It always takes me a few days to figure out what to say after something emotionally draining happens.
This time is no different. On Saturday the 28th of December, my friend and partner of the past 14 1/2 years left us. Higgins, the much beloved papillon, decided to go it alone and wandered off to die.
I don’t know why he chose to do it alone. Maybe he knew it was time. He was last seen around 10:30 the evening of the 27th, eating a plate of leftovers someone had put out for the dogs. I had hosted the Cowboy’s Family for Christmas that day. Around 11, I started calling him to come in for the night and he never arrived. We spent the next day looking all over, but to no avail.
While I knew this day was coming, I expected it to come later rather than sooner (Don’t we always?). I had prepared myself to find him, curled up in his dog bed, where he slept, on the floor beside me for many, many moons.
I still look out the window, expecting to see him in his hollowed out spot of yard, or open the front door to have him come crashing through it — invitation be damned.
He saw me through the worst years of my life, as I struggled to free myself from the clutches of an abusive husband and then an alcoholic husband (I needed to learn to love me).
He saw me through many of the best years of my life as I healed from past abuses and became the person I was destined to be.
As a puppy he was fearless — he’d sit on the console of the pickup and growl at other dogs in the cars next to us. He was definitely the alarm that you’d expect a dog with huge ears to be. He missed nothing. He had a lot of smarts. He could sing or speak on command.
One of his best friends was a cat named Roscoe. I had Roscoe in college and these two were inseparable. They played chase and slept together and their antics were hilarious. Higgins moped for three days after Roscoe got hit by a car. You can tell in the photos that he was well-kept and groomed prior to moving 80 miles from town. But Higgins loved being a ranch dog. He would get covered in mud, cockleburs and weeds and it never slowed him down. He made many runs with me down the gravel road, and hung out with the other dogs on the ranch – which is why he got so dirty. I don’t think Papillons are supposed to want to be dirty, but he didn’t mind it in the least!
Popcorn was one of his favorite treats, and when he had two good eyes he would impress anyone with his ability to catch pieces in mid-air. I named him after Robin Masters’ butler, Higgins, from the show “Magnum P.I.” It fit him well – though I don’t think he was even remotely close to being the snob that Higgins character was!
Most, everyone that ever met him loved him. He was endearing (some would say, in an annoying sort of way). And he was loyal to the point that he often got himself stepped on because he’d follow me (while I was afoot), pretty much everywhere.
I heard some nice things from the people that knew him, when I posted his passing on my Facebook page a couple days ago – many of them made me laugh – so I thought I’d recount some of them here:
My favorite papillon! A perfect example of his breed. So sorry to hear the news. ~L
I’m sorry to hear this . Higgins was a great dog. I loved his singing. ~T
Visiting you will never be the same. Also, since he stayed with us some, he was our little buddy, too. “Boo-boo” always came came perkily running and verbally greeting us with his enthusiasm, tail going ninety mph. Will miss him for sure. ~ Mom
Oh Jenn, my heart aches. I know how much a part of your life Higgins was and he also was a part of your mothers and mine, too! How I loved him greeting us, with his yapping. and how he would sing on command….”sing Higgins, sing!” He would sing the way only Higgins could sing. Good bye, Little Buddy. You will be missed. ~Dad
So sorry to hear this Jen! He was a great big little bitty thing! Hugs to you sweetie, I know how much you adored him! ~V
Jenn – he was a particularly fine dog, with a lot of personality and quite a reputation. While the chickens will rest easier, and only speak the name Higgins in hushed tones during campfire tales, we’ll miss him too. Tell the Cowboy to give you a big hug from us. ~I
So sorry. He was a pistol! The best road-dog ever. ~K and he was. She would know – Kelly and I hauled to a lot of rodeos together, and Higgins was my little partner to many of those college rodeos and countless barrel races around the country.
He never ceased being happy or cheerful, and honestly, while his breathing had become more shallow, and his eyesight and hearing had declined, he showed no signs of slowing down. Several times this winter, he climbed into a vehicle with me to do chores, or run around the ranch taking pictures. He never missed an opportunity to get in a vehicle and go somewhere. That’s how he managed to go around the country to rodeos. He’d get in the pickup and refuse to get out. So I’d just take him with me. How do you say no to something so cute? You don’t.
I suppose the silver lining in all of this is that I firmly believe there’s a special place in Heaven for dogs. I mean after all – God and Dog – They’re the epitome of unconditional love, right? I know that Higgins is up there, running around in a rousing game of chase with his best buddy, and self appointed Higgins’ Guardian, Tex. Texas died Father’s day weekend, right before I moved from Texas to South Dakota, in July of 2008, so he never got to come to the ranch, but he would have loved it here — rabbits galore to chase, coyotes to bark at, and Higgins to pal around with. Those two were pretty inseparable. My dad used to give Higgins the “stink” eye, and Higgins would come running to me, while Tex stepped between dad and the little guy. It was a game they played.
We took our very first family photo the day of the 27th, and while Higgins wouldn’t sit still to be in it, he did make a test shot. This is the last photo I have of him.
God speed little buddy. You’ll be sorely missed.