November 23, 1998 – January 17, 2014
Pancha, aka Sweet Pea, was born in rural Texas on a farm outside of Houston. She came into my life as an 8 week old puppy. That was 15 years ago this week. I remember seeing her for the first time – rotund like a sausage, adorably fluffy, and with a tongue that just kept licking my chin as I held her in my arms like a baby. This addiction to “giving kisses” would continue throughout her life. My theory now is that she picked me as her new mother because I must have tasted good. Of the 8 puppies in her litter, she alone followed me around as I surveyed the options and just kept licking me every time I held her. And she had the gentlest brown eyes. So I took her home to Austin where I was in law school at the time.
Her biggest love in life was food. Not just good food, but really anything. Pancha was an adventurous eater. Asparagus? Yes. Kale? Yes. Disgusting dead fish on the beach? Definitely yes.
Until nearly her last day, Pancha jumped like this (click to watch) while waiting for her dinner. Fortunately, her nose was also keen and she rarely ate or drank anything that would actually harm her. And she was great at cleaning up a messy kitchen floor. Indeed, a more appropriate name for her would have been Hoover. She delightedly ate cat food whenever we ran out of dog food because someone (ahem, me) had been working late, forgot to buy more, and got home long after the stores closed. In her last year, she developed a strong appreciation for eating snow and ice. It seemed to thrill her that something could start out solid and crunchy and then so quickly turn to liquid in her mouth.
Although not a trained hunter, she was gifted at the hunt. Her arch nemeses, the Squirrel Gangs of Austin, Houston, and Los Angeles, taunted her endlessly. On at least two occasions in her youth she successfully chased and captured members of the Houston gang after they pelted her with pecan husks from the tree in our yard. I know because she proudly presented me with their carcasses. When I scolded her, she looked at me like I was ridiculous for not understanding the threat posed by these evil creatures.
Until she went deaf a few years ago and quit barking, she was always on alert to notify us of other serious threats, such as skateboards, hippies, kids dressed in Halloween costumes, and fireworks.
When I look back over her 15 years, I am impressed by what a good dog she was. Her worst sin as a puppy was to chew on my law textbooks. Perhaps she was trying to tell me then that the law was not my true calling. I credit Mr. Felix the Cat, who was already a five year old criminal mastermind when Pancha came along, with keeping her in line as a pup. And Bacio, who joined the crew three years later, certainly taught Pancha patience with his puppy antics but also brought great joy and fun to our lives with his enthusiasm. Pancha has now joined Felix (1993-2011) and Bacio (2001-2012) in the afterlife, whatever that might be.
Of these three animals who blessed my life for the last 20 years, Pancha was the most emotionally sensitive. She was always ready to give a kiss and rest her soft head in the lap of anyone who was upset or needed a little attention. She was a solid, loving presence. She took little and gave much.
Pancha slipped gracefully into old age. She was beautiful, sweet, and intelligent to the end. Her mobility was already limited by arthritis and hip dysplasia when David and I retired and took off on this adventure, but she seemed to get a second wind (or was it a third or fourth?) from being on the road and visiting new places with new smells and new things to try to eat.
Her continued ability to enjoy life for the last year was also greatly aided by acupuncture and laser treatments from vets in 6 states and 2 Canadian provinces.
In her last few months, we carried her up and down any stairs and into and out of Tigger, earning her the affectionate nickname “the Football.” She grumbled sometimes at the loss of her independence, but I think she also liked being held more. She was a world class cuddler.
When her body started sincerely shutting down over the last week and she was in distress, David and I made the hard decision to put her to sleep. After the kind vet with sad eyes administered the dose, we wrapped her body in her favorite down blanket and I carried her to the crematorium. One last cuddle. One final act of kindness for a dog who gave so much.
Pancha, you are loved.