Peace, Luck, and Chipmunks

On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the Missouri Botanical Garden opens at 7 a.m. for seekers of tranquil walking upon deserted, dewy paths and among the early birds singing in quiet and fresh morning air. As a rule, I am not a disciple of mornings, as most img_1528of my nights are late and disrupted, but I make happy exception for daybreak in the garden. The gentle solitude of an early morning spent walking with memories, lost and found among the trees and the flowers, wraps up my broken heart and brittle bones like a heavy, handmade quilt on a lonely night in winter. For most of these quiet morning walks, I take Mack with me. Like me, she was not enamored of wakefulness at god-awful hours, nor was she a devotee of strolling or of flowers or of birdsong before coffee. Yet I think it is precisely the unlikelihood of this path forward with grief that would lead me and my lost girl into a garden in morning that renders such productive peace upon my soul. These morning walks are when I feel most grateful and lucky and human.

Recently, after a particularly difficult two days, my large umbrella and an overwhelming need to commune with the garden gave me the resolve necessary to venture out on a dark and rainy Wednesday morning. By the time I arrived at the garden, the rain had mostly cleared, although the southern skies still threatened. I stood at the car debating the inconvenience of carrying an unneeded umbrella for my morning therapy stroll in the garden, and I closed the car door and left the umbrella on the passenger seat. I walked away from the car and toward the garden and the dark clouds. Yet although I could feel the warming presence of the sun lurking just beyond the dissipating thunderhead, I stopped walking, sighed deeply, and then returned to the car to retrieve my umbrella. It was to be just my first curious and fortunate volte-face of the morning.

My umbrella tucked uncomfortably under my arm, I entered the visitor center, scanned my garden-member card and collected my ticket, and ascended the stairs to the garden entry. I stopped before the fountain on the main plaza, like I always do, and weighed the options of taking a clockwise or counter-clockwise path. Remembering that my most recent morning walking had taken me left around the Linnean House and toward the Ottoman Garden, I stepped right, thinking I would walk toward the Climatron first and spend a little time in the rock garden. As I reached the tram shelter along the clockwise path I had selected, I abruptly turned back toward the fountain and headed toward the Linnean House after all. I do not know why. I just did. Sometimes simple life choices simply make themselves, I guess. I looped the handle of my umbrella on my right arm, knowing now that the day was free and clear of the rain, and I walked briskly toward the Ottoman Garden. Curious and fortunate volte-face number two.

The Ottoman Garden is tucked away in the northeast corner of the Missouri Botanical Garden on a short spur off of the main circuitous path around the entire perimeter of the garden. It is a small, square, wall-lined garden with a lovely pool and fountain in the center and lined with graveled paths trimmed with Turkish plantings. At the back of this quiet little garden, which is never crowded even on busy afternoons, there is a wooden arbor in front of a stucco wall and topped with a Moorish dome. Under the tiled roof sits a glorious, regally decorated wooden throne that sits up upon a slightly raised portico offering royal views over the fountain and the flowers. Whenever I take a female visitor to the garden, I always snap a picture of her sitting upon that throne being a sultan, if only for the duration of a minute or two. However, I do not always visit the Ottoman Garden on my early morning walks, but I suppose on this particular morning I needed to feel like a sultan in control of my life and the world. Or maybe this was my third curious and fortunate volte-face of the morning.

I walked over to the throne, and of course, it was wet with rain. Too wet for a sit, I thought, but then I brushed off the biggest puddle and struck a pose for a selfie, documenting that royal feeling with a photo I could pull out later as a reminder of yet another productively therapeutic trip to the garden in morning. After I snapped the picture, I noticed movement in the fountain. A small animal was frantically swimming and making repeated attempts to scale the deep lip around the edges of the pool. I kneeled down to see a chipmunk, desperately keeping her little head above the water, legs rapidly paddling. I put down my bag and my umbrella upon the wet stone and watched the chipmunk through eyes welling up with tears, and I wondered how in the world I might manage to catch the soaked and scared little chipmunk with my bare hands, fish her out of the pool, and bring her to safety. Almost before I could even rationalize or consider it, I grabbed the handle of my umbrella and gently dipped the thicker end of it into the pool directly in front of my desperate little swimmer. She immediately climbed aboard her unlikely life raft, and I carefully guided the umbrella away from the fountain, softly depositing its precious cargo upon the solid ground of stone.

