A bit of fluff
In Boot Hill north of the house, three dogs and a cat are buried. There ought to be two cats, but one escaped interment by running away. Having put up with Radnor, the first Rhodesian ridgeback, and trained him to leave her strictly alone, Ajii believed her work was done. When Rad died, and we added Copper to the family menagerie, the prospect of having to educate and discipline yet another big, red, inquisitive dog, led Ajii to throw up her delicate paws and shimmer elegantly off into the sunset. Ajii was an Abyssinian beauty we got off-Island. She arrived as a kitten by air, with a vast turban-clad retinue. (I'm kidding about the retinue, and of course the turbans.) No bigger than a hairball, she flew at the first dog she saw, shredding my hands with her claws and sending Rad, for it was he, shrieking out of reach, where he stayed till she skipped town. Ajii's daughter, more agreeable about dogs than her mother had been and a devil-may-care practitioner of dog-cat bipartisanship, is the cat among dogs up the hill.
Copper followed Radnor. The dog-friendly cat followed Copper. And Ping, the first pug, followed the cat, who had died of Diesel the mastiff's unrelenting obsession with her. Diesel mourned Ping, his little buddy. He did not mourn the cat, but he wished fervently for a return engagement, if one could be arranged. We mourned all of them and buried each one in the family plot with a simple, private, yet deeply moving, service.
Missing from the family plot, missing from daily life, missing but not absent, is Zee, the tiny, eager, lively, fluffy, companionable female pug who took Ping's place, subjugated Diesel and briefly, as it sadly happened, banished the everyday-ness of everyday life. Zee was about a year and a half when she died. We'd had her about a year. She weighed about 13 pounds, a featherweight compared with Ping's (I'm embarrassed to say) 28. She zipped tirelessly around the house, roo-oo-ooed for her meals, slept under the covers, and alternately curled up in Diesel's lap or wrestled with him until he rolled on his back and said uncle, or the dog word for uncle.
How's this for a bad week? After a weekend of strange, un-Zee-like behavior, on that Monday we knew something was wrong, but the vet could find nothing overt to explain her strange ways. Tuesday morning, she began an hour's worth of seizures that only ended when another vet administered valium. We took her off to a canine neurologist that morning. Medication prevented further seizures. Wednesday, at the end of a MRI procedure, Zee died. But, the week did not end, as by then we wished it would.
Thursday, the day before we were to leave with the third child to fly off to college, we learned she had mono. Friday, we flew with her two-thirds of the way across the country, spent the weekend organizing and setting up the dorm room, and trying to ignite the drooping daughter. Monday, with a blizzard marching up the East Coast, we flew home, which was hell, but that's just airline travel and not really part of this story.
So, the missing one, the one for whom we've held no service nor turned a spade, is Zee, in many ways the standout member of our animal family. If there were a hill in Boot Hill, a spot under a spreading chestnut, instead of flat ground covered with crippled scrub oak and brambles, which is our lot, she would have such a spot. She was that sort of pug.
She died of a rapidly progressive form of encephalitis that is peculiar to, though hardly common among, pug dogs, and particularly females. What there was of her soul-less, fluffy material self has gone off to veterinarian researchers in Texas or California who are trying to unscramble the mystery of the disease. Of course, though it was hardly our wish, we understand that we are left with the best of Zee, who we remember and laugh over every day. Nevertheless, there's a place up the hill where she belongs with the rest of the crowd, and we know it.