Tillie Purcival clutched, ever so gently, her sixteen-year-old Chihuahua Toots as she sat in the rocking chair on her front porch, waiting for her son and his wife to arrive. When she saw their sedan pull up, she set her jaw and tried to control the tears forming in her steel gray eyes. The son and his wife walked up the sidewalk, smiling and holding hands.
“So which one of you told this little dog she was old?”
Good grief. Here she goes again. I’m not a puppy anymore. Get over it.
Tillie’s husband Butch never allowed her to have a lap dog. He considered them a waste of time and money. Now, a hunting dog, he told her, there was a good investment. At least they could bring home something she could cook for supper. And Butch gave Tillie strict instructions never to pet the hunting dogs. That would just turn them into sissies and then what good would they be?
Three days after his sixty-first birthday, Butch took his dogs hunting. They were chasing a covey of quail when Butch tripped over the dogs, fell and blew a hole in his belly with his shotgun. After the funeral, Tillie gave the shotgun and the dogs to her son as a Christmas present. She promptly went to a dog show in nearby Dallas, strolled the aisles until she found a table of baby Chihuahuas, paid an obscene amount for the tiniest female, named her Sweet Little Tootsie Roll (Toots for short) and took her home.
Tillie and Toots became inseparable companions. An expert seamstress, Tillie created a lovely bag which fitted Toots perfectly. When she took her dog to the vet, he told her the Chihuahua was in good health but did have a slight curvature of the spine which would develop into arthritis as Toots grew old. Tillie decided never to allow that to happen so she always called her pet a sweet little baby puppy. Everyone who visited the house was instructed to do the same.
All went well for the next sixteen years until Toots indeed develop arthritis. Her little head perpetually cocked to the left and her tiny feet veered to the right. The odd walk never accounted for much because Tillie kept the dog in the bag or in her arms. The problem was with visitors who insisted on commenting what a sweet old dog Toots was.
“She is not old! She is my sweet little baby puppy!”
“Of course, she is, mother,” her son said.
“And if I accidentally used the word old, I am very sorry,” his wife added.
“She is not old!”
Stop screaming in my ear! I’m not deaf!
“Is she eating better than she was?” he asked.
“Yes, but I don’t want her to gain too much weight. Her little legs won’t hold it.”
The new stuff in the tiny packages is yummy. I’m glad she started buying it.
“I just don’t want her to be unhappy, that’s all,” Tillie sighed, relenting in her lecture.
I’m happy. I’m happy. Just stop screaming in my ears.
“She’s very dear to you,” the wife said. “I know.”
Oh great. The old broad’s beginning to quiver again. I better give her a kiss to calm her down.
Toots licked Tillie’s knuckles, which were becoming a bit arthritic too.
“You see,” she said, lifting the little dog to her cheek, “she needs me.”
You see, she needs me.