I once had a dog named Cricket. She was a husky-shepherd mix picked up from the dog shelter in McAllen, Texas where I lived. The shelter was a warehouse that was packed with dogs of every description. The noise in there was deafening as I walked down each aisle and looked into the chain link enclosures to find my dog.
I knew I had found the right furry friend when l leaned forward towards one enclosure where a medium-sized black and tan dog pressed her nose against the wire and wagged her tail. Unlike the other dogs, she wasn’t hurtling herself at the fence and barking. She didn’t bark at all and her eyes were friendly.
My dog sense was right on target. She was a gentle female who became the best friend I had at that time. I lived in a neighborhood seven miles from the Mexican border. It was not a great area and as an English-speaking anglo, I stuck out. I often felt vulnerable in that small house. But Cricket became my protector.
One day I heard her barking wildly at the gate of the house where I lived. It was unlike her to bark much at all. (In fact, the only other time she had shown such spirit was when a wild peacock flew off the roof and landed in the yard. It barely made it up and out before Cricket had it for dinner.)
Cricket was going insane barking, and I looked out to see a very dirty man trying to get in the gate into the yard. My gentle mutt became a ferocious beast that day, literally throwing herself at the fence snapping with all of her teeth bared. I don’t know what the man wanted, but after standing at the gate for several minutes, he took off.
Cricket stayed right by the gate, the hair on her neck still up, and she continued to growl long afterward. When I called her to come to me she growled loudly as if to say, “Don’t bother me, I’m on duty here.” She sat there at the gate for an hour afterwards in the hot sun, unwilling to move. I never did figure out who that man was, but I had been home alone, and to say I was vulnerable was an understatement. Thanks to Cricket, he never returned.
That was a bad time in my life, but Cricket was an angel to me. God sometimes sends angels with fur on, I think. She curled up next to me when I lay on the floor sometimes, always loving, always a companion. We had an unspoken sympathy between us. We went through some hair-raising times together, including one situation where she had to be rescued from under the shed when flood waters rose in the yard. Under the shed she had just enough of an air pocket to get her head out of the water. The floor of the shed had to be torn up to get to her.
The poor dog was shaking from fear and chilled from being in the water so long when I got her into the enclosed back porch. We wrapped her in an old bedspread where she lay for the entire night without moving. I gave her an extra big breakfast in the morning which she disposed of in record time. After a bath, she was back to normal. Adversity only strengthened our bond.
I had Cricket for five years and brought her with me when I moved to Milwaukee. After my youngest little boy developed asthma, I had to find another home for her. I was heartbroken, and sadly put an ad in the paper. How do you summarize a dear friend like Cricket in a few terse words? I cried as I wrote out a short description. “Wanted: a family for the most wonderful, loyal dog ever.”
I prayed for a good owner to come along who wouldn’t ever mistreat her. When a family came to visit her to see if they would adopt her, I couldn’t believe my eyes as they came up the walk. It was Sean, his wife and two little boys. Sean was a man I had babysat for years before as a teenager! Out of all the people in a city of 1.7 million, Sean was the only one who saw the ad and responded. They were a wonderful family, and they took Cricket after a few minutes of playing with her. I knew that my friend would be in good hands.
She was in good hands, and lived a long life after that. She had a big fenced in yard in the suburbs where she lived out the rest of her days. Years later, I got a call at the office. It was Sean. “I just wanted you to know that Cricket died,” he said. “I know she meant a lot to you.” They had to put her down because her arthritis rendered her immobile and in constant pain. I was glad that she was no longer suffering.
I’ll always remember that dog who liked to fall asleep on the floor while I stretched out on the sofa and stroked her ears. We were a pair back then, and she was the best friend I’d ever had.
There’s a poem written by Lord Byron that sums up how I feel about Cricket. He wrote this epitaph on the grave of his beloved dog, Boatswain. No better tribute could be given. (I have underlined the lines that say exactly what I think!)
Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.
This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
BOATSWAIN, a DOG,
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18, 1808.
When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown by Glory, but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.
Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who perchance behold this simple urn,
Pass on – it honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one – and here he lies.