SARAH VAN CLEF
The day we got her it was cold, the October breeze blew through her thick black and white coat as we snapped a pink collar around her tiny neck. She was the quietest one of the litter. She didn’t jump, she just looked up at us knowing we wanted her. The people who gave her to us said they were sad to see her go, that she was such a sweetie. I know we thought so too. I remember my dad holding her in his hands as we left the house, leaving her mom to take care of the other brothers and sisters in the pack. She was ours, this small little black and white dog was a responsibility and even though my mom wasn’t ready for another animal, she couldn’t say no to her.
Her name was Babe, like the movie. She reminded us of that dog in the movie “Fly,” but we didn’t think Fly was the best name. Her name fit her well, but she had many nicknames. My dad and Babe had a bond, an understanding. When she was little, she ate a scarf that my grandma made my dad when he was little. My dad hit her and I thought my mother was going to divorce him over the dog. We all cried that day – the dog too. But after that, Babe adored my father. It was the understanding that she needed and they were extremely close. Every morning, my dad would lay next to Babe on the floor and pet her before he would go to work. It was something they both looked forward to; it was something that the rest of us didn’t share with them.
Babe was notorious for running away and jumping fences and digging through and around cinderblock to see the world. Like my dad, she was always ready for the adventure. She hunted birds and rodents in the yard. Nothing ever left the back yard alive. When Babe was two years old, she ran away and got pregnant. A few months after we found out she was pregnant, she gave birth to six beautiful puppies three days before my ninth birthday.
According to my mom (I was sleeping) it was the most beautiful experience she had ever witnessed and she had so much respect for her for adapting and knowing exactly what to do. Out of the six puppies, we kept the only white one in the litter. My mom thought he was dead because he was pure white, but then he moved and she had to keep him. His name is Jack and my mom and he are inseparable.
After Babe had the puppies, we decided to get her fixed because we knew she would run away again. After that, she started to age and the black turned grey, which then turned white as time went on.
Babe was always the real dog. At night she would check in each of the bedrooms, just to make sure we were in bed and safe, doing rounds before putting herself to bed. I always remember saying “Night, Baby Girl” before falling asleep as I would hear her toenails on the hardwood floor. I felt comfort knowing that she cared enough to make sure I was in bed.
Babe loved pancakes. Every time my mom would make pancakes, she would save some for the dogs. Babe would only eat hers if there was butter on it, and there had to be a lot of it. Jack required butter and syrup on his pancake. Jack would eat his pancake on the kitchen floor but Babe would go through the doggy door and eat hers outside. She stayed outside a lot. The back yard was her sacred place. She would dig large holes in the back yard so the ground was cool against her skin.
Babe had the softest ears; they were softer than the rest of her fur. I would pet her ears until she would fall asleep. She would lean on my legs and slowly slide to the floor. The day she died we had that same moment. She leaned on my legs looking up at me, knowing she couldn’t take one more seizure – knowing that this would be our last true moment together.
Our house is quiet now. You don’t hear her toenails against the hardwood floor at night. You don’t hear the opening and closing of the doggy door all throughout the day. The safeness of the house is gone and it feels like something is always missing. Jack is starting to understand that his mom is gone even though I know that, in a way, he knew before we all did. He longs for the companionship we all had with her, and I personally don’t blame him.
Babe is in a better place, my mom says, but I know that it will be a tough adjustment to get used to, especially for Jack. I will never feel those soft ears again, and it kills me. She was more than just a dog, she was a part of our core family. We will all miss her and love her forever.