I knew Penny for a year. She was my true friend. She was remarkable. In that time she touched me with a kind of love, compassion, tenderness and joy that I had not experienced in my life. She exasperated me with her passion for raising hell and getting into serious trouble. She knew how to get me mad and yet she was forgivable. She played me like a fiddle.

Penny was just thirteen years old when I met her. Her energy and enthusiasm disguised her illness and disabilities. I adopted Penny. I saved her from a group home and a prior abusive family.

Yep, I only knew Penny for a year. I chose to adopt her knowing her condition. Knowing the operations she needed would be expensive and knowing that despite the operations the end of her life was near.

Penny was a nut case. She was incorrigible. She was a ball of fire and soft as a pillow all within five minutes. Penny was a hellion and an angel in one body. She helped me understand that friendship is a journey, not a given, and that parenting has more meanings than we can count. She gave me strength. She made me laugh out loud when no one was around and she made me act ridiculously silly. Despite her physical and mental shortcomings she was unconditional and instantaneous in her love for me and in the enthusiasm she had for being alive. I guess it could be called unconditional enthusiasm.

Penny had suffered for most of her life. A genetic eye condition prevented her from seeing very well. An eating disorder made her skinny as a rail. She never complained. She overcame her disabilities. Her hair was always brittle and sparse. Sometimes chunks of her hair would fall out. She didn’t mind. She never really seemed to care what she looked like. I would try and help her look nice, but I could tell it was not a priority for her. She suffered from so many things, including extreme joint deterioration. She could not bend her knees, forcing her to walk funny. Even with her discomfort she loved to play hide and seek or keep away. Sometimes people made fun of her awkwardness. But she didn’t care. Nothing was awkward to Penny. She was free of all prejudice.

Penny loved to sing. It would seem like she could sing forever. She obviously took great joy in her singing. She didn’t know any lyrics but she didn’t care. The pleasure of making noise for everyone was enough.

One of her favorite things to do was to answer the doorbell. She wanted to be the first one to the door to see who was there. If she didn’t like the person at the door she would huff and look to me to handle the situation. If she knew and liked the person she would visibly shake with pleasure and usually sing a little.

She never took her time getting into bed and would therefore end up just sprawled out in awkward positions; sometime her head would be off the bed, her legs turned sideways. When she was tired, she was just plain tired and nothing else mattered. I would have to come by, adjust her body and tuck her in.

When we went to the store or around town you would think we were going to the beach. Any occasion to get out of the house was a joyous occasion. Sometimes she would close her eyes and just take in the air or other times she would examine the people in the car next to us.

Penny really liked to watch TV with me. She was particularly fond of shows with animals that make funny noises, and basketball. She didn’t understand the game but always watched with great intensity. She loved popcorn. I think it may have been her favorite food. Her sport was swimming. She loved the backyard pool. The water temperature never bothered her. The water would be intolerable for me but for Penny it was always perfect. She would often do a lap or two in the pool and then sunbathe on the steps of the pool to dry off. Then she would get up and walk over to the chaise lounge and lay out like a bikini model.

I used to watch from a distance as she would sit in the backyard, quietly watching any and all activity. She would sun herself as if she needed a tan to help her scrappy appearance.

Penny liked to take the last sip out of my wine glass. She had no particular preference for red or white. She just liked to know that we were sharing something. It made her happy.

Penny was so loving and so happy that I was envious of her zest for life. I was envious of her joy. I didn’t have any of her problems, yet the events of my life were conditional. The burden of this was not lost on me, nor was the freedom I saw in her. She was an education for me. I just wanted to squeeze her with big hugs hoping her unconditional enthusiasm would rub off.

I don’t know how she got the name Penny. She didn’t have copper-colored hair or freckles. I guess it was a family thing or a sibling thing. But it was a good name and seemed to fit her personality. Despite her visible and not-so-visible shortcomings, I would have to say that she was truly a shiny “Penny”.

The adoption was so clear to me and it was a simple thing. No sacrifice at all. Over the year, being near her and with her had cured me of so many things that I didn’t even realize she was adopting me. Yep, I was the one being adopted. Her very existence helped me define joy in my life and overcome a cloud of unhappiness.

I rescued Penny and she rescued me right back.

Near the end, cancer had taken over. Her spleen was leaking fluid into her body cavity. Her legs stopped working. She refused nourishment. I carried Penny into the hospital for what she and I knew would be the end.

The doctors looked at charts and X-rays and spoke to me abut her condition. I knelt on the floor so my head would be next to hers at bed level. I spent a long time with her. She could no longer speak or sing. Her breathing was heavy and forced. Her body was limp. Her eyes were open and staring into mine.

Then in a heavenly gesture her eyebrows raised to look at me once more. This was the moment.

She put her paw on my shoulder and she was gone.

Penny’s in heaven.

Williston from NV

4 Responses

  1. Michael Dwight Says:

    Your story is one of inspiration. It was so awesome. Dogs are gifts from above. They demonstrate to many characteristics that the Lord has. Your grace and love and mercy for Penny was truly a continuous act of love from heaven. I have a story also as I lost my male rat terrier, Bud, 3 weeks ago yesterday (Tuesday, April 22nd). I miss him and we still have our Penny. She was 8 on December 18th, so we shall have her for a long time we hope. Counting Bud, we have lost 4 dogs in almost 31 years of marriage. Dogs are the best gift from the Lord Himself.

  2. Marta Says:

    Thank you for this heart-warming tribute. I too will face my little Freeway in days to weeks and say my last goodbye. I know Penny, sweet Penny will welcome her with a song. San Diego, CA

  3. Catherine Says:

    Williston, Your story moved me to tears. You are a hero. You gave Penny more joy in one year than she had in her entire life to that point. She kenw this. People who don’t think dogs are sentient beings have never really loved one. OUr first rescue dog, Jazz, died 9 years ago at 12 years old and I still miss her. My dog, Pepper, is 11 (we think, she was a rescue, too). I am not looking forward to “that” day with her. Dogs do rescue us from ourselves. Take us away from our oh-so “important” duties. I would rather spend time with Pepper than just about anyone else. Thank you for your story.

  4. Christine Says:

    Thanks for such your wonderful story. Penny was such a blessing.
    God Bless her and you.