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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Our Little Miss Piggy

Dave, Morgen and me before Rob and Kelly's wedding August 1995

After Dave and I met in Guatemala (HERE'S the link to that story), we sailed Morgenstern (well, Dave sailed the boat, and I just tried to keep from puking - my job was harder than his, I assure you) back to Miami via Mexico and Cuba. We had to ask the Cuban immigration officials not to stamp our passports, as in, "If anyone asks, we were never here." I felt like a renegade. It was awesome. But that's another post all together. Anyway, in Miami, we were greeted by an oh-so-happy-to-see-us Bill and Connie (Dave's dad and his long time girlfriend). Dave had been sailing for 9 months in Central America and I had been traveling for 4 months. It was so delightful to be back in the good ol' U.S. of A. and to have our very own welcome party waiting for us right there on the dock. (Thanks for being there, guys. We love you!). After spending a week or so putting the boat back together Dave and I decided that we weren't ready for the party to end. So we decided to buy an old beater of a vehicle and drive back to California. Upon hearing our plan, Bill generously gifted us his Buick Sedan as he had recently upgraded to something fancier. We were stoked! (And I'm pretty sure I haven't used the word "stoked" since the 90's.) So we loaded our vehicle with all of our salty, worldly belongings which included 3 pairs of cut off jeans, our groovy, matching, tire-tread Huarache sandals imported from Isla Mujeres, Mexico, and maybe four Caballero condoms imported from Fronteras, Guatemala - btw, don't use those, they can't be trusted. (No, that's not how Cole was conceived, thankyouverymuch.) We slapped a bumper sticker on our jalopy that read "Places to Go, People to Annoy" (courtesy of the oneandonly Mark Weiss, great friend and owner of Morgenstern) and we were on our way.

We spent the next four weeks cruisin' in our land yacht, popping in and inconveniencing friends all across the states. Just kidding, I'm sure they were glad to see us and our salty cut-offs. It was a magical time in our lives. We drove and talked and drove and talked some more. For four weeks straight we took in the sights of our beautiful country and told each other things about ourselves that we never thought we'd share with anyone. We slept curled up in the back seat of our hooptie, parked at Rest Areas and deserted country roads along the way. Stinkin' romantic, that's what it was. And we fell in love. By the time we got to Montana, it was a done deal. We were hooked on each other. And we decided to get a dog; a puppy. Now, technically, Dave decided to get a dog as I was scheduled to reinstate my acceptance to Sonoma State University in the fall (which I had deferred for a year).

So we left Montana on a mission to adopt ourselves a puppy. It was a Sunday and although we past an animal shelter in every town between Cameron, Montana and Salt Lake City, Utah they were all closed on Sundays. I think it may have been in Pocatello, Idaho where we chanced upon a flier, just under the CLOSED sign at the Humane Society. It said there would be an Adoption Day this Sunday (indeed, it was said Sunday) at the local Petsmart. So we rushed our little highnies on over to the Petsmart only to be turned away by a mean spirited lady who wrinkled her nose at us (and our cut-offs) and told us we were unfit dog parents because we didn't have a home with a yard. Indeed, we didn't have a home at all, unless you count our land yacht (which, of course, we did). Besides, what we lacked in yard we made up for in heart. Couldn't she tell by all the love oozing from our pores that we were the perfect doggie parents? Our best efforts to change her mind failed miserably. So we tucked our tails between our legs and left that Petsmart feeling rather dejected and suddenly, rather homeless.

We pressed on towards Salt Lake, thinking that maybe a bigger town would have an animal shelter open on Sundays. Once in Salt Lake we pulled off the highway into a commercial area in search of a pay phone with Yellow Pages (remember those - attached with a metal cord?). We found one at a 7-11. As Dave thumbed through the Yellow Pages, my eyes were drawn to a piece of newspaper littering the sidewalk beneath the payphone. I picked it up and noticed it was a torn section of the Want Ads. As I scanned the paper, I saw an ad that read something like this:

Six week old puppies. German Shorthair/Black Lab mix. First shots received. $10.

My heart smiled as I handed the shredded paper to Dave. Less than two minutes later we had called the number and were on our way to meet our new puppy.

