Tagalong

Every year at this time I use a luminescent-ink marker to highlight the kitchen calendar in memory of a miniature, copper-tinged Pekingese that was thrust into the arms of my partner one gusting, sleety night by a battered woman we barely knew who hastened backward, shrieking that her husband had beaten her and now vowed to kill her dog.

Liz buttoned the trembling puppy inside her coat to ward off quitclaim and cold, later presenting him to me as having “followed” her home.

“Uh-huh. He just tagged along after you,” I supposed before learning the dire details.

“How utterly desperate that woman was,” Liz sighed.

“Dear little earth-angel,” I whispered and kissed as tears welled up in my eyes. “From now on, you’ll be our Tagalong.”

We shared a fast affinity, Tag and I. Liz could feed, bathe and walk him – but most of his time was spent moored to me.

Besides being irresistible, three particulars made Tag precious. First, he’d been born on Liz’s birthday, ensuring endearment. Second, he adored me. Enough said. Third, he could talk.

Yes. Talk. And, I could understand him. Perfectly. 

Whatever he said came into my head. And whatever entered my head came out of my mouth as what he wanted known, done, or felt. A kind of oratory by osmosis.

The talk was just between the two of us at first, but eventually we let Liz in on it. Then my mom. Then my sisters, and so forth. As word spread, we gained a following, albeit essentially esoteric. Family, friends and neighbors were ever eager to hear Tag talk. Most were mesmerized. A few were dubious. But only skeptics dismissed us as a slick trick.

Initially, even Liz vacillated, since I never struggled to decipher the dog’s din. The warble of his words would emerge clear from my mouth, almost simultaneously.

Then one wee hour of a mid-March morning as the wind whipped at the windows and thunder menaced, Tag began to whine, chant, and drone, mouth waggling, head bobbing, paws pawing.

“What’s happening?” Liz growled, preferring coziness of covers to dealing with predawn disasters.

“He says the upstairs porch is leaking. Rain’s coming in through the sunroom ceiling.”

“Dogwash, ” she spat, adamant. 

But Tag persisted.

So, Liz donned a robe and snarled her way down the stairs, words burning blue behind her. Defiantly, she flung open the French doors to the sunroom where – sure enough – water showered the floor.

“Now!” she conceded as we mopped up the mess, “I’m a believer.”

Tag’s primary requests centered on the mundane: meal preferences, walking routes, water refills. He’d warn us of impending storms and unexpected visitors, strays needing assistance and strangers in the neighborhood.

But his forte was in caring for me.

Years earlier, I’d been hit by a drunken driver. It left me with chronic disabilities, the worst being a brain blow that oddly augmented my faculties. These new, acute sensitivities to smell, sound, taste and touch often-triggered abrupt, agonizing seizures.

Tag could foretell an attack. In hastening me to lie down, he’d cover my forehead with his chin, creating a tranquility that somehow tempered the intensity of the spasm’s fury. As if a godsend. 

In the spring of 1990, Tag turned 13. That’s particularly old for a Peke. He endured heart problems, arthritic flare-ups, and had gradually lost his eyesight and hearing. Still, Tag assured us the meds our vet prescribed kept him comfortable.

I began chauffeuring him around the neighborhood in my bike-basket so he could whisker the breeze and savor the fragrances of friends. He’d have me stop to study clouds, observe birds, or chat with cats and passersby, always intuiting those who harbored treats. We’d become a color-coordinated spectacle to behold by then, with matching bandanas and a cache of news to share. Neighbors were known and greeted by the names of their dogs and cats, earning Tag wags and purrs along the way.

One late October afternoon as we lounged on reclining deck chairs beneath the backyard oaks, Tag inched up from where he reigned on my lap to tender my attention by gently placing his paw on my lips before softly caroling.

Liz asked, “What?”

“He says he loves us. But he has to go now. He says, don’t fret. He’ll be back. Tomorrow.”

The tiny, pale pink tip of his tongue tasted my face one final time before he died. And in that instant, I damn-near did, too.

Make no mistake. My love for animals is immeasurable. They’re my dear friends, with each loss scarring a part of my heart. 

But losing Tagalong crushed it.

The next night, as I crouched in a corner of our upstairs porch, still sobbing and swearing that I’d never go through such soul-wrenching sorrow again, the screech of brakes and sound of doors slamming brought me to my feet in time to see two miscreants drag an old and crippled Irish setter from the trunk of their car, dumping it in our drainage ditch before speeding off.

