Ten years ago this month we were expecting new neighbors. Word was that they had 3 girls and a dog, so we were excited to greet them. But first, we had to erect a fence between the lots because their youngest child was 2 and we didn’t want any unattended meetings between their daughter and our two rambunctious dogs. Little did I know that their dog would be known as “the best dog of Summit Ave.”
After meeting the family, we were introduced to Skippy, their beagle-mix dog. He was a calm-assertive type and I could see that he was a one-of-a-kind dog. You can’t help but absorb his calmness if you’re around him. He only barked when he wanted to get inside the house, or in his later years, when he was playing with or commandeering his other canine siblings. That’s pretty good for a hound!
At our annual block party, Skippy was the only dog on the block that could be kept off leash and he’d hang around – lying on the apron of grass between the sidewalk and the road. Darn, he put all the other dogs to shame! I do remember that after they first moved in, Skippy decided to explore the new territory, and or perhaps he missed his old Indiana neighborhood, and got an introduction to Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commisssion. Everyone was relieved when he was found. Seemed he got that wandering thing out of his system because he never tried it again.
As we all celebrated our country’s independence and endured the heat of the past week, Skippy’s time to go home arrived. Knowing I would be out of town, I asked one of the twins, who knows her way around a camera, to take one of my cameras and help me. She with the 50mm and I with the 70-200mm, together we made Skip’s last images on a cloudy morning while he meandered around their back yard. As I put the images together into a slideshow for the family, I saw that ever-present calmness in his eyes. Yoda dog – even at the end of his life! Just look at that peaceful jaw and alert, but relaxed ears. If you feel like giving him a hug right now, you no doubt understand what I mean.
Yesterday I spoke with Skippy’s ‘mom,’ Colleen, and she showed me a photo made of Skippy when he was 6 months old. There he was, sitting proudly in between his twin, human sisters, with that same look in his eye. It was the “Yoda” look and you might spy it in the photos posted here. Skippy – the Jedi Master! The puppy photo reflected his supreme confidence. It was as if he knew his role in the life of his family and he appeared serene – at peace. Life was good with his human family.
Even at 15 years, Skippy’s base personality never wavered. Always calm and open; ever the leader in his family of humans and fellow canines. But over the last year it was his body that was letting go of his beautiful soul. As I gazed at the 6 month old photo of Skippy, I thought of all the moments he shared with his family and how they all could look back at their lives and think, “Skippy was there with me.” The twins were 3 when Skippy arrived in their lives so imagine the steadiness he provided to them as they grew. The cuddling up next to his soft, furry body, the car trips to Maine every summer, daily walks in Lake Park’s curvy ravines, playing dress-up with the girls, . . . So glad I knew the best dog on Summit Ave. Excuse me while I cry a little. Gonna miss him!