She sat for several seconds, shivering and catching her breath, as I counted her blessings, and then she began to dry off and look noticeably stronger and more calm. As she collected herself and I cried, movement in my teary peripheral vision drew my attention. It was another chipmunk, this one much smaller, desperately swimming and barely keeping her tired head and sleepy eyes above the cold water. I picked up my “unneeded” umbrella and it performed its second heroic rescue of the day. For this second chipmunk, the cold morning swim had been more harrowing, and her breathing more labored and her body more shivery, as I gently sat her down upon the stone. She was just a baby and much more disoriented than her “sister” chipmunk, who by now was breathing normally and was drying herself off with busy little paws. I sat with those sweet little animals for about ten minutes, as their tiny bodies were warming in the humid morning air. When it was clear to my mind that they would live to see the sun burst out from behind the morning’s storm clouds, I resumed my morning walk in the garden, albeit upon shaky legs and with eyes still full of tears of sadness and joy and tender feelings for small creatures.

Mack would have rescued those chipmunks, too. And, like her Momma Bear, she would have cried with worry over the unfortunate morning circumstances of their cold and terrifying swim and fretted over their recovery long after they finally scurried along to dry and warm places under the protective branches of a flowering shrub. For the remainder of my walk that morning, Mack stayed with me, bringing to mind all of the memories of her and her tender heart for animals. You see, I do not go to the garden to escape my grief. Rather, I go to walk beside my grief, and to learn how better to live with my grief. I go to share my present life with Mack, because she is and will always be with me. And because she is with me in my memories and in my daily life, she was with me, too, for the lucky rescue of those sweet chipmunks.

I do not often feel lucky, and on many days I feel almost as unlucky as any person who has ever lived. But on one early morning in the garden, I was lucky to have an unneeded umbrella, lucky to visit the Ottoman Garden first, and lucky to happen upon two precious creatures in need of a life preserver. Most of all, it was a lucky day to be reminded of how lucky I was to have Mack, and how lucky I am that early morning walks and the rescue of chipmunks can melt my still-broken heart, can reveal to me something of the beauty in the world, and can bring me a little much appreciated and necessary peace.



Bug and Us

A tiny Chihuahua came to live with us back in August, and since then she has romped, cuddled, and squeaked her way into our hearts. We are beyond charmed by her awkward eagerness to be a special buddy to me, to Kevin, and to Pepper, our reluctant Pomeranian. We call her Bug, although her growing importance in our lives suggests a more respectful moniker…perhaps Miss Bug? Everyone who meets her is immediately enchanted by her quirky personality, her sweet spirit, and her gentle nature. One minute she is a bouncing little goofball, acting wild, and the next minute she is power napping atop the back of the old leather chair in my office. She is a whole lot of funny and a little bit of weird and oh so very delightful…just like Mack; and sometimes I wonder if Mack handpicked Bug herself and sent her to us.IMG_5288

Adopting Bug turned our house a little upside down at first with house training, fur-sibling rivalries, and life adjustments by and to our new little family member. But upside down was a good thing. It was exactly what we needed. We had become too sheltered. Too comfortable with our seclusion. Too exhausted by grief to seek out new happiness in the world. Kevin needed a project; I had become too reliant on Pepper to calm my anxieties; and Pepper needed a furry companion, even though she is still not convinced that Bug should stay. Bug arrived at our house with the energy and intensity of a puppy, her need for training dramatically altered our only-dog complacency and pushed us into the previously avoided neighborhood dog park where we have met new people and new dogs. Bug arrived at our house, claiming her spot as the baby in the family and demanding the constant attention of all three of us. Yet most importantly, I think, Bug arrived at our house to save us.

