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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Losing my Furbabies

It’s been about nine years since Ché died. Not Ché Guevarra. I’m talking about the overweight, short-tailed-from-birth, spayed female Labrador mix that was part of our family for some thirteen years. At the time she was the oldest of four pets.

Our second dog, Pirate, was about five years old; we don’t know exactly, since she was a rescue and already grown when she came to us. The youngest were our his-and-hers sibling cats: a huge ginger male and his delicate little sister, a calico with such clear and vivid spots that a friend declared we had painted her.  As the oldest and largest of the four, Ché ruled the roost.

She was as affectionate as a dog could be. She never snarled at anyone—not even the grandbabies who crawled over her and chewed her ears. That is she never snarled at anyone unless they tried to come between her and her food bowl. For the last years of her life, she limped, the result of a traffic accident when she should not have been in the road but was there anyway.

She loved to rub her long body on whatever was available to scratch (fences, furniture, the rough outside walls of our home) and she loved having her head rubbed. The whole family knew the Ché routine that meant, “Rub my head! Rub my head!”

On a Friday evening after work, my hubby and I packed our overnight bags and prepared to hit the road. We only planned to be gone overnight, so we filled the food and water bowls for all four pets. As a last step, I took dog cookies out to the two girls in the backyard.

Pirate, as always, snatched hers from my hand and ran to hide. Ché, usually the chow hound, didn’t come. In fact, she seemed not to hear me although I stood less than eight feet away. I yelled louder and her ears popped up. Laboriously she moved over to me and happily took the cookie. Then she lay down on her special blanket and that’s where I left her.

That is also where my husband found her, long gone and cold, when we returned the next afternoon. The sun was just down with night coming on fast. The next scene looked like something out of a Chevy Chase movie as the two of us dug a grave in our sideyard, holding flashlights in our mouths while we labored—and sobbed—in the pouring rain.

Two years ago, also in spring, we lost Pirate to old age and hard living. Now our two geriatric cats—thirteen this summer—are the only furbabies we have left. After Ché’s passing, we realized the day would come when we’d want to be free to travel and it would be easier without the four-legs. Now Kola and Koi, though still spry and feisty, are beginning to show the effects of aging. It can only be a matter of time, and not too much of it, before we lose them too. There's no question our lives will be easier—but we will miss the affection and the unconditional love.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't hang out with her seven children and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at or find her @SusanAylworth, at, or on Pinterest. 

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