Remembering Roxy Bulldog

Ripped from an old sketchbook: Roxy Snoozing

I once had an English bulldog named Roxanne. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t a wise decision to have purchased her from a pet store, but I didn’t know it at the time. I’d never heard of puppy mills and their practice of inbreeding.

Lifting her up between my thumb and forefingers, sniffing the puppy smell from her fuzzy dome of a head — no bigger than a tennis ball — and staring into those big round drowning eyes (Save me, they said), I was a goner.

When a clerk at the store told me her brother had been purchased by someone else, I thought: I am here to end to your loss, and handed over my MasterCard.

The love at first sight was mutual. She would fill in my empty spaces and I, hers.

In a lofty moment, I’d chosen her name from Sir Walter Scott’s book Ivanhoe, or so I thought — a novel I was forced to read in high school. But I’d misremembered the girlfriend of Wilfred of Ivanhoe’s name.  It was Rowena, not Roxanne. Oops.

No matter, because spin-off  “pet names” rapidly ensued and I hardly ever called her Roxanne (unless I was invoking the song by “The Police,” in which case, I would summon her in the same pitch as Sting’s).

But because of her downy-soft, snow- white head, my favorite nickname for her was Pfefferneuse, like the powdered sugar Christmas cookie. Soon, that became “Sticks Pfefferneuse” due to her two straight, un-bulldog-like front legs. Sometimes, it would be “Popcorn Paws,” because of how they smelled.

What stuck, though, was “Roxy Bulldog,” which I’d intone in the cadence of the intro to an old TV show called: Mary Hartman (Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman!).

As the years passed, the pronouncement of her lower jaw grew in proportion to the warmth of her personality. Her canines jutting forth and cresting over her black, shiny lower lip would cause passers-by to comment, “That’s one of those dogs that bites and doesn’t let go, right?”

And I’d let them believe it. Why not? My neighborhood had its share of criminal types. But the truth was, she was a softy to the core. She might lick you into next week, but that was as bad as it would get.

With such an overwhelming abundance of goodness and love, it’s hard for me to remember exactly when she began her dying.

Did it start with the non-stop gulping from her water bowl? My nightly ventures into the darkened kitchen, when, in my socks, I’d suddenly skid on the wet tiles in a most unlikely spot? Or when she’d raise her head from the folds of her quilt, nestled inside the cardboard box she loved sleeping in? Raise her head, but no longer get up to greet me?

For a short while — very short — I dwelled in denial. But her illness did not cooperate with my disbelief and rapidly progressed, anyway. Labored breathing was the new symptom. And, again, water. Water, water, everywhere. Even in her paws.

Her kidneys are failing, said the Animal Medical Center in N.Y. They suggested exploratory surgery. Vulnerable, unsure, heartbroken, I handed over my MasterCard, once again.

One week later, I stood in a dim hall of the animal hospital waiting to pick her up.  Down at the other end, a technician appeared and unclipped Roxy from her leash. She sped right toward me.

Tongue hanging out, stubby-tailed rear end fishtailing, nails clicking, paws slipping and sliding as she dashed along the polished floor, when she reached me, she leapt into my open arms and licked my face.

And for the briefest of moments, I thought she was cured.

The very next morning, I looked for her in the usual spots, but she wasn’t there. Instead, I found her sitting, head lowered and leaning against the wall, in the shadowed triangle behind my bedroom door.

I crouched down and whispered her name. She slowly raised her eyes. A twitch of acknowledgment wrinkled her brow.

Even in the end, all she wanted to do was please.

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2 Responses to “Remembering Roxy Bulldog”

  1. Roberta Says:

    There is nothing like the unconditional love of a pet! Great story.

  2. aubrey Says:

    All she wanted to do was please, and all she wanted to do was thank you for saving her from a life inside a store.

    I love the sketches – the ears especially!

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