I. Teddy: First written March 18, 1997, Joseph’s second birthday.

During the summer Teddy was a puppy, we went out after lunch for business
and play. We romped in the backyard, my first dog and I, and he was happy
playing games and chasing balls. When he looked toward the end of the
street where boys were playing street hockey, he would whine to show he
wanted to play with them. Without thinking that a promise made should be
a promise kept, I told Teddy one day we would get him a child of his own to
play with and love.

My husband and I were not sure we could have children, so talk of Teddy’s
Pal was kept light. Three months after Teddy joined us, however, Teddy’s
Pal was conceived. After an amniocentesis showed the baby was a boy, we
settled on Joseph as his name. From time to time, though, as Teddy climbed
up on a lap that existed less and less, I kidded him about making room for
Teddy’s Pal.

When Joseph came home from the hospital a week before Ted’s first
birthday, Teddy cocked his head, listened to the bundle, and took up his
station at the bassinet. When Joseph began to crawl, he crawled to Teddy
and then over his back. We used to redirect Joseph until we realized Teddy
would move back to be near him.  When Joseph began running (alas, he
never really walked), he would follow Teddy into his crate, settle in, and
babble happily. Teddy would settle in, occasionally lick Joseph’s head,
come outside for a treat if I called, but then go back to his boy.

Teddy and Joseph watched television on the couch, Joseph curled up under
Ted’s chin, running his fingers through Teddy’s tags so they made gentle
wind-chime sounds. When we visited my inlaws’ home for Christmas, we
stayed in the same bedroom, with Ted curling up under the crib. In the
morning Joseph stood up, looked over the side of the crib, and cried “Eddy,
Eddy?” That I was there was immaterial. He wanted his dog. Joseph was
inconsolable until Jeff and Teddy came back from a walk.

It was hard to look at something so precious, so special, and know it must
inevitably change. How it would change I was only beginning to guess. 
Teddy had seemed as healthy as the proverbial horse until he was almost
two and a half, when he suddenly developed blisters around the tip of his
penis, his mouth, and his eyes, which bled and were very painful.
Eventually we had biopsies, medications, and the diagnoses of autoimmune
hypothyroidism and systemic lupus.  That Christmas I only knew we had
trouble coming. We did Teddy’s topical ointment treatments in the bedroom
so Jeff’s parents wouldn’t see.

Eventually we had biopsies, medications, and the diagnoses of autoimmune
hypothyroidism and systemic lupus.  That Christmas I only knew we had
trouble coming. We did Teddy’s topical ointment treatments in the bedroom
so Jeff’s parents wouldn’t see.

Teddy was well a few months later for Joseph’s second birthday, and the
joy at watching them together was matched only by the fear of what would
happen to us if Teddy died. I realized Joseph was severely speech delayed,
saying little more than Eddy, all (ball), and um-um (yum-yum), but he was
my first child, an active boy, and the pediatrician said not to worry.
So I didn’t, except to feel a poignant, overwhelming love for both of them
when they lay together on the floor, my beardie and his boy.

II. Lily: First written summer 1998, when Joseph was three years old
and about nine months after Lily came to us as a puppy

Where Teddy was steadiness, Lily was mercurial, joyful, uninhibited.
Teddy was not born mature, although I often spoke as if he was, but he
learned readily and was a gentleman early in life. Lily was a lost girl,
determined not to grow up, but when she chose to be with you it was
intoxicating -- from her list of 10,003 things to do, she had chosen being
with you.

One evening while I was cooking in the kitchen, Joseph, by then diagnosed
with autism, probable juvenile bipolar disorder, and assorted neurological
delays, walked in holding a cup of goldfish crackers. Lily, who had just
come in from the back yard, walked up and busily put herself into a sit in
front of him. He stared at her, thought hard, extended a hand more or less
palm up with a fish in it, and said “Lily, take it.” We had modeled the steps
of offering the dogs a treat a hundred times or more, but he had never put it
together.

Lily stood, took the cracker gently from his hand, and ran to a corner to
enjoy it. Joseph watched her go and then held out his hand to me and said
“Lily kisses, Mummy.”

