A few hours ago we said goodbye to Rosie, our beautiful little Yorkshire Terrier. She was 13 years old and, like her litter-mate Jasmine, she struggled with congestive heart disease during the final chapter of her life. We are heartbroken.
I was very skeptical about getting a Yorkie when Angie suggested it 13 years ago. My previous dogs were big, athletic boxers and I couldn’t imagine making a connection with a little dog. The book we bought on different breeds scored Yorkies (out of 10) with a “warning factor” of 8 and “protection factor” of 2. What was the point of that?
In an attempt to win me over, Angie took me to visit a friend’s little Yorkie. That just reinforced my preconceptions, but although I wasn’t convinced, I agreed to go ahead.
The night before we went to see Rosie and Jasmine’s litter I had one final rush of doubt. I told Angie how I was feeling. Getting a dog was a commitment of many years, after all. Were we sure we wanted to do this? The look I got in response told me that we were sure.
Fast forward 12 hours and we were arriving in the living room of a nice lady that bred Yorkies on her small farm outside the South African capital city of Pretoria. Saying “I know you want small ones”, the lady immediately whisked away the largest of the three puppies, leaving two very similar little girls. At least they looked similar. Their natures were very different. One puppy immediately rushed to Angie, plopped beside her, and looked up at her with huge soulful eyes. Love at first sight.
The other Yorkie wobbled away from us on her brand new little legs. Her exploring brought her to a large sofa, so she decided to climb it. Clearly impossible, but she was going to try. I said, “look at the little soldier”. And I was sold.
Angie wanted more than anything for me to be happy with our choice, so she suggested we take the little soldier. But I couldn’t bring myself to leave without the soulful little lovebug that had already claimed Angie. For a terrible moment I contemplated the choice, then I realized we didn’t have to make it.
“We’ll take them both.”
Angie had picked Jasmine’s name months before, but we didn’t come prepared with a name for a second puppy. At some point during the hour-long drive back to our home in Johannesburg Angie named her “Rosie”.
Rosie spent the next 13 years showing me how big a little dog can be. We enrolled her and Jasmine in puppy socialization classes that culminated in a sort of puppy olympics where the less-than-a-year old dogs would compete in a variety of events. Rosie didn’t only take part in the events for larger dogs, like walking on a beam and jumping through hoops, she also won them. The owners of the Border Collies and German Shepherds, who were taking this whole thing very seriously, were dumbstruck when Rosie and I went up to collect the Agility Puppy title. It was awesome. I was so proud my big little dog.
Many years later Rosie and I were alone at home in Seattle. Her downstairs on watch, me upstairs programming. She was barking, which wasn’t unusual, but something about her bark was different — more insistent — so I decided to see what was up. I was at the top of the stairs when I said something like “hey, what are you barking at?”. Then things unfolded very quickly.
First a big blur — the burglar — flashing past the bottom of the stairs. Then a little blur — Rosie — hot on his heels. I leapt down the stairs but by the time I caught up with Rosie he was back out the window.
Now our little soldier has fought her final battle. We will never forget the way she talked to us, lifting her front legs with excitement, when she thought we might be going for a walk. Or the way she gave a funny little smile when we came home, showing off her dodgy teeth. Or the way she would look back at us showing the whites of her eyes. She somehow combined such sweetness with her fierce sense of independence.
Aside from us, her favorite things in the world were Jasmine, walks and chicken. And she loved small children, especially babies. She was an extraordinary little character.
It is a huge understatement to say that Rosie and Jasmine were special to Angie and me. They were our first dogs together. They were Angie’s therapy after her mom passed away, and they kept me sane as I fought through the final stages of completing my Ph.D dissertation. They accompanied us to many hotels and houses across three continents and always made the place we were in immediately feel like home. Now they have both passed on, and the house we’ve been living in for years doesn’t feel like home without them.
Thank you Angie for bringing these two precious little pups into our lives.
In a while, crocodile.
Sleepy in Johannesburg.
Pile of puppies in Samois Sur Seine.
Claiming the guest bed.