When my little sister Delilah was 4 years old, she received the love of her life. A beautiful black Lab puppie and she named him Pepper.

Pepper slept at the foot of her bed every night. He was her guardian. Even my Mom and my stepfather got a little growl if they tried to enter the room (friendly growl LOL!!).They didn’t mind because they knew Delilah was safe.

My grandmother lived 3 houses down and when Delilah left for school, she would tell Pepper “Go to Nana’s house”. Pepper knew exactly where to go (Took a pee on the way) and Nana would be waiting at the top of her stairs waiting for Pepper to run up. He liked going to Nana’s house because Nana spoiled him with treats (against my mother’s wishes), but that was their secret.

As Delilah got older, Pepper & Nana aged as well. When it was time to do his business, Nana would ask him to bring her “White shoes” from the closet and he would prance out of her bedroom with her white “walking shoes” in his mouth.He NEVER made a mistake. When the mailman came, she sent him downstairs and the mailman put the mail in his mouth, and when her paper was delivered, he’d race down to pick it up for her too.

During Delilah’s High School years, Nana’s legs were starting to hurt so she would schedule her doctor’s appointments along with Pepper’s Vet appointments to get their cortisone shots together. I never forget how Pepper would pause at each step going next to Nana as they both went up the stairs together.

Delilah went to college and became an RN. Pepper started losing his sight, then he became deaf and he started limping. Delilah knew he was not well, but Pepper never complained. He recognized all of us by scent and continued to sleep at her bedside.

One day, Pepper came to Delilah as she was sitting on the couch and put his head on her lap. She said she knew what he wanted. She said he somehow told her “I’m tired”,”You’re all grown up now and I want to rest” (her words exactly).

So, Delilah reluctantly made the decision herself to schedule the last visit to the Vet and arranged the cremation process. She was very strong and told my mom she wanted to do this herself, so my mom and family said bye to Pepper and Delilah picked him up and put him in the front seat of her car and drove off. She had a plan.

They stopped at their favorite ice cream shop and she bought Pepper his last vanilla cone. He licked it happily as he always did, and finished it completely!!

Becuse Delilah was a nurse, she arranged with the Vet to hold Pepper while he was being put to sleep. It was very peaceful. She also arranged to be present when he was cremated because she wanted to make sure the ashes were his. She bought a beautiful box with a bronze plaque with his name on it and brought him home. Pepper was 17 years old.

As he rests on her nightstand today, he continues to guard her as she sleeps. .

Laura from California