October 21, 2020. In memory of my little black puppy Smokey. Smokey came into my life on Friday September 15, 1967, the day after my seventh birthday. I'm guessing he was 8 or 10 weeks old; whatever age puppies can leave their mothers. I only remember he was very small and all black. Smokey was brought to our house by my brother and his girlfriend. As I write this I am sitting in the same spot I was that night when Smokey came to our house. |
I did not know at that time that they brought Smokey to the house for me. I thought he was my brother's girlfriend's puppy and they just brought him to visit. We sat at the kitchen table and Smokey played at my feet; a puppy full of life. When the discussion came around to him staying with us I knew even at my young age my parents would never let me have a puppy. So I did not even consider this a possibility. I do not remember how the discussion went but Smokey ended up staying that night with us and become our puppy. My brother and his girlfriend asked me what name I would give him and because I had never considered adopting a puppy I had no ideas. Either my brother or his girlfriend came up with Smokey. It sounded good to me so his name became Smokey. I asked my aunt recently if she remembered Smokey and she said yes. She also told me my mother was very upset with my brother for bringing a puppy to the house.
Unfortunately Smokey lived only one or two months. I do not remember the date of his death but I believe it was before Thanksgiving. He became ill and we took him to the vet. I don't know what he had I was only 7. We gave him the medicine the vet gave us but apparently it wasn't enough to help. Smokey had diarrhea and was vomiting. My mother placed him downstairs one Friday night and I remember thinking how cold it was down there for him. The next morning when I got up to see how he was I found he had passed away at the bottom of the stairs. I am sure he was trying to get upstairs to be with us. I do not remember exactly how long Smokey was sick before he passed away. I'm guessing it was less than a week. He was only a couple of months old and I'm sure whatever he had overwhelmed his system. I don't know how he caught whatever he had. I'm not sure if Smokey passed away in October or November; I only remember he was not with us very long and it was before the snow fell that he passed. I remember telling the kids at school my puppy had passed away. Not long after this my brother was drafted and sent to Vietnam and that consumed our family. Luckily my brother returned safe and sound. I only mention this as Smokey was not forgotten but life quickly moved on.
I remember finding Smokey passed away like it was yesterday. The grief I feel today is as heavy as it was that morning over 50 years ago. I did not think about Smokey for many years after he passed away; decades in fact, the grief was overwhelming. The thought of Smokey would make me burst into tears. But I never forgot Smokey. My father saved his little red collar and his leash for me and I have it to this day. I wish I had some of his fur and a photo of us but I don't. As far as I know we didn't even own a camera in those days. I wish my brother would have thought to bring a camera and take photos of Smokey and me that night but I'm sure nobody thought Smokey's life would be so short. I plan to have Smokey's collar and leash buried with me when my time comes. I started taking his leash and collar out of storage a few years ago; my only physical connection to my dear little puppy. It may seem strange that a grown man can break down in uncontrollable grief so many years later but when I first started handling Smokey's collar again that is what happened. I love you Smokey today as much as I did as a child all those years ago. I am so sorry your life was so short.
I do not have any photos of Smokey but can see him clearly in my mind's eye. The guilt I feel for not being able to help our little puppy when he depended on us for everything weighs heavy on my heart. I think about Smokey often these days and take his collar out from time to time and think about those days so long ago. I'm married now and live in the same house where I grew up and Smokey once lived. We recently adopted two kittens and this seems to have brought many of these memories of Smokey out of the closet in my mind where I packed them away all those years ago. Sometimes when I think of Smokey I will cry, not every time but sometimes.
My memories of Smokey include us running and playing in the back yard. I remember us visiting the neighbors. I remember Smokey sleeping in my room on the floor and crying so I lifted him onto my bed where he slept under the covers quietly next to me; a seven year old kid with his puppy. I do not remember everyday things but only bits and pieces of our life together. I was in second grade and I imagine Smokey must have been in the kitchen every morning with us as we had breakfast but I cannot remember specifically Smokey being with us. My mother was home during the day and worked as a cook for the dinner meal at a local nursing home so Smokey must have spent the day with her as my father worked at a gas station during the day. I do not remember specifically running home after school to be with Smokey but I must have. I do have specific memories of evenings after supper playing with Smokey in the living room as my parents watched television.
In the years following Smokey's passing I had many pets. They included turtles, fish, gerbils and parakeets. We never adopted another dog and my mother was afraid of cats. I have fond memories of the gerbils and parakeets. I used to take the gerbils out of their cage and let them run around my bedroom making a mountain from my blanket so they could run under and over it. They seemed to enjoy that. One gerbil lived 2 years to the day we brought them home and the other one passed away a week later. When we had the parakeets they were either riding on my shoulder or sitting in the bathroom in front of the mirror.
I do not know where Smokey is buried. There was no pet cremation in 1967 that I know of. I never asked my father where he buried Smokey. My father passed away in 1981 so I will never know but at that time I still had not allowed myself to think about Smokey as it was still too painful for me so I never talked to him about Smokey. In hindsight I wish I would have asked him where he buried Smokey but it is too late now. I never talked to my mother about Smokey either and she passed away in 2017. I never thought I could talk to my mother of the pain I endured at Smokey's passing as my mother suffered her own pain in losing her first born child a daughter at the age of 8 and her first husband 3 years of later. My half-sister died in 1953 and my mother's first husband died in 1956. I recently sent a photo of Smokey's collar to my brother but we haven't talked about Smokey. I'm not sure I can without crying. My brother was 20 when he brought Smokey home, he's now 73 as I write this memorial.
Dear Smokey, I hope you have been happy running and playing in the light of God's brilliance with all the others who are there with you. I hope you have many friends there. I have never forgotten you and love you now as much as I ever have. I hope you remember me and have forgiven me for your short life. I trust that God's mercy will allow us to be together again if you desire it. I hope to see you again someday and maybe we can play together again. I send you all my love.