Eight years ago a very dear friend and surrogate grandparent, Mr. Gene, passed away. His sweet wife was admitted to an assisted living facility. Their family had to find a place for the family dog.
She was to be a lap dog who could scare off intruders. Gene and Effie came home to a mess one day. Someone broke in and ransacked the place. So their daughter found a Lhasa Apso and named her Princess.
Any of the friends who routinely stopped to visit Gene and Effie were surprised they had a dog and how she came to run the house. We wondered how they all survived as Gene and Effie got older and more frail. He would yell at her a dozen times in a visit, but she was still their girl.
Gene and Effie spoiled Jarred and me as kids. God truly brought them into our lives. Our dad was junior pastor at Olive Street Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. We had relationships with several dear families in that church, but this was a special couple. They came to Jarred's Little League games, watched us when our parents were away, and gave us gifts. They always had ice cream sandwiches and Coke for us to snack on. She would even make us lemon ice box pies. They loved us and we loved them.
When my dad learned Princess needed a home he let their daughter, Jane, know we would take her. At the time we weren't sure how that might work out. I was single, living in east Texas near my parents. We didn't have indoor pets growing up and we didn't know how this would work out, but I remembered the love Gene and Effie showed us and pledged to do the same for Princess as long as she lived.
Princess and I spent a lot of time outside our Texas apartment. She was ever curious, wandering around at a slow pace sniffing everything. If she found something stinky she would roll around in it. She ran after squirrels with a cute hop that showed them she was boss. She made me push my wheelchair in places I never would have tried most days I would rather just sit around the house.
When I was courting Dana, Princess made her mark. All too often, our calls were interrupted when Princess wandered off. I spent half of the call yelling at the dog. And she usually ignored me and I chased downhill after her. You might imagine how Dana felt about my furry friend.
When I traveled Princess stayed with my parents or friends. When Dana and I married, she came with me. We settled in together: Dana, myself, and our pets. We were nervous how the dogs (Brokaw and Princess) would get along. She wasn't fond of other dogs and he was rambunctious. When he took her toys I worried if they would manage. One day he took her treat and she attacked him, biting near his eye. He understood she had her limits. They had a few more skirmishes over the years, but worked out their relationship, even to the point of chasing each other around the house.
Our pups became part of our community too. The kids loved walking both Brokaw and Princess. They would be out for hours. Sometimes their friends would even come over and play.
Acredale Animal Hospital. Dr. Meador took good care of us, giving us the prognosis: Princess probably had a stroke or maybe a brain tumor which may or may not heal.
This morning Dana arranged for us to make our final visit with Princess to the veterinarian. She got me ready. Poor Princess was just hanging on. Both Dana and I were sobbing as we drove to the vet with Princess bundled in my lap and Brokaw riding in back. The staff took us to an exam room where we waited to see the vet, consoling and saying goodbye to Princess. Dr. Meador advised us how the euthanasia would go and we discussed how things had turned so quickly.
Dana and I talked and held our hands on Princess' head as the veterinarian administered a syringe of anesthesia. She slipped quietly away in a few minutes. We continued to cry and talk all the way home. As we told family and friends all were generously sympathetic. Arriving home we sobbed, recognizing the reality of life without our Princess.
As we said our final goodbyes our vet asked whether we wanted a paw print. I thought about it. Then, with tears in my eyes, replied, "she has left paw prints on our hearts." And now I share her story with you.