A Tribute to Muffin

Da Juana Byrd

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Little sister Madeline

A Tribute to Muffin
My Friend and Teacher

This is a remembrance I wrote after my Muffin died.  She was my best friend and my husband's friend and rival.  Wanting all the attention from me, she sometimes shoved him out of the way. The two of us were on a wave length few can master.  When she died, I mourned as I still do at times. I miss her.

Here is just a few parts of her life with me.  I hope you enjoy it because it still makes me cry to remember even though it happened a few years ago.  She was part of me and as such, is still in my heart.  This is my  tribute to her.

Water and wind were the most exquisite things in her world.  She lay, keeping her eye on her domain, by the pool facing into the wind. Breathing deeply, she held her nose up to all the scents carried by the wind. Contentedly, she reveled in the wind blowing that beautiful silver hair back in waves along her body.

Barely big enough to make a cat jump, she patrolled the perimeter of the yard as if she were an armed guard. It was her job to look through the wooden fences into the yards butting up to ours.  In that manner, she could let their occupants know she was on duty. Sometimes she was lucky enough to find one of the other dogs looking back at her. Then she would go into a little tirade, barking and kicking dirt.  She had to show them she was boss.  She always glanced around to see if I was looking. My being properly impressed increased her sense of worth along with alleviating her fears.

This love of my life helped me to enjoy life and love more fully than I ever thought I was capable of doing.  I did not understand what it meant to have someone love you unconditionally until she came into my life. She taught me to appreciate others.

When just a puppy, she decided to help me plant irises.  Getting my beds ready by pulling weeds and shaking the dirt from them, I put them into a pile.  Then I  mulched to get ready for the flowers.  She very patiently waited until I pulled the weed and shook it, then she would get it, shake more dirt from it and drop it onto my pile. While I dug the holes for bulbs, she watched with interest and even more so as I covered it with dirt.  After all the work was done, I played with her and we went into the house.

The following day, I went out to survey my flowers and was surprised to find that each bulb was sitting on top of the dirt by a nice little hole.  Muffin was there, very pleased by her work. Needless to say I had to replant the flowers. Anger was the farthest thing from my mind. I did, however, tell her that the flowers needed to stay in the ground so they could grow. I requested that she please not to do this again. She didn't.

Not only did she enjoy planting flowers, but she also enjoyed smelling them. She would hardly go by a flower without taking a sniff.  I caught her doing this even when I was not in the yard with her. That was part of our enjoyment of the garden.  If the flower was too high, she insisted I lift her in order that she could enjoy it's aroma too.

Muffin gave better hugs than most people.  She would run to me, place her front legs on my legs and arch her little back.  This was her hug. She gave those only when she wanted too and very few other times. When I asked for a hug, her sense of humor dictated that she stand at my feet and look up at me with those big brown eyes as if to say, "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink."  I would playfully threaten her. Then and only then would I get the hug.

Sometimes we were evil parents to this furry child by playing pranks on her. When she was not watching, we might run up behind her and tickle her.  She showed her aggravation only briefly but she held grudges.  One night when my husband and I were just settling into that first good asleep.  Muffin, jumped up and barked loudly but only once. When we sat straight up in bed, hearts pounding, she started to fluff the covers the way she wanted them and then contentedly laid down.  I know I saw a smile on her face.

She loved to swim. My husband and I built a swimming pool after the children left home.  Each day Muffin would survey  the construction and when they poured the plaster, she left her paw print on the first step. Running down to where the water was flowing into the pool, she glanced at me as if to say, "Thank you. We'll be swimming soon."  She had known all along what the pool was because she would go next door to the neighbors to swim.

People say that dogs automatically know how to swim but Muffin didn't. When only six weeks old, she fell between a dock and a floating dock my in-laws owned on a small lake nearby.  I fished her out when I saw bubbles rising. My husband was protesting the whole time that dogs know how to swim.  He became alarmed too when she didn't surface and the bubbles began to come up.  I had to lay down on the dock and put my arms as far as I could under water in order to grab her hair and pull her out.

Water came from her little nose for some time but she taught herself to swim that day. She would walk out into the water and then swim back.  Muffin continued until she was sure of herself. Then she learned to dive.  People, thinking she might be tired, would take her out of the water. They would put her on to the dock. She, in frustration, would jump over their heads back into the water.  This little schnauzer went from dock to diving board with ease.  Being the ham that she was, when we had a  pool party, she would stand on the diving board and bark until everyone looked at her.  No one could be looking elsewhere.  Then she would dive out into the pool.

