Royale was our baby--a miniature American Eskimo dog that was named after toilet paper. Yes, you read right. Royale toilet paper. You know, the brand that is advertised with those adorable fluffy white kittens?
Ever since our daughter Jessica was a toddler, she loved those kittens on the commercials. She begged us to buy her a "toilet paper kitty". Unfortunately, my husband is allergic to cats and really doesn't like them. He was never raised around a cat, unlike me. I grew up with cats and dogs, rarely just one pet in any given year. We lived near wooded areas in an isolated town, so our pets never lasted very long. Some ran away, some died.
Jessica wasn't the only one who wanted a pet back in 1995. I did too. I'll admit it now, I shamelessly used my little girl as the reason to buy a dog. I told my husband that if we couldn't get her a "toilet paper kitty", we could give her a "toilet paper puppy", a miniature American Eskimo.
When Jessica was almost five, I tracked down a breeder and we went to visit the farm. Royale was the only pup in the litter, which was kind of unusual--no brothers or sisters. Just like Jessica. I say that we went there to pick her out, but really, Royale picked us. The breeder let her out to play with Jessica, who thought we were visiting a friend. Royale chased her around in the grass and Jessica laughed in delight. This white little ball of fur seemed to love her instantly.
On our daughter's 5th birthday, we gave her a box. She opened it and just stared. Royale was sleeping, curled up, with a pink barrette in her hair. Jessica looked at us and said, "Is it real?" At that, Royale woke up and Jessica shrieked. She was so happy to finally have a toilet paper anything.
Royale was a great family pet. She woke us when the police were searching our back yard for a thief. She alerted us when some kids were hiding in our neighbor's back yard. She barked when the doorbell rang or someone knocked. And yes, sometimes she barked at nothing. Maybe a fly, or a leaf or plastic bag.
Sometimes we called her "Royale Pain in the Ass", because like most dogs, she'd get into something. She was getting slower in her old age, but she still shot out from nowhere if I was in the kitchen making dinner and said, "Oops." I swear some bits of food I dropped never had time to hit the floor. Her favorite food was seedless grapes. Heck, who am I trying to kid? Royale would eat onions, garlic, celery, anything I might be chopping for dinner.
Ironically, her favorite distraction was...toilet paper. She'd chew it, shred it, eat some and leave pieces of it around the house. Sometimes she'd get very annoyed if we left her for too long and we'd find a clump of chewed up toilet paper at the top of the stairs above the foyer. Kind of a "Let's see if you'll leave me alone that long again. So there!"
She lived up to her name on many occasions. She was royalty and she knew it. She often slept on the couch, on a blanket and with her head on a pillow. She had everyone trained too. Anyone who came into our house regularly, from family to friends to our house cleaner, knew exactly what she wanted when she yipped and spun in circles outside the pantry. Yes, she had us trained very well. My mother called Royale her "grand-doggy", and when "grandma" came to visit, Royale was in treat heaven.
Spoiled, always begging for food, grounded sometimes to her cubby, and sometimes sent to our room when we had company, she was just like another child in our house. She was Jessica's best friend and baby. And Royale was my baby too. She always knew when I was in pain. She'd jump into my lap and lay across my stomach. She was better than any heating pad.
On her last day with us, she had gotten into some candies. Since she had stopped jumping up on any furniture because of arthritis, I never thought she'd get into the sweets. But she did. We thought she'd just pass them, but as the day progressed, we could see she was bloated and uncomfortable. We thought we had no choices since it was a holiday, and kept thinking she'd pass the candies.
She came into my office when I was on the phone and climbed under my desk, but I had to take her out because she was too close to all the electrical plugs. She rested on a table cloth on my office floor. A while later she went out into the back yard and laid in the grass. My husband was mowing the lawn. Royale stayed in the grass for a while, and then crawled under our deck. That was when I knew for sure that she was dying.
We tried to coax her out, bribe her with treats but she stayed there. We kept hoping she'd come out later. I went out for half an hour to pick up groceries for supper, and when I returned my husband told me.
Royale was gone.
It has not been a good couple of days. Jessica is devastated. We all are. My husband realizes now just how much he loved that dog. Our house is not the same. It's quiet. Too quiet. There is no clicking of her nails as she walked on the floors. No whining at the back door. No barking. No soft fur to brush outside--that the birds would take to line their nests. No "rug" that lies in the middle of a doorway and doesn't move so you had to step over her. No warm heating pad to soothe me.
I have suffered a lot of loss in my life--from the death of my first baby after a brain stroke, to the death of my Grandma after illness, to the suicide of a close childhood friend, to the brutal murder of my brother Jason, and now to the death of a much loved pet. I'll deal with Royale's loss and my grief, just as I did with each of the others, by remembering the good times. I know that life does go on. There is always light at the end of even the darkest tunnel.
Royale was the best dog I ever had and I loved her. She was a part of our family. She was much loved and she'll be missed by us all. One day, I will immortalize her and one of my character's in one of my novels will be blessed to have a white "toilet paper puppy" named Royale.