When I was 7, we got a puppy.
I remember finding out about her. It was late afternoon, and as was custom in my family (not custom in anyone else’s family, I used to grumble), my brother and I had been down for naps. I’d crept out of my bed – sometimes my mother used to decide that we had to sleep for longer, possibly depending on her level of patience with us – and curled myself around the wall, peering at Mum on the phone.
She had a piece of paper, gently torn from the newspaper, in her hand. I can’t remember what she said, probably discounting it as something that wouldn’t impact me. She was smiling. She hung up the phone and saw me.
“Did you have a nice nap?”
I didn’t say anything at first. I stared at her, tired. “Can I have some juice?”
The next day, we were bundled into the car. Chris and I were not happy. He preferred to spend his days in front of the computer. I preferred to avoid Lismore at all costs.
We turned just before Lismore, and instead went to a breeder’s place in Goonellabah, up and down lots of winding roads along steeply formed hills. And that is where we got Puppy. She was, without a doubt, the most beautiful puppy I had seen. There were so many other puppies around, but this one was mine.
“What will you call her?” the breeder asked us.
We all shrugged. “We’ll figure something out.”
On the way home, I begged to hold Puppy. “She’s too little to be in the boot, Mama,” I protested. “Please?”
Mum, possibly swayed by how pretty Puppy was, agreed. I clambered over the back seat and grabbed her.
Puppy was a bit confused. This was her first time in a car, and having some crazy seven-year-old grab her round the waist and squeeze wouldn’t have helped matters any. Puppy promptly threw up on me.
“Oh, Tashi,” Mum groaned. “Mauricio, get her a towel!”
I still loved Puppy.
I still loved Puppy.
We took Puppy home.
“We’ve really got to name that dog.”
We couldn’t figure out a name.
“Tash, you can go feed her.”
I put her in the old garage, the one that Mum had painted ‘terracotta’ and ‘slate’ in one of her artistic moods. The stuff looked much like what she’d vomited on me, and gingerly I opened the lid and plopped it in front of her on a plate. “There you go, Puppy,” I said. “Go and eat.”
Puppy ate, and I wandered over to the bookshelves, looking for something to pass the time. I looked over my shoulder to check on Puppy. No Puppy.
Where on earth was she?
A lick on my leg solved that question.
Puppy was sitting at my feet, waiting for me to go back to her plate so she could eat.
As puppies are, this puppy was a bit of a menace. She chewed through Dad’s roses, thorns and all. She dug holes. She ate socks, shoes, anything she could find. She loved soccer balls, so she would always steal them when Dad was trying to play with Chris. You’ve not seen anything funnier until you’ve seen a puppy, gangly paws and all, playing soccer.
“We’ve really got to name her,” Dad said, again. We called her puppy; Dad varied between that and mierda.
The Internet was Dad’s new toy at the time, and so he went to Google to hunt out a name. He returned, valiant, with Inca. I don’t know the reasoning for naming an innocent Golden Retriever puppy after a civilisation butchered by the Spaniards, but they went for it. Dad promptly went outside to test the new name, where Inca was sitting eating a stick.
“Inca!” he yelled. She lifted her head, looked around, and continued chewing on her stick.
Dad wasn’t one to give up, though. “Inca!”
She peered at Dad, as though saying to him, I don’t know who this Inca is, but do you need me? She must have figured not. She returned to the stick.
Dad went over and put his hand on her. “Inca.”
Inca blinked, confused. I’m not Inca. I’m Puppy. Or Mierda. What’s going on?
Inca wasn’t impressed when we got Tuscany, a little round ball of fluff that, for the podgy belly she had, couldn’t move much faster than a waddle. Chris, similarly unimpressed with Tuscany’s lack of athleticism and possibly noting the similarities between the new puppy and I (lack of athleticism, podgy belly, preference to lie down in a corner and ignore everyone), he decided that Inca would be his puppy, and Tuscany would be mine.
Inca didn’t care whose puppy it was. She knew it was a puppy and that we all were wooed by her cuteness and her waddle. And so Inca devoted her waking hours to tormenting Tuscany. One of the earliest photos we have of Tuscany (and possibly of Inca, too) is where Tuscany is clambering up onto a chair, trying valiantly to escape Inca, yet seeming to forget that where the chair looks massive and cliff-like from her perspective, Inca could just pluck her off thanks to her gangly legs giving her new height.