Grief is a lonely and bitter journey, but at times external forces make you stop to share the road; and when you do, little comforts are frequently your reward. I have learned that those comforts that come along the way are frequently unexpected and often arrive in small packages. In August, one of those unexpected and small comforts had arrived in the form of a tiny Chihuahua. But as my difficult 2015 is drawing to a close, I now realize that Bug is so much more than just an unexpected comfort. In recent days, I have realized that this silly, six-pound doggie has become my special friend; but she has become a sort of spirit animal to me as well. Bug’s dorky lovability, her goofy personality, and her kind spirit daily remind me of the qualities in Mack I always admired and promised to emulate a year ago as I faced my first New Year without her. The year 2015 has been a struggle, and it is a constant battle to survive my loss with grace. Bug reveals to me that I still have the capacity to love, to find new joys in unexpected places, and to embrace the future with a little hope. She can provide some grace with me on this journey.

Bug’s cute little face both connects me to Mack and gives me some strength to face 2016 without Mack. I know in my bones and in my soul that Mack would be so pleased that her dad and I have let this sweet little animal into our hearts. She believed that animals held the power to lighten many sorrows, and it would be no surprise to her that Bug could melt her Momma Bear’s heart. Of course, Mack would remain skeptical about the impact that Bug might have on our reluctant Pomeranian, but she would wholeheartedly approve of our new little friend and the magic of her little heart full of love for us all.

IMG_5881       IMG_5817 IMG_5431

And because I cannot pass a blog without an image of my Macko, here she is loving up on Pepper…

4-19-2014 2


I Love to Laugh

Writing this blog has been a therapeutic endeavor for me, but it has also been a way for me to share my unique and amazing girl with the world and to keep her spirit alive. Mack and I were close, I knew her very well, and I have been able to share so many stories about her life, her character, her world view, and her zany and charming personality. But I realize that my perspective on Mack and my understanding of her was through the lens of a Momma Bear. Therefore, when I run across an artifact of Mack’s life, I am compelled to share it. And when it comes in the form of Mack’s own words, so much more the better.

Recently, one of Mack’s best friends reminded me of a random Facebook game in which Mack participated back in February 2009 (thanks, Kailey!). It was one of those chain games in which a friend of Mack’s tagged her to “write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals” about herself, and then tag twenty-five people to participate, too. Generally, Mack poo-pooed games like this, and she was very resistant to use social media to call attention to herself. Therefore, it’s quite surprising that she decided to answer this very public request to share personal insights about herself. I have no idea why Mack made this post, but I am thrilled that she did it. It offers one of those precious windows into her soul that has become a priceless artifact of her beautiful life and a sweet treasure for me. When Mack posted these twenty-five random facts about herself, it was 12:35 a.m. on a Saturday night. She was just shy of her fifteenth birthday, a high school freshman in the middle of her first varsity basketball season, well settled in at high school, unusually comfortable in her teenage skin, and already a wise old owl.

Below is Mack’s list of twenty-five random thoughts she offered about herself more than six years ago. I have provided some annotations and a couple of photos to go along with Mack’s words. Coincidentally, I have already featured several of Mack’s random thoughts in previous blog posts (they are hyperlinked) and, no doubt, other items will provide entertaining fodder for future blogs about my Macko. Mack’s wonderful list captures her incomparable humor and charm, offers some honest insights from her heart, and reflects the level of comfort she had with herself at a time when most girls her age are struggling to find themselves and to make their way in the world.