Muffin was an avid pool racer and was always willing to take anyone on.  When racing someone to the end of the pool, Muffin used two tactics.  Either she would turn around and go to the other end if the person was beating her or she would cut them off so that they were unable to reach the end of the pool.  She never quit cheating.  She figured all was fair in love and racing.

We did not teach her to lie. She, however, learned on her own.  Being the good parents we are, we had to show her this was not proper.  When we first purchased our motor home,  in order that she could travel with us, she told us ever ten minutes that she needed to go potty. We would stop and wait patiently while she explored the surrounding area with never a thought to going to the bathroom. This was an easy lesson. We just didn't stop the next few times.  She got the message.

Holidays meant so much to her. She enjoyed the camaraderie. Each Christmas going to see the lights was a major part of her world. She loved watching Santa and his Elves in a neighboring subdivision.  On Halloween, she was excited all day because she knew that children would appear at our door dressed differently. Of course she gave them the trick as well as the treat. We never understood how she came by a calendar but she must have had one.

She loved going to drive in windows, whether it was a bank or a hamburger place, because they usually gave her something. On one occasion, we stopped for a hamburger. Muffin stood quietly behind my husband and looked out the window of the car.  The lady did not acknowledge her as others had. Muffin overlooked her rudeness and continued to stare innocently at her. My husband informed the lady how people usually gave her something at the windows. Without changing her voice, the lady said, "I have nothing for her."  A low growl started.  The lady turned from the window and came back with a cookie.  Muffin hushed.

She was most considerate where other animals were concerned. She loved listening to the birds sing. Helping me put nuts on the fence for the squirrels was a favored past time. She would hunt nothing although she did enjoy a good chase with the cats. When the cat stopped, however, she would look at me as if to say "What do I do now?"  She also loved to watch ducks lift off the ground so she chased them until they flew.

Each day was a new adventure for her.  She saw God in everything.  While watching her, I noticed that she really did look at the beauty in the world. Muffin loved the mountains and surveyed from the heights all that God had to offer. Smelling the flowers or watching a newborn baby bird was just part of what this animal saw fit to examine and leave for others to enjoy.

People always remarked that the two of us could read each others minds.  We loved and respected each other.  With that combination, you can do anything. We were as close as two individuals could be.

Being very intelligent, she had a large vocabulary.  Understanding both dog and English made her bilingual.  We, at one time, spelled words to keep her from knowing what we were talking about.  She soon put a stop to that when she would go to do what ever it was we spelled.

One horrible day, we were told that Muffin had diabetes. It is a terrible, deceiving disease. Looking so healthy from the outside, it gradually shuts down the internal functions, in her case the heart and liver.  Not only does it kill it's recipient mercilessly but it inflicts a hard toll on those who love them.  Watching helplessly, you feel worthless.

This was the bravest little animal I have ever known.  Even when she was frightened, as she was of the dark, she would not admit it.  She charged into life with all the gusto of someone who only has one day to live and she lived it to the fullest.

The diabetes brought cataracts on quickly. This caused blindness within a few months of contracting the disease. What was once an energetic, exploring dog became an animal afraid to take a step.  Where she usually stood proud, always with her nose in the air, she now tentatively placed her nose to the ground. Knowing her fear of the dark, I had to help her regain her sight.  We took her to an opthamologist to see about surgery against our doctors wishes.  He thought it was a terrible risk to take for sight which may only last  for a short while.  I think he was worried about all the money we were spending as well as how the surgery would effect her.

My husband and I knew that for Muffin, those last months could be torture without her sight. Doing the only thing we could, she had the surgery.  We almost lost her then, but being the fighter she was, she came back to live with us a few months longer. When she found her sight had returned, the old sparkle came back in her life.

On June 2, 1993, we were up all night with our friend. Before dawn, she asked me if she might go out to potty. I took this little bundle of love out into the yard at the first light of day.  It was a beautiful, still morning but Texas weather can change within minutes.  When she had finished, I took her back into the house.  We lay down by the door so that she could look out. Suddenly the wind came up. She turned her head towards me and with strength only she could muster, stood and asked me to take her back out. There she stayed with the wind in her face until she could no longer hold her little head up.

My little love died that morning as a freak cold front came through. God knew it was time for her to go and He couldn't stand her leaving without making a mark on nature to let me know He knew her. She was one of God's own just as we all are.  Thank God for the wind in her face.

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