Instinctively, I rushed to the dog – so ruthlessly betrayed. We named him Blue. He’d be our comrade for three more years, when aiding abandoned animals became our sacred-something-to-do forevermore.

All this was ruminating in my mind when I got a sweet feeling just before the phone rang this morning.

“You might not remember me,” the voice quavered, “but I was the woman whose Pekingese you rescued, once.” A crony from our distant past had traced us and coaxed her to call.

“Did anyone ever rescue you?” I’d wondered it for 30 years.

“It took that dog to get me to go, ” she confessed, wounded. Still. “But I never looked back. Except for feeling grateful to you.”

It begged the question: “How did you know he’d be safe with us?”

“You’ll probably think I’m crazy, but…” She hesitated. “He told me.”

I just glowed.

#   #   #

(This is a freshly edited version of an essay © by Marguerite Quantaine, first published in the St. Petersburg Times seven years ago.)

Pet memory? Please, share it here.

I’m all heart and eyes. 

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53 thoughts on “IF YOU EVER LOVED A DOG

  1. maf4273

    I believe this needs to come with a warning to have a tissue or two handy. I have said as much when I shared it with my friends over at Authors, etc. You and Tag must have been quite a pair. Obviously you were meant to find each other. Serendipity at work.

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      We’ve had the blessing of 13 dogs in our 40+ years together (2 still with us at 12 years old) and each of them was special in a wonderfully unique way – but only Tag could talk. I am so glad you enjoy his story. He died October 13,1991. but his presence remains fresh in our hearts.

      Reply
  2. Carol Schofield

    I have so many tears in my eyes reading this ….. your love for animals mirrors mine…..thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  3. Kieran York

    Marguerite, I actually finished about half of your beautifully written blog before tears began to roll down my face. You and Liz were special gifts to Tag – and by telling your story – he’s a special gift to us all. I’m going to lift up my mug of tea, and toast Tag, and you and Liz. Talk on, Tag!

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      And we’ll lift up our mugs with you Kieran (albeit of coffee because that’s what Tag drank, with just a splash of milk). I swear his spirit crawled into Blue and kept me on track. So many stories. So glad you enjoyed this one.

      Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      I empathize dear. My first dog, Clancy, was bought on the day I was born and was my shadow until she passed when I was 13. I couldn’t bear the thought of another dog for 10 years after that. But now, I understand the tears are the price we pay for the joy they give and I couldn’t ever again be truly happy in a pet-less house. heartfelt sympathies for your Gita.

      Reply
      1. gita4elamats

        Thanks. It was all the ‘doggie blogs’ and Paulette Mahurin (Auntie Paw-wet) who spurred me on to get Tara (whom I sometimes call Gita, accidentally). The house is messier but happier now! 🙂

  4. Donna Wells

    Wonderful blog! Just this morning my first thought of the day was of my first rescued dog, Ginger Bear Brown, she has been gone many years now but still brings joy to my heart. As does Teddy Wells my second rescue. Now I have my Binky. I give food, water and unconditional love and get my heart filled with joy and love each and every day. thank you Marguerite for sharing.

    Reply
  5. Barbara Dickson Oatley

    Thank you Marguerite. I grew up loving animals and passed that love on to my two grown children. I’ve never met an animal lover who was unkind. Always felt that there was something not quite right with people who disliked animals and that animals were smart enough to know exactly who they were. My two dogs and one cat great me excitedly after work. They are a joy to me. All they want in return is water, food and an abundance of love which I gladly supply.

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      I totally agree, Barbara. I think parents who teach their children to love animals have happier, kinder, more generous kids who get along better in life and are more fulfilled than those who are void of the ability to ever understand the value and rewards of unconditional love – giving and getting.

      Reply
    2. Sheri Campbell

      Thank you Marguerite for a beautiful love story. I, too, have rescued several dogs in these last few years. Each one with a sad story and each one giving me happiness ,love and wonderful memories. I have loved and lost family, friends and lovers not until I lose a pet have I known real heart pain. I think its the innocence and trust in animals that grabs my heart.

      Reply
      1. margueritequantaine Post author

        I hear you, Sheri. My mom often said, “You love those dogs more than you love me,” and I never challenged her comment because, to be honest, the line of love I felt for both was so blurred. Besides, she loved her cat’s more than she loved me. So there. Cheers to you for rescuing dogs. I truly believe my days are charmed because of the dogs and cat’s that light up my life.

