My husband and I got married in October of 1999. One month later, I started to feel queasy — and not about married life. Turns out we had a honeymoon baby on the way.
10 weeks into the pregnancy, on a Friday, we found out we had lost the baby. When we got home from the doctor’s office, it was time for dinner so my husband asked “What do you want?” I immediately responded: “A Big Mac. And a dog.”
Pepper joined our family in January 2000 after a visit to the Maryland SPCA. She was wagging her tail and barking hellos at everyone who walked by her run. Her history: about 1 year old, a retriever mix, crate/house trained and named Raven. Given that we are a Steelers household, Raven was not going to work. So a bunch of paperwork, one name change, and an adoption fee along with a spay surgery later, Pepper was part of the family:
Pepper was an excellent dog. In the first year, the only real problem we had was when she jumped up — excited to see me — as I bent down to pet her. The intersection of my nose and her head resulted in a trip to the ER and explaining to every health care worker we talked to that the dog had broken my nose. That didn’t stop every single hospital employee from eyeing my husband suspiciously.
Then there was the time she ate not one, but two pounds of ground beef. I had set one pound out to defrost for dinner. She ended up eating it (I still have no idea how she got it off the kitchen counter). After a thorough scolding, I pulled out a second pound and pushed it far back on the counter top. Not an hour later she came slinking into the home office. I ran to the kitchen to discover the styrofoam tray and plastic wrap were the only remnants of the frozen ground beef.
Pepper enjoyed her top dog status until February 2002, when our son Alex arrived on the scene. True to her good nature, she obliged us with silly dog and baby photos:
Less than 15 months later, we added another new member to the family when our son Nick was born. Both Alex and Pepper embraced the new arrival with no jealousy. In fact, Pepper was finding that babies were an excellent food source if she sat patiently enough near the feeding location.
We’ve had many wonderful memories with her.
She loved to ride in the car, with her face in the wind:
A Ride and a Serenade
She would let me know that it was time to take the boys to school and that she was ready for the car ride:
Get Your Keys and Let’s Roll, Lady!
In November of 2011, Pepper started coughing. We took her to the vet for a check up. An x-ray showed a tumor on her lung. The doctor told us they could do a biopsy to see if it was cancerous. At almost 13 years old, we decided it was too invasive. The doctor gave us medication to keep the fluid on her lungs down. We were told to watch for the signs of deterioration — lack of appetite, lethargy and making attempts to be alone. We figured she might have a month left. But she was active and fiesty as ever for the next 5 1/2 months, before we started to see her slow down.
Over the weekend she really went downhill and this morning could not get up. She yelped when she tried to move.
My oldest cried all the way to the bus stop this morning. The youngest said he was very sad, like when Grandma Rice died. My husband stayed home from work and rescheduled a conference call so that we could take her to the vet together. She left us at about 9:50am on May 21, 2012.
There is truly a circle to life. It was a loss we had experienced that brought Pepper to us. And now, in the grief of having our beloved family pet leave us, we are in a state of loss again.
Here’s a photographic tribute to our good girl, Pepper. May she rest in peace. February 1999-May 21, 2012.