So much memory for such a small moment. A moment to ponder when the
medical and special education professionals talked about Joseph’s
inwardness, his lack of eye contact, the rarity with which he talked without
prompting. He wasn’t inward with Lily and me. He was a little boy willing
to share a goldfish with his girl.

III. Tucket: First written early spring 2000

I never clear out my e-mail inbox, well, not enough, and a trail of messages
tells the story of the little brown boy. Around Labor Day, Lily’s dam had a
litter of puppies. I sent congratulations and forgot about them. Joseph was
having more distress over Teddy’s progressing illness and his new
preschool, and my focus narrowed to them.

After Thanksgiving, Teddy was on more meds, confused more of the time
and slower to get up as arthritis twisted his toes and prednisone made him
gain weight. Joseph’s psychiatrist said we needed to get a therapeutic dog
to replace Ted. I felt like asking him what catalogue I should consult.

Then, by accident, I learned that Charlotte, Lily’s breeder, was keeping a
little brown boy because of reservations about his prospective home:
She had decided to look for another. Four e-mails and a telephone call later,
the little brown boy was Tucket (named for the island of Nantucket, where
we had honeymooned) and was coming to us when winter weather would
allow.

Tucket arrived the day after we decided not to put Ted to sleep because he
was still happy and close to Joseph, despite looking awful. As I put Tucket
down on the floor to meet Ted and Lily, I remembered a line from an email
Charlotte had sent about the puppy: “It is quiet now, and no one calls about
puppies. I have been thinking about that, and I found myself wondering
whether he was waiting for a place in your home.”

Tucket adored Teddy, practically stood on his head to lick around his mouth,
and gave Ted emotional and physical space to rest by absorbing some of
Joseph’s attention. Joseph became less anxious, and Teddy perked up at the
charge of another puppy to raise. To the astonishment of the vets, he had
one last remission, and lived a year and a half with Tucket his partner in
crime as they cornered Lily in the house for treats and lay together in the
backyard with a bone or toy.

Lily seemed unsure of whether we should ask about a return policy, but she
ran like a deer and it cheered her up to have Tucket chase her around the
yard, and then, when he got close, accelerate suddenly and leave the boy
dejectedly in the dust.

We entered the new millennium a stronger family.

IV.
Angus: First written summer 2009

Angus came in 2007, long after Teddy died at age 7 in 2001 and a year and
a half before Lily died of cancer.  Joseph had ups and downs, with the
biggest down in February 2009, when he crashed in the Emergency Room
at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and needed to be resuscitated
for several hours before his diastolic blood pressure (the lower number)
reached 28; they had set 40, then 35, then 30 as thresholds to move him to
the intensive care unit, but they grabbed an elevator at 28 and ran, bed
loaded with equipment, leaving us numb and standing in a corner.

Joseph recovered from the combination of flu and pneumonia, but a battery
of consultants from different specialties and different levels on the academic
ladder couldn’t figure out why his blood pressure plummeted without a
change in his heart rate, as well as why he crashed twice more during his
stay. Their best guess was (and still is) that his underlying brain
abnormalities include weaknesses in the ancient centers that control vital
functions and his brain could not cope with the stress on his heart and
lungs and a high fever, so it crashed…

By summer he was happy and hyperactive, although indoors a lot because
he couldn’t sweat normally and was at high risk for heat stroke.  One late
afternoon though, the smell of the wild, or at least the backyard, captivated
him, Tucket, and Angus and they got outside while Jeff was mowing the
yard.

Joseph climbed up to the deck over the door from the walkout basement,
leaned over the wooden railing, and called out that he was Princess Fiona
locked in the tallest room of the tallest tower. (I suspect this made me
Shrek). Then he called “Angus Steed, come and get me” and his noble
beardie ran to the foot of the stairs to make sure his boy was all right. Once
I got over feeling frustrated because I had things to do inside and no one was
listening to me, I settled on the grass with Tucket’s head on my lap and we
found joy the moment. Tucket moaned with happiness, Joseph was happily
lost in his imagination, and Angus kept Joseph safe (he didn’t let him come
down the steps toward the yard) while playing keep-away with the lawn
mower.

Funny how we cannot prolong a moment, slow time just a little, but love can
last forever, even if it is passed over time from one beloved to another in an
unending chain of faces, joys, and losses.