  6. maite1015

    A beautiful story that brought tears to my eyes. I’ve lost two of the sweetest hearts I’ve ever known, unconditional love, that’s it. I had Bevil, a Dalmatian and Charlie, a Shar Pei. They showed me what true love was and there is not a single day that passes without a thought of them. They are alive in my heart, just remembering, they bring joy and peace. I wish I could have a new pet but my health issues don’t allow it although I get to babysit my sister’s pet Kira three times a week. She’s a rescued five months Scotish Terrier but the truth is that she has RESCUED me!

    Reply
  7. margueritequantaine Post author

    You hit the nail right on the head, Maite. THEY rescue US. And not just from lifes biggest challenges but from the everyday irritations and unfounded fears. I’m so sorry for your losses and that your health prevents you from having a full time fur companion – but that Kira is one lucky Scottish Terrier to have you. And vice-versa. Be well my friend. Hugs.

    Reply
  8. Kay Stigleman

    I swear, Marguerite, you have outdone yourself with this blog. Smiles you were hoping for and smiles and tears is what were elicited by your wonderful words. Sharon and I have had many animals throughout our lives and Sharon experienced some extreme bonding with our last dog, Keltie, a Scottish Terrier that we adopted. My experience was with our Burmese cat, Dhak. Neither of us had your ability however. Being able to hear and understand what your pet is trying to convey is a hallowed gift. You have been blessed!!

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      Yes I was, Kay, and I am humbly aware of that. Tag taught me how to recognize signs and better take care of myself prior to a seizure setting in. Before Tag, I recognized no warning at all and suffered terribly. I had a cat named MugMug who found pain sites and warmed them, turning with me and ever vigilant in caring for me. I felt his spirit must have moved into Tag and carried on, as Tags did in Blue’s to get me through. I could write a missive on all the animals that have been my champions. They certainly deserve the recognition. But only Tag talked. (Unless I count Togi who could scream one word, distinctly: Coffee!)

      Reply
  9. joskehan

    Oh Marguerite I am quietly crying here. What a beautiful story! Yes, I believe that Tag could talk to you….I had a cat that had been given to me at the age of 4wks (too young to leave his mother) and he just fit in the palm of my hand…he was full of fleas, sore eyes and had huge ears….he later grew into the ears and of course the fleas and eyes were fixed immediately. He slept in my dressing gown pocket for the first year, then under the blankets with me in winter and by my side on top of the covers in summer. We knew and understood each completely. Tigger lived to just past his 20th birthday, and thank God I was home on a day off. He came to me and put his little white paw on my foot as I stood by the kitchen sink and gave me the saddest ‘smile’ before turning to make his way to the bedroom. I followed and lifted him onto the bed which suddenly was too high for him to get up on….he sighed, looked at me one last time, and died. I took the next week off work – I was useless to every and anyone – told my boss we had a death in the family and when he asked a few questions told him it was a 20 yr old who had a heart problem…no other details. My boss retreated and told me to take as long as I needed, and even got the staff to send flowers! I still miss my Tigger, and that sad day was almost 10 years ago now. I understand your feeling of love and loss completely, and loved your story. Hugs. xxx

    Reply
  10. margueritequantaine Post author

    Thank you for sharing that Jo. I was certain there were others out there who have experienced what I have and am glad for you. At the same time, I perfectly understand your heartbreak. Tag died 22 years ago and I’ve since had, and lost, another fur-friend who always knew what I was thinking and anticipated my every move. He deserves his own story. When he died, the black, distant cat who lived upstairs for two years and never showed himself except to eat became my shadow and never leaves my side. He even gets under the covers (as yours did) and reappears with just his head on the pillow next to mine to sleep. Science is so FAR behind the value of animals on this earth. Someday, they’ll be elevated above us, by us, as life guides.

    Reply
  11. hfremin

    Thank you for sharing your special story. I love cats and dogs and all other animals. What special creatures they are. If you have time take a look at my FaceBook photos and especially the album of my “Animal Friends”. As always, I love reading your stories.

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      No kidding, Helen, I’ve been checking out your pet pix the minute they appear on my thread. The longhair striped looks just like our old Smoochy, your all-gray looks like our old SmokeKitty Joe, your black-and-white is a ringer for our Lucy Tux, and your white is a twin to my childhood Snowball Sam.. I think all your animals are are adorable, the dogs are just precious, and the donkeys? Don’t get me started on how much I like burros! 

      Reply
  12. sweetofstyle

    Thanks for your comment on my blog post this morning! This post touched my heart – thanks for sharing. I hope I can bother you every now and then for some Peke advice. Thanks again!