It was so hard to choose just one, but we finally settled on a squirmy, rowdy little female with soft, puffy fur and a chubby, buddha belly. She was so cute. When you would reach down to pat her fluffy coat she would instantly fall onto her back to get a belly scratch, kicking her feet in the air and wiggling from side to side. We immediately started referring to her as Little Miss Piggy because she was so fat and sassy. As Dave reached into his wallet for $10, the lady told us there was actually no charge; something about having to put a dollar value in her ad in order for it to be placed in the Classifieds. That seemed like good luck. I asked her when the litter was born. (I had every intention of throwing birthday parties, you know. Plus, I wanted to know her sign. Just kidding.) She couldn't remember exactly but said that it was right around May 18th, the day Dave and I had met. Cheesy, I know, but it seemed special to us at the time.

Me and Morgen - Salt Lake City, June 1995

Piggy cuddling with Dave in our Buick on the way to California.

Isn't it time for a walk? Maybe some tug-o-war?

With our new puppy safely tucked between us on the front bench seat of our trusty Buick, we left Salt Lake City, continuing on the road towards what would become our new life together. We would name our puppy Morgen which means morning in German (shorthair) and also paid tribute to Morgenstern which we felt indebted to for having housed us during our first weeks together. But she would never outgrow her nickname of Piggy, short for Little Miss Piggy, of course. I would bail on Sonoma State, we would get married, have a family, buy a house and start a life. And Morgen was with us every step of the way. Until today.

She died yesterday, here at the house with Dave and me cradling her face in our hands and telling her how much we loved her. We sent her on her way, whispering memories of Montana in her ear, consoling her as she made her transition. We like to imagine her with a healthy body loping through the high mountain grass flushing out birds and then pointing at them as they take to the air. Or swimming after sticks as they float down the Madison on their way to the ocean. Or barking impatiently, waiting for 2-year-old Cole to throw another rock into the West Fork so she can dive in and retrieve it. Or greeting another newborn, or playing fetch at the park, or wrestling with Pete (our lost cat), or napping in the sun-filled garden, or peeing on the floor because she is so excited to see us, home from a long trip.

Piggy loved a road trip. The longer the better.

Click to appreciate the stylin' cut-offs. You know you had a pair...or wished you did.

Piggy checking on me and Cole - 2 days old.

The story of Morgen is the story of us and we feel the void of her loss so painfully in our home and our hearts and our story. It's the end of a chapter. A wonderful chapter.

We love you, Piggy. Get the stick, Piggy. Good Piggy.

Morgen in Montana - summer 1996


Angie said...

Aw, my heart breaks for you guys. So so sorry for your loss.

Jennifer said...

I am so very sorry for your loss. What a wonderful story and tribute to Piggy. As I sit here with tears, I am also smiling. You have a gift for story telling.

Carol said...

Dear Heather,
I'm so sorry for your loss! Our family has suffered the same kind of loss and I understand your heartache!!! Big hugs from here.

TRS said...

Bless Piggy for all the love she gave you!!

I'm still stunned at learning that not only did you met and stay on a boat with a cute American - but you skipped the orphanage, and trapsed around the ocean, then the country with this guy for weeks/ months????!!!
Wow. And my parents called missing persons when I didn't call for a weekend!! (not kidding)

you guys are fascinating! If I had done that they'd be digging up my bones somewhere now.

Dina Wildfong said...

Heath- I am so sorry that you lost part of your family. Morgen lived a long and wonderful life it sounds like with your family. What a great story and companion you guys had from the very beginning of your relationship.

Lawtrix said...

I'm so sorry, Heath. Beautiful tribute.

ada said...

Oh Heth, I know....we will miss the clean-up duty & someone to blame for the messes. I'm so sorry honey...but you know it only hurts so much because you loved so much & that's worth it.

Tina said...

What a beautiful story and you told it well!

I didn't understand grieving for a pet until we lost a dog that had been with us since Ainsley's 6th b-day. She died the year Ains graduated high school. She was my comfort through my first devastating miscarriage, present at my homebirths, with us through nearly 12 years of life's milestones. I'm truly sorry for your loss.

Heza Hekele said...

Brought tears to my eyes.