I want to tell you that she was a good dog, as obituaries generally require us to speak well of the dead, but she was not, by most objective measures, a good dog. She paid attention to our words and wishes only when she wanted to, she was never reliably housebroken (not because she didn’t understand or couldn’t comply with the expectations, but because she really preferred, like the humans in her pack, to go inside), and she was notorious for getting her longtime companion, Rocky, all worked up over nothing. She was a fan of the grudge poop (middle of the hallway, where it couldn’t be missed), and she had no fucks to give about things we might have felt important that she did not.
Which just goes to show that you don’t have to be good to be loved–because love her we did, unconditionally and deeply. Sometimes we loved her more because she wasn’t “good,” and she had us laughing even as we scolded her (such as the time we caught her on the kitchen table, licking butter from the butter dish). She was funny, and strong-willed, and sassy. She did what she wanted. Lucky for us, one of the things she wanted all the time was to be as close to one of her humans as physically possible.
Aside from being with us, her favorite things were eating and taking a nap in a patch of sun. We could all learn a thing or two about living a happy life from her. (Take the nap. Eat with gusto. Love what you love without reservation.)
As a young dog, she loved playing at the river and doing whatever her three kids wanted her to do, even if it involved wearing dress-up clothes. In recent years, she was happiest having a good nap with or on one of her humans.
These last few years, when I looked at her and remembered how she once was–back when she had teeth, and fur on her ears, and a plump belly–I thought often of a passage from The Velveteen Rabbit:
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
If Daisy was nothing else, she was Real: a small bundle of a being full of desire and need, which gave her a full range of qualities: loving, needy, generous, petty, delightful, naughty, interesting, infuriating, fun. One of the great gifts of Daisy was the way she showed us that being real is more important than being good. That we can be loved not in spite of our foibles and flaws, but because of them. I like to think that in loving Daisy, we we all became a little better at loving each other and ourselves.
She is, and will long be, missed.