  1. I tend to overthink things. not sure why.
  2. I’m crazy if you know me but quiet if you don’t. [Mack was a little shy around strangers, but that never lasted very long. The close friends she made on the golf course is an excellent example at how quickly her “quiet” faded away.]
  3. I enjoy food. a lot [Oh, Mack, what an understatement!eating 1].
  4. lunch is my favorite [I suspect what she meant by this one is that lunch was her favorite subject at school!]
  5. people say I’m odd, but what do they know =).
  6. Basketball’s chill but it’s not my life [Even though Mack was at the height of her basketball success, making varsity and getting playing time as a freshman, she already knew that basketball did not define her nor did it control her life.]
  7. When I grow up I’m going to have a show on the food network called Mack’s Makin Bacon. I shall be famous [Mack’s love of bacon was legendary, and for a very long time she talked about having this show. A blog post entitled “Mack’s Makin’ Bacon” is definitely forthcoming].
  8. I once had a hamster named Strawberry Fabio McDermott. She died a tragic death. [Strawberry died of wet-tail disease, which is a common ailment in hamsters. Yet, I do suppose her death was kind of tragic, as Mack was so very fond of that little rodent.]
  9. I also had a fish named filis. Her death was similarly depressing. [Mack named a giant carp in our aquarium Phyllis (at least that’s how the Greeks and most other people would have spelled it). During an ice storm one winter when the power went out for several days, we had to leave the house as temperatures dipped below zero. Sadly, we left Phyllis behind, and the poor beloved fish froze to death. Mack was upset with her dad over that one for quite some time!]
  10. I have a pound puppy named Spot that I’ve had since I was two.
  11. I have 2 dogs. One is fat and the other is insanely hyperactive [Napoleon was our fat pug; and Pepper is our crazy Pomeranian]
  12. Stuff doesn’t bother me, I just kinda go with it.laugh
  13. I play golf basketball and softball. I don’t really have a favorite, but I’m best at softball.
  14. I can’t dance, but that doesn’t stop me.
  15. My nails are bright purple at the moment [Mack’s one beauty item was nail polish, and her toes and fingers were always as bright and cheerful as her personality.]
  16. Harry Potter is pretty durn sweet. not gonna lie.
  17. I love to laugh [oh, yes, Mack laughed every day; and she made other people laugh right along with her.]
  18. It takes a while for me to break out of my shell.
  19. I did not enjoy middle school.
  20. When I wake up in the morning, the only thing I want out of life is to stay in bed. [Mack was a professional sleeper…more to come on this topic for sure].
  21. I have 7 pairs of huge sunglasses. They all cost about 5 bucks [Stay tuned for a photo-essay about Mack’s glorious collection of sunglasses.]
  22. Blueberry pomegranate gatorade is disgusting. (that is not really about me, but I just took a sip and thought I should give a warning).super cool 11
  23. My sister’s in Argentina and I am very jealous [Savannah spent a semester studying in Buenos Aires when she was junior at Indiana University majoring in Spanish.]
  24. I watch comedy central, disney, food network, and discovery, and that’s about it
  25. There’s a giant CWLP cone in my room [Mack’s sister stole a giant orange City Water Light and Power caution cone, and when she went away for college Mack inherited it. When we moved to St. Louis, Mack insisted that it come with us. It enjoyed a place of prominence in her bedroom, we have it still, and I will keep it for Mack forever.]

N. P. Fizz

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.pugs

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.

Napoleon 3When 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.Back Camera

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.


Since we are on the topics of both Mack’s animal loving heart and her impish nature, I want to offer one of my favorite stories that illustrate both. When Mack was in middle school and Savannah was at Indiana University, Mack decided she wanted a bunny. Since she really had no good bunny arguments to make to convince us to add a bunny to the McDermott Menagerie, she relied on her wit and determination instead. She found clever and not so clever ways to work “bunny” into conversations every day. For weeks and weeks she regaled us with bunny talk. Sometimes she would discuss the delightful qualities of bunnies. Other times she would show me pictures of adorable bunnies doing adorable things. And when she was feeling less creative but still tenacious, she would just look at me, tilt her head adorably and say “bunny.” No context. No persuasive argument. Just the word “bunny.” I actually started to look forward to how Mack would work “bunny” into her daily dialogue with me.

