I think you can tell a great deal about people by how they care for and treat animals. And if I am correct, which I frequently am, and loving animals really is an indicator of the size and character of a person’s heart, then Mack’s heart was as big and as pure as any human heart has the capacity to be. She swooned for animals, big and small, and she absolutely adored all of the pets we had over the years. Our family cats, dogs, rodents, and even fish commanded her full attention and undying love. She never got tired of them, and she was never too busy to scoop them up or lay down on the floor to wrestle with them. Mack carried on full conversations with our pets, shared her bed and her pillows with them, missed them terribly when she was away, and demanded her friends to interact with them and to love them as well.
Our family’s pair of Pugs, Napoleon and Josephine, came to live with us in October 1998, and from their arrival onward, they were a wonder and a delight to Mack. They were just puppies when we adopted them, about a year-old I believe, and Mack was smitten. I think she mastered her fine art of hugging on those two little, spoiled pups. Mack never showed favoritism with our pets, but she and Napoleon always had a special bond; and after we lost Josephine too early at the age of just ten, the friendship between Napoleon and Mack deepened. When Mack started to listen to rap music early in middle school, she began referring to Napoleon as N. P. Fizz (and sometimes N. P. Fizzle), and she always said it with such gansta style. Mack believed that since Napoleon was the coolest dog on the earth, he deserved a name to reflect his puppy panache. That dog frequently had his tongue or a bottom tooth hanging out, so I think it suited him, too. I am also pretty certain that Napoleon liked his glitzy name, because everything that Mack did or said was okay by him. His curly tail and his fat little rump shook like mad every time Mack talked to him and whenever he heard her arriving through the front door.
When N. P. Fizz got older and began sporting a distinguished gray muzzle, Mack’s boyfriend Abhinav began calling him The Professor. Mack liked the idea that the old guy had gotten some respectability, but to her, even in his dotage, he remained N. P. Fizz. In the spring of 2011, Napoleon had lost quite a bit of spring in his step, and the vet diagnosed him with diabetes. Mack learned how to give him his insulin, and she helped me cook a bland mixture of lean ground beef and rice to assist his diet. Not long after the diabetes diagnosis, we noticed a lump on the poor little guy’s belly, and the vet’s news this time was even worse. He had a cancerous tumor, and the diabetes would complicate surgery. There was really nothing we could do but to make him comfortable. We were all devastated that our time with our happy, easy-going Pug was almost over, but Mack decided to make the most of every day she had left with him.
Over the course of the next several months, Mack took on the role of hospice. The first thing she did every morning was to cuddle with her N. P. Fizz; and every night when she got home, the first order of business was to locate him and plop down on the floor beside him. Each night, she watched TV with Napoleon on the living room floor, and then she would carry him up to her room and deposit him on a comfortable pillow on her bed. Her interaction with him kept him going, and most of the summer and fall there was a twinkle in his eye because of her. He always ate when she was with him, although Mack would gently chastise him for spitting out the rice in favor of the ground beef. In the fall, Napoleon’s health worsened. But as the tumor grew, as his body odor intensified, and as his fat and happy form withered away, Mack never stopped caring for him. She gave him frequent baths, she talked to him about better days, and she loved him unconditionally. So many other kids would have cast that poor little sick dog aside because he was smelly and old. But not Mack. She did not waste one minute with her best little Pug friend.
The week before Napoleon passed, he gathered up some energy for brief moments at a time and reminded us all of how funny he was. That week he carried around his stuffed green duck, a favorite toy. He chomped on a rawhide until it was gooey. He pranced after Mack. And he ate more hamburger and rice than he had eaten in months. I know for certain that N. P. Fizz lasted longer than he should have because he did not want to leave Mack. She had wanted to be there for him when he was feeling his worst, and Napoleon knew how special that was. That last week of spunk was all for her. Napoleon died in his sleep on Thursday night, October 22, 2011. Mack had been his buddy to the end, and there is no doubt that he died knowing that he was very much loved. Watching Mack care for N. P. Fizz in those final months warmed my heart. And it serves as yet another shining example of the sweet and gentle spirit and the full size and capacity of my little girl’s heart.