‘Demi’ Departs the Earth Just a Couple Steps Away From Where She Was Born 16 Years Ago
By Maria Sonnenberg // December 18, 2016
Plan Was To Keep One, Maybe Two Pups...
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – On Nov. 20, surrounded by her tribe of humans and dogs, McDementia of Blue Bell, aka Demi, departed this earth just a couple steps away from where she was born 16 years and 12 days before.
The death of the little cairn terrier marked the end of not one, but two, eras for her family.
It was the first time in 36 years that our house was not home to at least one of these “Wizard of Oz” pups.
It also marked the end of The Puppies, the name that followed Demi and her three siblings even into decrepitude.
We got our first cairn, McFuz, back in 1980 and so enjoyed her scrappy nonchalance, her cairny attitude of asking for neither permission nor forgiveness, that we were hooked on the breed for decades, so our house eventually became Cairn Central.
Fuz was followed by Daffy, who so loved retrieving tennis balls from the pool that she would throw them into the drink so she could go after them.
Then came Choco, the cairn with unresolved anger management issues who was nevertheless mush in the paws of any new kitten or puppy.
Wagnall, a pixie with a sock addiction and the enviable Peter Pan attitude of never growing old, was next, and a couple of years later, Bert arrived, such a sweetie we wanted to clone her.
Since that wasn’t feasible, we bred her, and thus the grand entrance of Ernie, a blend of Napoleon and Don Juan.
The happy couple quickly begat The Puppies, who arrived in our bedroom on Nov. 8, 2000, as George W. Bush was ascending to the throne.
Wild Child Character
The original plan to keep one, maybe two, of the pups and find homes for the rest was immediately abandoned once the foursome appeared.
Early on, they established their personalities. Ziggy, the oldest, was a cat-like princess, while the second-born, Demi, soon exhibited her wild child character.
Chubby, bouncy Cletus was third in the birth line… and then a lull happened, to the dismay of Bert, who wanted to get the ordeal over. In his good old time, Poot, the largest cairn we’ve ever owned and a laidback fellow with a delightfully naughty streak, finally said hello to the world.
Indomitable Force of Nature
Our house and yard didn’t stand a chance with these furry thugs. This indomitable force of nature gleefully went through sofas, rugs and tables. Even the grandfather clock got its share of puppy gnawing.
Outside, unexpected holes on the grass would inevitably threaten to propel us to urgent care. The boys were inveterate markers, too, and hutches and chairs still bear their mark. Nobody ever got fully housetrained because we never knew who had done the dirty deed, so we couldn’t single out the perp for discipline.
Their biggest gift to us was making us see the ephemeral nature of life, for their existence was an encapsulation of the joy and misery that affects every breathing thing.
The youngest, Poot, was the first to leave, thanks to a raging cancer in his palate. He confronted his problems with grace, still playing with his favorite toys even though he would often slobber a pitiful amount of blood on them.
Cletus’ end was the saddest of the four, for this once high-flyer and lover of fetching developed a tumor in his spine that paralyzed him.
Unlike his brother, Cletus was angry at his lot in life rather than resigned. Despite all the medications and treatments we hurled at him trying to save him, he became despondent and eventually refused to eat. We buried his ashes with his tenny ball.
Hopefully, he’s enjoying chasing it on the far side of the Rainbow Bridge.
As for the girls, both developed breathing problems that required twice daily shots of corticosteroids through a doggy inhaler. Ziggy, whose lungs her vet described as a “respiratory train wreck” succumbed just shy of 15, leaving Demi, by now the quintessential little old lady, as the lone survivor.
The inhaler, together with the host of medications she needed to breathe somewhat normally, took their toll and by the end, Demi’s hair was so thin she needed a t-shirt in the Florida heat and her bones bumped out her skin almost everywhere.
Resting Among the Palmettos and Pines
Everyone in the cairn pack, plus an assortment of others, rests among the palmettos and pines in the wild ramble that is our backyard.
We think they would have appreciated the chance to check out that part of the property in which they were never allowed to venture while alive for fear of the dangers they would undoubtedly find.
Although every time we lose a dog we tell each other we shouldn’t put ourselves through this again, we can’t imagine a dog-less home, so we still have dogs, but our current tiny pack are hounds and, unlike cairns, don’t have never-ending energy and often need recharging.
They don’t bark as much, either, so we’re looking for a cairn to join the hounds soon. If you know of one, let me know.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maria Sonnenberg is a freelance writer and photographer, and longtime resident of Melbourne, Florida. In addition to her love of all animals, especially her dogs, she enjoys a spot of wanderlust. A former editor for a string of weekly newspapers in and around the Pennsylvania Dutch country, Maria now writes for several local publications, including Space Coast Daily magazine for the past 10 years. In addition, her work has appeared in the Orlando Sentinel, Florida Monthly, Progressive Engineer, BMW Journal and other regional and national magazines.