It was also around this same time that Mack started to ask for extra chores so that she could earn a bigger allowance to go bowling with friends or to the dollar store after school. While I never really believed that she and her friends actually bowled (although I learned recently from her friend Justice that they did, indeed, bowl), I did believe that Mack had turned a corner. “She wants to earn her own pocket money so she won’t have to scam all of her mother’s dollar bills and loose change,” I thought. It was only in hindsight that I would discover the errors in what I know now to be seriously flawed logic. Don’t judge; those dimples of hers were quite powerful.

After several months of bunny talk—and after a point when Kevin and I were working “bunny” into our own conversations—Mack made initial inquiries about the purchase of a bunny. She learned that she had enough cash for said bunny but, much to her chagrin, she also learned that a child of her age could not just walk into a pet store and buy a bunny. But remember, my friends, this is Mack about whom I am writing; and Mack Attack never gave up on anything. Enter: sneaky, college-aged sister. Of course, Mack’s initial bunny inquiries, the bunny buying discrimination, and the reason behind an unscheduled visit from Savannah were all completely unbeknownst to me at the time.

So Savannah came home from college. Mack and Savannah plotted the timing of their illicit purchase. And the two little criminals drove to the mall. Yes, Savannah would have been allowed to purchase the bunny. Yes, the bunny was within Mack’s budget. BUT, my devious daughters had failed to factor in the cost of a bunny hutch, quite an expensive item I understand. Savannah was willing to be a part of the plot, but she was not willing to cough up the extra cash for bunny housing. Some children would have given up and gone home and forgotten about the whole thing. Others would have gone home and saved more money and then tried again later. Others might have spent the money at American Eagle. Mack did none of those things. Instead, she counted her money and evaluated what other small-rodents-with-appropriate-housing opportunities were available that day within her price range. She picked out the cutest teddy bear hamster in the store, selected an appropriate cage, and picked out some food. Savannah fronted as the purchaser, and Mack brought home Strawberry Fabio McDermott.

I should have been mad, and maybe I was at first. But it was always so damned hard to deny Mack when she displayed such fixed determination. I also knew that getting that hamster would satisfy the desire for a bunny. Strawberry Fabio (don’t ask, because I have no earthy idea about the name) lived in Mack’s room for two years. He cruised around our house in his little hamster ball; and we all came to appreciate his company. Mack never abandoned the care of her little guy and spent time with him every day. She loved him as much she loved all of the other pets we ever had. And I never regretted allowing him to stay.

Here is Mack sitting with Strawberry Fabio McDermott. SFM is modeling a pair of Mack’s favorite middle school shoes…

Strawberry the Hamster

From Puppies to Pep Dog

Mack LOVED animals. While growing up, she was the adoring zookeeper of our collection of pets, consisting over the years of an enormous Labrador/Rottweiler mix (Barley), three Pugs, (Hops, Napoleon and Josephine), a Pomeranian (Pepper), two cats (Whiskers and Keyhlar), an iguana (Junior), two Guinea pigs (Snowball and Cleopatra), a giant goldfish (Phyllis), a teddy bear hamster (Strawberry), and various newts, fish, frogs and turtles. Even though we also raised three litters of Pug puppies and five litters of kittens (the ridiculously adorable spawn of our evil and slutty little Keyhlar), the McDermott Menagerie was never enough for Mack. No matter how many pets we had at any given time, Mack wanted more. Over the years, she asked for a house-sized pony, bunnies, an ocelot, a lemur, a penguin, a red panda and, most recently from college, a hedgehog. Whenever Mack saw a cute animal picture or video on the Internet, she would start a campaign for the adoption of her very own version of the animal starring within it.

