Dying Wishes for My Dog

It's all about the collar

I was on a plane yesterday from San Francisco to Philadelphia, and because the planet hates humans now, the plane was bouncing around like Jack Sparrow on the Pearl. [The movie on the flight was Pirates of the Carribbean, which I’d never seen (I know!) so I am newly entitled to Pirates metaphors.] Everyone around me was watching the inflight entertainment, playing games on their laptops or—if they were small children sitting really close by—screaming with rage for no apparent reason. Meanwhile, each lurch of the plane convinced me I was going to die.

Some people in this circumstance (minutes away from certain death, that is) would craft soulful letters to their loved ones. But I didn’t have time. I had to take care of the dog.

When I’m away my dog spends hours waiting by the door. Actually, she assumes the position I’m looking for when I say the word, “Sit”–which she otherwise interprets as “touch your butt to the ground really fast then stand up and get a treat.”

I call her waiting posture the Penitent Sit because she always looks regretful, as if she’s done something horribly wrong and made the humans go away. I have many photographs of the PS because it underscores her combination of cuteness and fidelity.

In return for her loyalty, I wanted to make sure that she’d be safe after my death in a fiery plane crash. So I wrote a note to my domestic partner: “Don’t forget that when you take Hannah out, she MUST have her ID collar on.”


Though he scoffs when I say that now, I figure if I’m dead, my words will carry more weight.

The reason for his collar-related disdain is that Hannah is inside almost all the time; she sleeps at least 20 hours a day, and in her few hours of wakefulness, she prefers to beg, get massages and do her “business” in her doggy litterbox. Sometimes I take her out for a spin, but like her mommy, she dislikes weather and prefers the soft, downy, forgiving contours of Bed. (There is nothing like Bed, we agree.)

Given this non-itinerary, my partner argues, Hannah’s not in need of an ID collar because we know perfectly well who she is. But what if she runs down three flights and through the locked vestibule door and through the front door and onto the porch and down the flight of front steps and onto the sidewalk and across the street and around the block?

I know that sounds unlikely—it would be the Hannahlympics; we’d have medals made of bacon—but a lot of things that sound crazy are true. For example, I read a news story about a year ago about a family that took their long-haired chihuahua to a park. The tiny dog was up on picnic table when a fierce gust of wind came up and blew the dog away. I am so not joking. The dog was found later, a mile away. It had some leaves and branches in its fur, but was otherwise unharmed. It was returned to the owner because, despite its journey, it was still wearing its collar.

With death coming soon—as well as an episode of Parks and Recreation starting on the video screens—I thought I’d just leave it at that: keep Hannah’s collar on. I figured it would be just enough to get her through whatever hurriquakenaminado the planet has in store.

Thankfully, we landed without a problem. When I got home, I found a little dog in the PS. She was so stunned that it had actually resulted in the appearance of her human, she started zooming in circles, wagging her tail and whimpering with joy. She didn’t leave my side for the rest of the night. It made risking death on an airplane totally worthwhile.