We had to say goodbye to Cricket on October 8. Ever since then, some of my favorite memories of that little dog have been percolating through my mind and I found I just had to write them down.
Back when I started this blog, I remember trying to define what it was supposed to be about, and why I wanted a blog in the first place. Why not just keep friends and family updated on my life with Facebook, after all? And I know, I know, I hardly ever post here (I have great intentions…alas). But as I put it then, sometimes a Facebook status is just not enough. This is one of those times.
Roughly in order of oldest to newest, but no guarantees. Memory can be a fragile thing.
Her Name was Not Babette
The humane society where we adopted her had named her “Babette”, which was a terrible name and did not fit at all. She had only been there a few days and didn’t know that name. I had thought of the name “Cricket” as a dog name years before and had never had the opportunity to use it.
The name fit her perfectly. It was a sign that this was meant to be.
Water is Wet, Who Knew?
Fox river trail in Illinois. Not sure when — maybe soon after we adopted her in 2002? Out on a walk with just me, Cricket, and Bailey. Bailey distracted me for a moment and her leash slipped out of my hand. She ran — full throttle — down the river bank, chasing away an entire flock of ducks and Canadian geese. The birds squawked as they rushed into the water. Cricket didn’t know about rivers and water. She dashed right in with them and was shocked when she got wet. I caught up with her as she was emerging out of the water, shaking herself off and looking both extremely proud that she had taken care of those pesky geese, and a bit surprised to discover that water is wet.
I took her back to the same spot the next week. This time, she stopped right at the river’s edge. I guess she remembered the lesson of the previous week.
“I’m Sorry, Cricket”
I still lived in Illinois and my very young nieces were visiting at my parents’ house. I think the youngest, Caity, was a toddler, maybe two or three? Cricket raced back and forth in my parents’ living room. This apparently frightened Caity — I remember her saying “she’s too fast!” As she raced by, Caity reached out and just barely touched her tail. My sister (her mom) immediately told her that “you don’t pull dogs’ tails!” and insisted that she apologize to Cricket. And she did. I had to hold Cricket still for a moment so that Caity could say, “I’m sorry Cricket.”
I’m not sure that Cricket really cared but I found it hilarious.
I can’t remember if it was the same visit or not, but at one such visit, she curled up in the girls’ doll bed.
Little Dogs CAN Hike!
Sometime in 2006, not long after moving to Montana, I hiked with Cricket up Crazy Canyon all the way to the top. Near the top, people heading back down with their big dogs saw her and expressed such surprise that a little dog could hike up the mountain. Their surprise amused and puzzled me. She was young then, she had perfectly good legs, of course she could do the hike! It never occurred to me that this was unusual.
The next day we were both a bit sore and stiff, since we were not really used to that kind of a hike.
…But that Meadow is Like a Jungle for a Little
In 2010, at the end of a camping trip in the Sapphire mountains, we went on a long, somewhat spontaneous hike. We crossed a beautiful meadow full of tall grass. Cricket began stalking some tiny butterflies fluttering among the grasses.
I also remember on that hike — the grass was taller than she was, and wet with morning dew. The ground through the meadow was soft and marshy. All the big dogs (and people) could stride through the grass unhindered and just get our ankles wet. Cricket had to plow right through it. She hopped along, popping her head above the sea of grass to see. She eventually wore herself out since she had to work ten-times (maybe more) harder than everyone else. Renee finally gave her a ride on the top of her backpack.
The Little Dog on Big Dog Duty
In 2011, Renee and I went backpacking in the Pintlers with all the dogs (Abby, Sirus, Myka, Darwin, and Cricket). We saw horse trailers at the trailhead, so we leashed the big dogs as a precaution, as they would bark at horses, which can be dangerous for all involved. So Cricket was the only off-leash dog.
She quickly realized this and she took over all the “big dog duties” as we hiked in. She scouted up ahead on the trail, she ran in the direction of squirrels and chipmunks, she scampered up big boulders along the edge of the trail for a better view. By the time we got to our campsite (I think it was around 9 or 10 miles in), she was completely exhausted. But so proud of herself!
She loved the sun. She loved it a little too much — her nose used to get sunburned in the summer. At our house in Missoula, she loved the big patio that got too hot in the summer. We had to keep an eye on her to make sure she didn’t overheat!
She was really good at finding good spots to lay out there as well. She got into the planting boxes (at times when we didn’t have plants in them yet). We used to have a small pot with a wooly thyme plant that she loved to curl up on. Fortunately, wooly thyme is a ground cover that can handle people walking on it, so she didn’t hurt the plant at all. Alas, I can’t find any pictures of that. We left that plant behind when we moved to Washington, so Cricket lost that particular seat.
Water May be Wet, but that Isn’t so Bad!
Even though Cricket didn’t much like the water (see the “Water is Wet” story above!), Renee started working with getting her to do better crossing creeks and even occasionally swimming. She got much better — she started crossing on her own, although she had great balance and was always on the lookout for a nice, dry log.
I remember on a camping trip in the Skalkaho area, all the big dogs leapt across the creek while running around. Cricket was running with them, and she didn’t even hesitate — just plunged right in and swam to the other side! Then she realized she couldn’t easily climb out on the other side, so she had to swim back to get out.
Expert Backpack Rider
As Cricket got older, she couldn’t always walk or hike as long as everyone else, so she learned to ride in a backpack. For a long time, we only needed this on longer hikes, or walks in cold weather. Her feet used to get cold and she hated wearing those little doggie booties (she was really good at getting them off!)
She relaxed easily in the backpack. sometimes looking like she might even fall asleep.
This Old Dog is Not Ready to be Old
Eventually we had to bring the backpack even on short neighborhood walks. We would go her pace for a bit, letting her stretch her legs and sniff, then pack her up so that the rest of the family could walk a little quicker and get some exercise
On a Saturday in late September, just a couple weeks before she died, we took all the big dogs on bike rides to let them run, then we took Cricket on a walk by herself, for some one-on-one time. We didn’t bring the backpack since we could go her pace and just as far as she could go.
She came out of the house spunky and full of energy and wanted to run. I momentarily dropped her leash and she took off, so I ran alongside her all the way down our street. And she ran! Not as fast as when she was young, but she ran.
It was a brief walk since she burned her energy right at the start, but so worth it for her to be like a young dog again, even if only for a few minutes.
We had no idea we’d being saying good-bye to Cricket so soon after this moment. I’m grateful that the day worked out the way it did, giving her (and us) this brief moment of exuberance.