When Mack was in middle school, she heard that the Animal Protective League (APL) in Springfield was looking for families to foster litters of puppies. Basically, these foster puppy families take in the puppies, love them, socialize them and nurse them through spaying and neutering surgeries until they are socialized and well enough for adoption. Mack believed with the full measure of her animal-loving heart that this was the single best idea in the entire galaxy. She could not believe she didn’t think of the idea herself, and she instituted a quiet but relentless campaign to become a foster parent of puppies. For months she lobbied for the job, begging her father and me to co-sign the agreement with her. She made some pretty good arguments about how much love she could offer them, how much experience we already had with baby animals, and what an amazing contribution we could make in the lives of poor orphaned dogs. As usual, Mack’s strategy was simple: be dogged and relentless and cheerful all the while. Almost every day she found a way to put puppies into the conversation in creative and different ways and she always put on her sweet how-can-you-deny-me little face.

Finally, after months of torture, we relented. It was late February 2008, and at that time our household consisted of Kevin, me, Mack, Napoleon and Keyhlar. So what the hell, right? I mean we were down to just three humans and two pets at 709 S. Lincoln, so why not add a litter of puppies to bolster our numbers? Mack and I went to APL to fill out paperwork and then we anxiously awaited some puppies. In early March, the call came; puppies were coming and we could pick them up on Friday. That Friday morning, Mack went off to school anticipating the arrival of her fur babies. I have to admit, I was kind of excited, too. Later that morning, a woman from APL called me at work to say that the puppies had come in with Parvo; and since we had animals in our home, we would not be able to take them until they were treated. “Oh no,” I thought (or maybe I even sighed and said it out loud). “Mack is going to cry,” I thought (or, again, maybe I sighed and said that out loud, too). I told the woman that we were disappointed, but we would be available to take the puppies just as soon as they were better. There was a brief silence on the other end of the phone. Now I know that the woman was assessing the degree of my disappointment. “Well,” she said slowly. “Perhaps you would like to come take a young dog to keep until the puppies are ready?” Then there was silence on my end of the phone. Oh, these people are good. The APL woman told me that they had just received a six-month-old Pomeranian mix that was not adjusting well to the kennel. The APL woman then told me that because this was a young lap dog, she would be quickly adopted; and then we could get a litter of puppies.

Well, I could not disappoint Mack, now could I? It was not what we had bargained for, exactly. But, it was a young dog; and a single pup would certainly be easier than a litter, right? I agreed to pick up the Pomeranian, and I also determined to do it before picking up Mack from school. I could assess the pup before presenting it to her as the consolation prize for her puppies. When I arrived at APL, the woman said that I should come back to the kennel with her so that I could lift the scared little pup out of the kennel myself. Did I tell you that these people are good? Oh, my, these people are good.

I scooped up that little black puff of fur, she burrowed into my chest, and I fell in love. I took her to school to surprise Mack; and when Mack arrived at the car, she squealed. She did not even ask about the puppies, as she scooped up that little black puff of fur and fell in love. And that is how we came to have Pepper. That is also how Mack’s career as a foster mom for puppies ended. For once we decided to keep our new Pepper the Pomeranian, Kevin forced Mack to retire from the puppy foster program. Mack was disappointed, but she admitted that, in a way, she had won. She had wanted temporary puppies, but she had gotten a permanent dog.

Pepper cuddled her way into the hearts of the McDermott family. When we lost our old Pug Napoleon and then our cat Keyhlar in one year, we all loved Pepper all the more. In June 2012 when Kevin moved to St. Louis six months ahead of the family, Pepper was a steady companion for Mack and me. When Mack went to college that August, Pepper kept me from feeling too lonely. Pepper was always Mack’s first order of business when she came home for a visit, because the one thing she disliked about college was living without her last surviving pet. That little dog, the last of the McDermott Menagerie, now provides Mack’s devastated parents with constant cuddles, unconditional love, and a great deal of comfort.

Thank you for being the dogged, determined little imp that you were, Mack. Thank you for loving animals with a heart the size of the sun. And thank you for bringing Pep Dog into our family. I promise to love her enough for us both.

Baby Pepper and Kid Mack…

Pep2      Pep

Pepper lounging in a pile of laundry in Mack’s messy room in Springfield…

pep in mack mess

Cuddling with Pepper in St. Louis…

Pep3     Pep6


And now me with Pepper, alone…