Every Labor Day weekend we travel to Madeline Island, Wisconsin. You travel to Bayfield, and catch the ferry. When you drive onto that boat, you leave a lot of the day to day worries behind.
We have done this for years, meeting up with friends who introduced us to the island’s charms. You can do a lot , or nothing. Golf, lay by the pool, paddle board, boat, nap. Hike. Go to fine dining restaurants (but don’t bother dressing up), shop for artistic creations, hear tons of live music.
Over the years our trips evolved. At first the moms were exhausted, supervising 8 crazy kids who ran between lake and pool all day. Then the kids were old enough to wander the town unsupervised, then they could rent mopeds and then they started graduating high school and moving away. This would be our first weekend without kids.
Our dogs loved the island. Monte and Penny were married on the shuffleboard court, and spent hours chasing fetching sticks in the lake. This weekend, we released some of Penny’s ashes in her favorite place on earth. Our first Madeline trip without a dog.
I was nervous that the weekend would be sad. So I made sure we did some things we had never done before. We ate at a restaurant I’d always wanted to try. We went kayaking. I explored parts of the island I’d never gotten around to before — heck, I even golfed! Yes, there were definitely sad moments, but we also managed a lot f laughter and smiles. As always, the island gave me many reasons to pull out my camera. I hope you enjoy these glimpses of Madeline as much as we enjoy being there. Maybe, next year’s pics will have a new dog in them!
She wasn’t supposed to be ours.
I had finally convinced HWSNBN to just LOOK at labradoodles. He was of the opinion that no self-respecting man would own a dog with the name “doodle” in it.
But we took a long drive on a Sunday to see the litter. There were three left: a yellow, a black and a brown. It didn’t take long to pick her — she reminded HWSNBN of his childhood chocolate lab. We signed the papers, but, to the shock of everyone, I refused to take her that day. I wasn’t ready, I said. I needed to get supplies. I’d come back the next week. What I would do now for that extra week…
Penny Penelope Torres died April 17.
It was totally unexpected. Yes, she was 11, but we were unprepared. And we weren’t home. We were in Paris.
I’ll never forget the phone call from Singer Girl as we ubered to the airport early in the morning for our flight home. “Put Dad on the phone,” she said tearfully. Then told us what happened.
That was a horrific flight home. We cried in the uber. In the airport in Paris, the airport in Amsterdam. We cried on the plane. When we returned to Minnesota we cried there.
We went to the vet to say goodbye. It was awful, and wonderful. I am so glad we did it. I got to hold her paw, scratch her head, kiss her and lay along her big furry body one last time. We left with a paw print and her collar, then went home to try to move on.
Penny was so many things to so many people. She was the crazy puppy who wouldn’t eat the first week we got her, yet turned into the ferocious food thief that stole everything she could put her paw on. Stole bacon from the frying pan, shoved her head in the oven to check out a roast, singing her nose and going back for more. She even went bobbing for bones in a boiling stock pot, escaping through the doggie door with her prize.
Now I have to remind myself that she’s not there to steal my lunch when I walk away from the plate.
She was a great car dog — loved resting her head on my seat from her place in the back.
Now I have to remind myself not to ask her if she wants to go for a ride when I have a short errand to run.
She loved running with HWSNBN and her husband Monte, chasing deer and squirrels and swimming in the lake to chase sticks. Now HWSNBN can’t bring himself to run, and I don’t want to go to our annual vacation spot on Madeline Island and be faced with her beach, and the shuffleboard court where she got married.
She tolerated all my foster dogs, puppies to seniors, bigs and littles, chill and maniacs. She taught them how to dog — when to back off on play, to respect boundaries, to beg, steal and pester delivery men for treats.
Now I don’t want to foster without her help.
OK: let’s hear it. How she was “just” a dog. Not gonna say it? Good.
What else — “she lived a good life.” Yes, that is true. But we were sure she had more life to live. I had planned to have a life-sized picture of her made for Singer Girl to take to college. The lakes are just now thawing out. Time for her to drag us down the street, ripping the leash from our hands as she bee-lined for the water. The brewery’s dog-friendly patio is calling. This was the summer I would finally take her to Minnehaha falls.
She gave us so much. Don’t get me wrong: she wasn’t the sweet, loveable cuddle bug so many pets are. She was honestly kind of an imperious bitch. We often said she was a human who lost a bet in a past life — if she’d had thumbs, she’d have stolen the car keys, picked up Monte, and hit every drive through in town.
Every State Fair we’d say “man, Penny would love this” as we looked at all the food so carelessly carried and dropped. This year’s State Fair will be the first one without Singer Girl, and without Penny.
