expectant. He came down the stairs and came into the living room and greeted her. When he left the room she somehow hoisted up her back legs, balanced herself, and walked across the living room to follow him into the kitchen.

Postscript.
 Tuesday

My daughter, Grace, came up from Manhattan and spent the night on the floor nestled with Lady. I came down at six in the morning, and Lady was already sitting up waiting for me. I carried her outside and then brought her back to lie down with Grace. At seven o’clock, while Grace rubbed her tummy gently, Lady died.

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9 Responses to “Our Lady of Saint Aidan’s”

  1. Laurel Massé Says:

    A smart working dog is Martha and Mary combined. I am sorry for your loss.
    Blessings,
    Laurel

  2. Dale Irwin Says:

    So sorry, but what beautiful memories she gave you. I still miss my Hana. “Lady Hana of Cranberry Street” The joy of everyone who knew her.

  3. Su Murdock Says:

    I am so sorry for the loss of such a faithful and loving member of the family. It sounds like you will all miss her. Be good to yourself…
    Blessings,
    Su

  4. Kathy Says:

    Suzanne, your touching sentiments about your dear, sweet Lady are written so beautifully. Every moment I spent with her brought smiles and wonderful memories. During my visits with you at Cornell, Lady accompanied Bill and me on long hikes on campus.. She never wore a leash, and amidst the constant activities and traffic, she was perfectly behaved, eagerly following every request. Matter of fact, I believe it was during one of those visits that I made the photo of Lady shown on your blog. I remember being so delighted to discover that she could smile.
    When Lady received a gift, especially a squeaky one, her excitement and joy in opening it was a gift to the giver.
    Lady was dedicated, loyal and tirelessly devoted to you and Bill. She was surrounded by love until her final breath. She’ll always live on, nestled in a cozy place in our hearts.
    Hope you can feel my hug.
    Love,
    Kathy

  5. Joan Stone Says:

    Oh precious sorrow! What a blessing to have shared life with this beautiful dog! love, j

  6. Mike Farley Says:

    Dear Lady, she still lives in these lovely words. It brings tears to my eyes, though, remembering my own beautiful Mable (yes, that’s how she was spelled) who died three years ago this Easter. For more than 16 years she and I were inseparable… Dogs. Their love is whole in a way we rarely know, and they communicate it much better than we do, most times.

  7. Patricia Brooke Says:

    Suzanne, what a lovely story of Lady’s love and companionship to you and others. It made me weep–I too understand the unconditional love of God’s creatures-a grey tabbie cat years ago would lick my tears as I went through a divorce–today a blue heeler herds us and loves us as only he can.

  8. Mary and Paul Says:

    We are saddened to learn of Lady’s death. I “met” Lady in ‘Praying the Hours’ when she was a “small Welsh corgi.”

    We give thanks for the joy she brought you two, Grace, other family members, and friends.

    Blessings and peace,
    Mary and Paul

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