missing Alice

Wednesday evening, Alice, my younger daughter’s dog, was hit and killed.

The man who called to alert us said he found her body in the road about a mile from our house. He pulled her to the side of the road. She was still warm, he said.

The children had just gone to bed. We told them the news. My husband and older son retrieved the body. Alice looked just like herself, her body unmarred. Ruffled by the blustery night air, her soft fur smelled fresh and clean.

My husband and son dug a deep hole by the back deck. My daughter removed her collar and dog tag. We wrapped her in an old pink blanket. The girls shoveled in the dirt.

“We can plant a special bush,” I said.

“Or a red fern,” my older daughter said.

*** 

On my younger daughter’s birthday, less than two months ago, she wanted to recreate the last year’s birthday, the moment when we’d surprised her with Alice. She changed into the same skirt she’d been wearing that day, and my husband delivered Alice — this time big and squirmy — into her lap while I took pictures.

They turned out just as blurry as the first time.

*** 

My husband often teased me about my affection for Alice — You’ve totally fallen for that dog, Jennifer — and I’d roll my eyes, but it was true. I’ve always liked our animals — been fond of them even — but I’ve never liked any of them as much as Alice. She was so alert, so curious and playful. She was expressive, and smart. And she loved to run.

All our dogs have roamed on occasion — slipping through a left-open gate or a hole in the fence — so it took as a little while to catch on that this was different. Alice wasn’t just sniffing around the neighboring fields, she was running, perhaps for miles. Charlotte would run with her, but being so little, she struggled to keep up and came back footsore.

So we buckled down. We borrowed an electric shock collar. We kept the dogs in the kennel, or tied. When they were loose in the yard, we’d watch them. But even so, they still managed to get away every now and then.

That’s what happened last week. She made off when no one was looking.

Four hours later, the call.

*** 

None of us slept well that night. The next day I canceled everything and stayed home with the children. I gave the girls regular chores. I made granola bars. My daughter put daffodils on the grave. We cried a lot.

I suggested to the girls that we go run some errands, to get out of the house. My older daughter didn’t have the energy to join us, so just my younger daughter and I went. We stopped at Target to return a shirt we’d gotten her for her birthday and to pick out something else, but she only tried on one shirt before quitting. Her heart wasn’t in it.

That evening my father stopped by with a bouquet of flowers for my daughter.

My sister-in-law texted that they’d be bringing us dessert that evening, and after supper my brother stopped in with a pie — strawberry rhubarb, made by my ten-year-old niece — along with a bouquet of wildflowers and a packet of homemade cards from the cousins.

The shock is wearing off now, but the grief still comes, unbidden, in waves. Even though we joke and laugh and fight, there’s an undercurrent of sadness. Eventually it won’t hurt so much, I tell the kids. It’s okay to cry. And so we do.

We miss Alice.

This same time, years previous: beginner’s bread, scatteredness, the quotidian (4.6.15), the quotidian (4.7.14), answers, yellow cake, cardamom orange buns, asparagus with lemon and butter.

19 Comments

  • Mama Pea

    So, so sorry about Alice. I didn't even know her but had to grab a kleenex while reading this post. Times like this we all wonder why the heck we ever get pets. They get into our hearts and we end up loving them, and no matter how they leave us, it's always too soon. Sending my sympathy to all of you and especially your younger daughter.

  • Eric

    That’s hard. It’s hard to put them down too, even if you know it has to be done. I still occasionally miss our Jesse. Alice looks like she had black lab in her. They are wanderers but they are loyal too. Don’t get a Dalmatian.

    • Jennifer Jo

      Alice was a quarter black lab, a quarter golden retriever, and half border collie (I think). Francie, our other dog, is a black lab and she rarely wandered. No plans to get a Dalmation…

    • Jennifer Jo

      Correction: mother was a golden lab (maybe with a bit of something else) and the father a purebred border collie.

  • GeorgiaHoneyBee

    Oh I am so sorry for your loss. It is so hard to lose a faithful friend. Praying for comfort for you.

  • farm buddy

    I just noticed your post, and I am so, so very sorry. I remember seeing the tears of joy on your daughter's face when she received Alice, and I have really enjoyed reading about Alice as she was growing up. I hope your daughter can have another pup at some point, when she is ready. I have two border collies that help me on my farm, plus my Maremma that just had eight puppies (don't worry, they are all spoken for), but I take my dogs hiking at least a couple times a day to safe areas adjacent to my farm, and being tired out helps to keep them from wandering, and they never do wander. I know Alice was part Border Collie, and I think it is unusual for a female BC to wander. I am so sorry about for your family. The loss of your Alice is a real tragedy. Please let your daughter know that I will be thinking of her, and I wish I could help lessen her pain.

    • farm buddy

      I have had three Border Collies; two females, one male. Absolutely no wandering. This is still troubling me, as I know you are usually home, and I am sure your kids paid lots of attention to Alice. One thing that might be good if you get another is that after the pup is mature enough to handle it, you could take the dog running with you. A tired dog is a good one!

  • Crystal

    So sorry for your loss. I feel especially sad for your daughter. I was about her age when we lost our beloved golden retriever. It was hard.
    Much love to your family.

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