Inca seemed to thrive on Tuscany’s stupidity. Tuscany has always been a glutton, and one day decided that Inca’s bone should be hers.
Inca did growl and give fair warning, so no one should have been surprised when she bit her on the eye.
Inca had a penchant for rocks, and would grab them no matter where you put them. On a chair? On the table? In the back corner of the garden? Always, the dog would find them.
I tested this out one day, and dropped the rock in her water bucket. She dove in with gusto, grabbed the rock, and blinked at me, water dripping from her face.
We started this as a routine (one I’d get scolded for, plenty).
She would always run away, leaving the geographically-challenged Tuscany in her wake. She loved her adventures. One time, some kind person found her and called my mobile (it seemed everyone in Wollongbar knew that if a white Retriever came running around their place, it was 99.99% of the time, our dog). I went over, leash in hand, to pick her up.
She beamed at me, big eyes peering out from under wet, muddy fur.
“Where on earth have you been?!” I shouted.
I scolded her the whole way home, hosed her off and stomped inside. There were messages on the answering machine.
“Your dog’s been in my pool,” said the first.
“We just saw your dog on the highway,” was the next.
“Your dog’s just been in the highway construction site, I think,” was another.
We decided it best to repair the fence.
I’ve written about her before, and honestly – at 1000 words already, I could go on. There are so many crazy memories about this dog.
I got to see her on Sunday. She was happy. I picked her up, her old body, and sat her on my lap where we just relaxed for such a long time. She was moulting. My mother was shouting at me that I’d be covered in fur (and I love being covered in fur, it makes me feel so close to them). I kissed my puppy, remembering how she used to have fur all over her tail and her back, but now that she’s old she’s not growing it as fast.
I didn’t think much of it, really – I didn’t do the maths, that she’s 13.
On Thursday, I was at uni. 6pm, and I didn’t want to be there anyway.
My parents called. I texted back, I’m at uni. Can I call at 7?
Dad replied, As soon as you can.
I replied, Is it bad?
I’ll tell you when you call.
I want to know now.
He didn’t reply.
My brother came on Facebook; I’ve copied and pasted the conversation.
Did Mum call you?
No. She tried but I'm at uni. What on earth is going on? They won't tell me over text.
Because you’ll be sad.
What is it?????? HOLY CRAP HAS ONE OF THE DOGS DIED?
And I fled my tute. I called Dad. There was screaming, in the middle of campus. There was crying. I made my Dad cry because of my reaction. He told me to call him back when I got home.
Thursday was just… horrid.
Yesterday I was bawling my eyes out too much to see, too much to go anywhere, and I stormed off to the shops to get some pictures printed of her to put up.
And there is still a part of me that’s convinced she’s around. But she’s not.
13 years, of being Chris’s baby, of being such a gorgeous dog.
I wrote on Twitter when I first moved up here this year. If the dogs die while I’m up here, I’ll be really mad. And I am, I honestly am. Not with God – he gave me so many opportunities to see her before she died, and I’m so thankful for that. But I’m mad at myself. I wish I’d been there. And now, stupidly, I’m making plea bargains for Tuscany. Asking him to keep her alive and let her die while I’m there.
So that’s that.
Inca Indian Summer, according to the breeder.
06.05.1999 – 23.08.2012.
To lighten this up, let's have some crazy photos of a crazy dog.
She's death staring me. She hates cameras.
In my room, because it was freezing last year
and the poor puppies were shivering.
I lost sympathy the minute they tried to climb onto
my bed for snuggles.
Love her big eyes. Gah, they're gorgeous.
Even more beach trip. She loved the beach.
Her best 'please let me in' face.
We had a toddler over at our place and sat him on the floor
to look at the dogs.
Inca was not very impressed. She's pretty confused.
Sulking because camera and no pats.
Their bed, which is actually my couch.
"HEY. YOU'RE TAKING PHOTOS."
This is the most recent. Couple of weekends ago or so.