I think that’s one of the things that makes this so hard. I didn’t really worry about my empty nest that much — but now it’s more than empty. It’ll be hollow.
Will we get another dog? Maybe? Some days I think no. I can’t imagine getting another dog that my kids won’t really know. The dogs are weirdly like book ends: we had our first, Sam, before we had babies. Then Penny was our woofer world for 11 years, leaving us just when the kids will. Our next one will have to bring us full circle I guess: dog after the kids.
But the other night we talked a little bit about it. Would we get one? When? I know we won’t foster until July for a number of reasons — that was decided before Penny died. Now I am afraid we will fall desperately in love with the first foster we have, bereft and eager to fill that furry void. HWSNBN says no, that won’t happen.
He also said he’d never own a doodle.
So there’s that.
For now, Penny sits in a box, next to her collar, a photo and the paw print from the vet. When Sailor Boy comes home on leave, we’ll save some quiet time to say goodbye with the kids. Then we will do it again in her favorite place n the world, Madeline Island. When we got about 45 minutes away from the ferry, she’d start perking up in the car. Straining forward to see out the window, eager to win the “who’s going to see the lake first?” game. She adored the ferry. We’ll take her to the shuffleboard court where she and Monte were married. We’ll find a stick and throw it. We’ll remember every time we got tired of doing that, and swear we’d do anything to have her demand we throw it again.
I’ll always love you Penny.
Time to kennel up.
80s Hair Metal
Making people laugh
Hearing babies laugh
People with differing opinions listening to each other, respecting those differences and learning from them
The way my son now wants to go to theater with me
The way he loves his girlfriend
The way my daughter loves her boyfriend
Scolding my husband and my BFF for being too silly together (the time they almost knocked the tree over, though…)
Getting Christmas cards
First flowers blooming in spring
My new car
The full moon
When my nail polish stays on
People’s reactions when I hand them puppies at a puppy party
Books and the people who read them (shout out to my book club!)
Food and the people who eat it (shout out to my Gourmet Club)
Volunteering and the people who make it happen (shout out to my Senior Party staff!)
Dogs and the people who save them (shout out to Secondhand Hounds)
My husband’s commitment to French lessons with me, even though he hates it
Taking off my bra at the end of the day
Wine with my girlfriends
That I forgot I’d already said cheese, which kinda shows my true feelings
The smell of asphalt after a rain
Historical dramas on BBC
Seeing a formerly traumatized dog become what it was meant to be, and finding the perfect forever home
The sound of a champagne cork
Crossing stuff off my list
Making a new list
The way my daughter teaches me things
The way my dad still says I love you, even though he isn’t sure who I am #fuckAlzheimers
That my mom still wants to help me every day in every way
That I am still in contact with friends made when I was a toddler (thank you Facebook)
That people who I used to fear/be intimidated by/look up to/have massive crushes on in high school have become my friends (social media plus time: the great equalizers)
Discovering new links on Ancestry.com
Not caring if people think I am weird
Being recognized for my accomplishments
Hair dye (shout out to Chelsea at Spalon Montage)
My Vegas group (shout out to the Unicorn Poop Squad)
Mom and Pop stores
People who don’t untag themselves from photos
That my son asks me for advice — even when the subject matter makes my butt cheeks clench
40 degrees in February
Watching the parents of Olympic athletes realize it was all worth it
Sunsets over the water with a glass of Chardonnay
A clean house
All the laundry done
Cooking for my family
Having them all there to eat it
Having a long, hot roll … at craps
Free champagne in Vegas!
Someone else planning everything, rather than asking me what I want to do
Big fat scary pitbulls that are really lapdogs who want to give kisses and receive pets
My dog’s patience as a foster-trainer
The “unfollow this post” button on Facebook
Having random people in cities I am visiting decide I am the bomb and follow me on instagram
Being a fly on the wall during fun school activities
The pile of shoes near the door when there are kids in the house
Watching Singer Girl do her thing
The look on a family’s face when they take home a newly adopted, once-my-foster dog
That my kids both bring soup to their significant others when theya re sick
My kids righteaous indigantion over the mistreatment of others
Doing new things
That my husband remembered that one of my dreams has been to dance on the Champs Elysees on my birthday — so is taking me there for my 50th
Sailor Boy wanting to be the party host (gets it from his mama, ya know)
Everyone’s excitement about my annual Halloween party
My friends’ disappointment when I can’t host Dec 23rd
Dressing up for any and all holidays and events, whether it means black tie or bunny ears
Knowing that my kids have amazing lives in front of them
Knowing that I have an amazing life in front of me
And did I mention cheese?
Enjoy all that you love this Valentine’s Day!