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      Absolutely! I’m only as far away as your fingertips and would be elated to help up. That’s right. I said it. ELATED. Now go kiss your pooch for me. And make it count because, you know, I have a reputation to uphold.

      Reply
  13. carolynpageabc

    I have spoken with many animals in this way, though I have not had a ‘constant companion’ such as Tag who spoke in this fashion.
    There was a time in my life (during the 90s) when I gave pet and animal owners understanding of the animal’s needs based on the information given to me by them. Your story touches me deeply. Thank You for writing about this wonderful treasure.

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      I’m not certain if this is possible, but sometimes I think if a person – any person – who loves an animal can just clear her mind of everything while sitting with the animal, the thoughts that enter her mind might be what that animal is trying to convey. It’s a matter of relaxing completely and just listening. I’ve had several crossovers (I call them) that were more human than animal (sans any negativity) but the majority of my pets have been just very loving and giving (while not all that smart).

      Reply
      1. carolynpageabc

        My understanding is those who are to have this ability will, and those who are not to have this ability will not. Sounds very simplistic however; I don’t believe that we are all equal in this regard; just as I don’t believe I am equal to someone who has an engineering ability, or a physicist, etc. We each have our own talents. Perhaps there is something to be said for each of us having a degree of the ability to engage with our pets in a close and loving way. However, to ‘hear’ is a very different matter. Not all are able to relax the mind (a necessary prerequisite to be able to hear). It is a wonderful thing to engage with people/animals in this way, though no more or less than the ability of the accountant/dancer/engineer/physicist, etc., to engage in their particular talent. I am however very pleased to be able to do as I do. I’m sure that you too enjoy the ability to ‘connect’…….

      2. margueritequantaine Post author

        EGAD, yes! I have always thought the same, i.e., we are not all equal but each of us is superior in unique ways and we must find what we excel at as our piece of the puzzle to connect and enhance others just as others enhance us with their superior gifts. I guess I’m more hopeful than anything. I want it to be possible. I’d like people to try. To revere animals more.

  14. Justine

    Lovely story, Marguerite. I have great respect for people who love animals so intensely. Brava to you for your kindness. I myself was cajoled into adopting a dachshund whose mistress had suddenly died of stroke. She was never abused and presumably deeply loved, but the poor creature was clearly mourning, and underweight after two weeks with an indifferent dog-sitter. Once she was in my arms, I was in love. It took her a bit longer to accept that other mommy was not coming back, but she finally let me be her ‘home.’

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      Would that all people were as generous of time, home, love, and spirit as you Justine. There was a dachshund living down our street for 16 years that visited our house every morning and night, stopping at the mailbox and positioning himself to face the front door before barking hello. he was like clockwork. So smart and sweet and joyful. Gone now for 7 years but I still look for him and swear, sometimes I hear his woof in the wind. Thanks for rescuing yours.

      Reply
  15. Connie

    Absolutely beautiful! Brings tears of joy and sorrow. Our pets are the best things about us–love that is pure and sweet no matter what their situation. Thanks for posting this.

    Reply
  16. pennypinchingpeach

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. It truly touched my heart, and reminded me of my own little angel. We actually found her in a subway parking lot. She was a chihuahua, and it had been an unseasonably warm week in winter, but it was turning cold again. The employees said she’d been hanging around a few days, but not even deli meat could coax the scared baby to anyone. I was able to sweet talk her to me. We tried every method to find her owners, but with no luck. She showed signs of abuse, but was sweet under her fear and eventually won everyone’s hearts., even my dad who had never allowed an indoor doggie, and we named her Sadie Mae. My mom was diagnosed with cancer later that same year, and passed away in a short two months after diagnosis. That little dog snuggled her and stuck by her through her sickness, she comforted the rest of us as we were mourning our crippling loss, and she is still living with my daddy today, six years later. She was an angel of comfort, sent to us needing, but helping us in our time of need more than we could’ve ever imagined when we found her shivering & scared in that parking lot. With tears in my eyes, thank you for bringing back the memories of my mom and our sweet fur angel.

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      My heart-2-heart sympathies over the loss of your mom. I have no doubt her rescue by you was no accident and that the spirit of your mom resides in her for you and your dad. Sending you and Sadie Mae a cyber-hug. What a wonderful woman you are.

      Reply
  17. Jen D.

    What a story! Every day, I kiss my dog’s graying muzzle and ask her, “Who rescued who?” And then she gives me her ass to scratch. I’m not sure what she’s telling me.

    Reply
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