We saved our Golden Retriever from certain death months after C&Ts’ first birthday and weeks before Jay’s 6th. As Jay’s early surprise, our new reddish retriever was named by the soon-to-be birthday girl. Jay chose “Alice,” despite several suggestions that seemed better suited for a dog. I took years to realize what Jay already knew: that “Alice” aptly conjures images of a kind-hearted, gentle woman with endless patience. Our Alice is a soul like Nanny in Disney’s Peter Pan.
While we can’t be sure, we think that Alice is 14 years old. C&T spend a lot of time trying to calculate her estimated dog years as hypothetical human years. “She’s 98!” They claim. “Older than even Grandma was. . . .” C&T have no memory of life without Alice greeting them at the door, following them from room to room during rain storms, and sighing heavily when she plops down on the floor nearest the family. Jay has only a smattering of memories of life without Alice but a lifetime of memories with Alice. Jay remembers the Alice we brought home who, in her post-abused state, would not move from the blanket in the kitchen and ate only off of the floor. Jay remembers hearing Alice express new-found confidence, barking for the first time after one year with us.
My memories are littered with images of our big, smelly dog. I remember Alice standing in our backyard with a dozen baby quail running under her for comfort and shelter; she looked at the baby birds with confused patience then looked at us, questioning, but not moving, lest she hurt the babies. I see Alice charging out of the house and running enthusiastically for precisely one mile of every run, then my own irritation as I dragged her back home. And I recall Alice snuggling up against and resting her paw on our other canine rescue, April, as April lay dying.
Whatever her specific age, Alice’s years show. She is grey, arthritic, and saddled with lymphoma. Alice is so uncomfortable that begging for her survival would be cruel. She has already survived one miracle: when we came home from vacationing in Colorado this summer, Alice was on death’s doorstep. Within hours of our return she had improved and within days of loving care, she had returned nearly to her former state.
After her post-Colorado recovery, I jokingly told the kids that we should rename Alice, “Lazarus.” I was glad for the miracle but know that we will not witness another. Not in Alice. Our rescuing Alice twelve years ago was temporary, as temporary as our reviving her only months ago. She won’t always leave her hair stuck to the bottoms of our kitchen stools, or lap up her water as if on cue every time I step outside, or stink up a room after a special treat. All of that will end. But we will remember Alice as our sensitive fifty-pound want-to-be lap dog and as such, Alice will live forever.