Malcolm and I don’t have children – we have dogs. Use to be three, now two huge, wonderful, sweet, spoiled brats. Like most parents with real kids, Tiamo, the first one, was easy to raise and didn’t give us any trouble. We spent hours training her, socializing her, correcting her, loving her. Santa Fe is a dog friendly town, permitting canines on leash most everywhere and we took her everywhere that allowed dogs. Tiamo would sit at our feet while we sat outside eating lunch at cafe’s and bistros. She loved to watch the other patrons, always hoping there might be other dogs around. She was so well-behaved, little nippers would climb all over her and she loved the attention. She loved people and other animals, especially cats. Most of all, she LOVED Sam.
Sam was our nephew and was loved like a son. In many ways, he was the kid we never had. One freezing cold January day Sam arrived in Santa Fe, shirtless and in flip-flops, for a short weekend visit. He ended up staying. He was 23 years, not even a quarter of a century old, and traveling through life, while we were both fast approaching the half-dollar mark and getting ready to slide down the other side. One week later, Sam moved into our household. I had someone new to spoil, while Malcolm had someone new to impart wisdom and advise to. Not having kids, we loved the fact he came diaper free and with manners. He was trained. The three of us became a family.
When Malcolm was turning 50, I surprised him with a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. Born on Thanksgiving Day, Tiamo joined our new family when she was 10 weeks old. We all instantly fell in love with her, especially Sam, although I think he originally saw her as a chick magnet with four legs. I mean, seriously, what female under 80 and not blind would not fall in love with a Bernese puppy! Sam took part in Tiamo’s training. He assisted in walking her, grooming her and teaching her to sit, along with other commands. When Sam later moved into town, I think he missed Tiamo more than he missed us. I know Tiamo missed him something fierce. She would go absolutely nuts when Sam came to visit and wouldn’t leave his side. Tiamo would have this goofy grin on her face when Sam showed up. Her eyes would light up and she would prance around, showing off for Sam. Sam always brought her a treat. Something special just for her. It got so, every time Sam came, she would go for the pocket, nosing her muzzle, sniffing for her treat. Tiamo was the happiest when the four of us were together. She would grab her toy of the week, gnawing on it while laying at our feet, listening to our voices as we caught up on our lives. Her family together.
Sam loved the outdoors. Even on the coldest of days, he and Malcolm would sit outside, watching the sun set, sharing a bottle of wine, discussing life. They would pull up two wooden rocking chairs to the edge of the portal, facing west, and observe the day’s colors fade from blue to orange to black. Tiamo at their feet. They would still be talking as the stars turned on their lights. Tiamo was content to be with her “boys”. Some nights, they would light a small fire in the chiminea for warmth. Other times, they would gently rock their chairs to the cadence of their conversation, low murmurs that eased Tiamo into a soft sleep. During the summer months, Sam and Malcolm would take Tiamo for midnight walks when it had cooled down from the day’s heat. Tiamo LOVED Sam.
Five years ago, Sam passed away at the young age of 27. The first year, after Sam’s death, was the hardest. Malcolm and I had to re-adjust our family back down to two with a dog. Along with Tiamo, we had to re-adjust to never seeing Sam again. We all mourned. We all missed Sam. Like barbed wire wrapped around our hearts, we felt every razor-sharp prong squeezing into our sorrow. Our hearts were sad, bruised and beat up. The following spring after Sam’s death, I started a memorial garden. West of our portal, in full view of the day’s end, I planted shrubs and flowers in every color of the sun’s wink good night. It is a continual work in progress. I have since laid flagstone, moved the chiminea to the middle of the stonework and added birdhouses and yard art to commemorate the joy of life. Bright colors surround the garden, flowers edge the stone’s perimeter, pine trees and junipers provide shade and add a wind break. It has become a happy place.
Five months ago, we had to put Tiamo down. Cancer. Heart-wrenching. Sad. We had two weeks to prepare for the finality of losing her. Malcolm chose an area in the memorial garden where Tiamo loved to lay while Sam and Malcolm solved the world’s problems. He started to dig her burial plot. As Malcolm dug, Tiamo laid by the deepening hole and watched, silently giving us her acceptance of what was to come. She was ready. We buried Tiamo in her favorite spot, shaded by junipers and surrounded by color. She is deeply missed.
I would like to believe Sam and Tiamo are in their happy place together. Tiamo has her “Sam” to play with, sniffing out an endless supply of treats from his pockets, prancing around in a field of soft green clover. Sam has Tiamo, keeping him company while he enjoys the outdoors.