“Everyone thinks that they have the best dog, and none of them are wrong.” – W. R. Purche
I chose you, sight unseen, and went to retrieve you over in Busti (?), New York. The breeder had two simultaneous litters, born one day apart, and I could hear the noise from the puppy pen before I even got out of my car. I held out my hands to first hold my beautiful little bundle of joy, wrapped in sable & white; I fell in love with you in an instant.
One of my earliest memories was taking you for a walk, a couple of weeks later at a basketball tournament in Binghamton. Off in the distance you and I both heard the familiar cacophony of puppies barking. I looked at you and saw a faraway puzzled look in your eyes as your tiny ears perked up, hearing the siren call of your litter mates. You had no way of knowing that we were 250 miles from your homestead. We were in a big wooded open field so you were off leash. I could tell from your stance that you were about to make a break for it, and go and find your family again. You started, then looked back at me, then started again, then looked back at me. “Tillie” I said softly. You looked back in the direction of the barking then came bounding full throttle back to me…..I chose you over the internet, but on that day in Binghamton, you chose me.
Neither of us could have known then–when you were that little bundle of energy and mischief—of the endless comfort and companionship you would provide during the tumultuous decade that lay ahead: unemployment; Uncle Bruce’s death; first Anthony, then Samantha, then Olga, and finally JonDavid moving away, until it was just you and me rattling around the empty house. We faced the haunting specter of cancer and open-heart surgery with you faithfully lying by my side during my long recoveries. A move to a new job and a new home. A terrifying pandemic. Whatever the world threw at me, my days always began and ended the same way: snuggling with my faithful furry friend.
I think of the thousands of miles we walked together, where I sorted out my thoughts and we silently bonded over the shared experience of exploration: the greenway trail, the ocean beach in Virginia, that one single day when we hiked 27 miles in Letchworth Park. Sometimes we walked with Snickers, sometimes with Troy, sometimes with Sally & Gunner, but usually just the two of us, up our favorite path — Dugway Road in Fillmore, watching the changing cycle of the four seasons.
Tim & Tillie, Tillie & Tim…at the end of the day, at the end of the trail, there was always the two of us. But the years passed too quickly for us and this past Saturday night, you were gone, and I was left alone; nothing feels right in my world anymore. The big house in Alfred feels impossibly empty without you and every room bears reminders of you. There were still trails and treats and adventures for us; we have barely even explored Alfred; please come back, we weren’t done yet. Eleven years wasn’t nearly enough. Yes, there will be other dogs, but no others will have lived in both houses; will have lived with and known the kids; will know Fillmore; and will have known me as anything but an old man.
My cousin says you are waiting for me at my heavenly mansion. Jan says you are playing on God’s lawn with Toby, Tasha, Taylor, and Tessie. Will Rogers said, “If there are no dogs in heaven, then I want to go where they went.” I am not sure what to believe, sweet Tillie, but I have to believe that you and I will be together again in the world that is to come, otherwise I will never make it through this one alone. I love you forever, my precious girl.