When I was fifteen we packed into our family station wagon and drove several hours east across the state line. We were in search of an old woman who bred little dogs on a little farm. We returned home with a little black and brown puppy with a flopped-over ear that my sister named Tintin during the return trip.
He was talkative and affectionate and always wanted to be up higher, climbing on top of his kennel like Snoopy. He grew into a handsome, intelligent, thick-headed, neurotic, and loyal dog. In his youth he became an ace vermin killer taking down a rat, three squirrels, and countless birds before retiring. But he never lost his edge; last year he successfully defended our family from a raccoon that intruded into the yard.
I will remember the way he would sit in the middle of a noisy room of people and start talking along with everyone else. I will remember the way he would fetch toys only so he could wrestle you for them. How once on Christmas his present from Santa only survived a couple of hours before he had pulled all its stuffing out through a small tear in its stitching, so that he could break the squeaker. I will remember watching him brilliantly stalk a squirrel in our yard, using the shadowed wood chips as camouflage. Or the countless times he patiently let Aubrey put doll clothes on him.
I remember coming home from school one day and my Mom said “your dumb dog caught a squirrel!” I turned and excitedly asked Tintin “what did you do?” He leapt in the air and then darted outside. I followed him out and watched as he dove into a bush, wagging his whole body. He emerged with his fresh kill in his jaws and danced across the yard to lay it at my feet. I’ve never seen another living soul exude so much pride.
I will remember him climbing into the back window of my car to get a better view. I will remember him launching out of the van when we got to the beach, only to come back a few seconds later, caked in the wet sand that the cold Washington weather was blowing around. I will remember the way he would bump my leg every stride as I walked down the hall. I will remember him standing next to me with his paw on top of my foot, as though he was trying to say “It’s ok, I got you.”
I will remember watching him sneak into my room at night to bury a treat in a pile of laundry. I will remember him coming in my room every morning. I will remember him twitching and baying in his sleep as he dreamed.
What I will remember most about him is the way he waited in the window for us. The way he hopped in the air when we came home. No matter what happened, I could count on Tintin being happy to see me. When I came home after being away at college for several months he looked at me for a moment like he’d given me up for dead, then ran across the room to give me the best greeting I’ve ever received.
I cried that day because his love was so strong. I cried this day because that love will live on only in memory. It’s tough to lose someone you’ve known for half your life. It’s hard being sad because you’ve lost the one you turned to for comfort whenever you were sad. When Steve Irwin’s dog Sui died, he said “you only have a few best friends in this world”. Today I have one best friend fewer and he isn’t here to make it better.