Daisy Love

Daisy Love

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

Daisy Love

In our early days of working together at the grooming shop, my husband, David, and I had a field day studying humanity as it passed through our door on the other end of a dog leash. Things were less hectic then. We had plenty of time to dissect our customers’ personalities and discuss our observations.

George was one of these character studies. Despite his gruff personality, he was a sentimental man, an uncommon trait in cool, reserved New England where we strive to keep a stiff upper lip. George wore his heart on his sleeve, notably for Evie, his wife of forty-five years whose death after a lingering illness had been a traumatic blow to the craggy old gentleman.

Each April on the anniversary of Evie’s passing, George would grace the editorial page of the local newspaper with a poem written in her memory.

“Every year about this time, we know we can count on two things,” David remarked as he leafed through the paper. “Income taxes and a poem from George.”

“I happen to think it’s touching,” I argued. “And I’ll tell you something else: If George doesn’t get his dog to the vet soon, he’ll have somebody else to grieve for.”

For almost a year, I had been upset whenever George brought his terrier mix, Daisy, in for grooming. I had noticed small lumps growing on her body, but each time I suggested he take the little Benji look-alike to the vet, he changed the subject. I agonized over the situation with David, who also worked as a psychiatric nurse. “People like George will not act until they are ready,” he told me. “In the mental-health field, we refer to this as denial.”

I empathized with George’s dread. In his mind, if he didn’t name the demon, it didn’t exist. And Daisy was much more than a pet to the lonely widower. A heavy smoker and drinker in his younger years, George’s retirement had been hastened by poor health, but now he worked at keeping fit. His daily walks with Daisy were a big part of his regimen.

His life revolved around the little dog. There was the morning ride to the doughnut shop where Ruthie the waitress always saved him a plain, and Daisy a coconut, cruller. “I know it’s not health food, but it’s my only vice,” he told me. Once home, they’d relax in his recliner to watch The Price Is Right, then take awalk before lunch. After a nap, they arose in time to greet the school kids getting off the bus in front of their house. Nomatter what the chore— leaf raking, fence painting, bulb planting or lawn mowing— Daisy happily tagged along at hermaster’s heels as he addressed her with a steady stream of chatter.

His pride in the little mongrel showed every time he picked her up after grooming. “Well, well, don’t you look pretty,” he’d enthuse as Daisy wagged her whole body with delight. “Show us how you dance!”

The little dog dutifully twirled on her hind legs, then yipped for a cookie. “Show Kathy how you go for a walk,” he’d tell her, as she picked up the leash in her mouth and trotted to the door.

“Now let’s go visit your mother and show her those pretty bows.” Off they would go to tend the flowers on Evie’s grave.

Another winter came and went before George got to the vet with Daisy. By this time, the lumps were harder and larger. I felt a sense of grim foreboding when he said the vet had decided not to operate. “He said she would be more comfortable if you gave her medicated baths.” Somehow I did not believe those were the vet’s only instructions.

As the months passed, Daisy grew less energetic. She found it increasingly hard to stand, so I took to trimming her while she was lying down. She still performed her little tricks at the end of each visit. “Show Kathy how you act shy,” he told her as she ducked her head and covered her eyes with a paw.

When I returned from my summer vacation, my new assistant, Trudy, conveyed the news I had been dreading: Daisy had passed away. “George was very upset that you weren’t here,” she told me. “He even called the vet a quack. It got worse when he started crying.”

Unable to reach him by phone, I sent George a letter expressing our condolences. Months later, when he dropped by to see us, he looked as though he had aged several years. We reminisced about Daisy, her funny tricks and endearing ways. “My son keeps telling me to pull myself together. If he tells me once more, ‘Dad, it was only a dog. . . .’” All I could offer was a hug.

“The worst part is, it was all my fault,” he said tearfully. “I blamed the vet, but if I had taken her to see him when you folks told me to, I’d still have her now.”

David gently placed his arm around the old man’s shoulder. “We’ve all learned some lessons the hard way, George,” he told him.

A few weeks later, fate intervened when a young woman came into the shop, dragging a dirt-caked terrier mix that was matted from head to tail. The raggedy creature’s pungent odor told me it had recently gotten up close and personal with a skunk.

“This here is Fanny. She belongs to my aunt and uncle, but they wanna get rid of her.”

As I reached down to examine the dog, she jerked its chain. “I gotta warn ya, she’s a bad dog. She barks all day, and she don’t like kids.”

“She barks in the house?” I inquired.

“No, she don’t come in the house. They keep her tied out in the yard.”

Poor Fanny was frightened and jumpy. Grooming her was not easy or pleasant. When she emerged, de-fleaed and de-skunked, her bones jutted out from her bare skin. Yet somehow she looked eerily familiar.

“Who does she remind you of?” I asked David.

“Sinead O’Connor?” he guessed.

“No! Doesn’t she look like Daisy, George’s old dog?”

It would take some convincing. George had sworn he would never have another pet.

“I just can’t go through it again,” he told me. “I don’t deserve it after what happened to Daisy.”

“But, George, you know you’ve been lonely,” I prodded, as determined as a used-car salesman.

“Everybody’s lonely,” he grumped. “What else is new?”

“The poor thing spends her life tied to a rusty chain in a muddy backyard. She’s totally unsocialized.” I warmed to my subject. “Maybe you shouldn’t take her after all. She’s going to need an awful lot of training, patience and love. You might not be up to it.”

“I guess I could take her on a trial basis,” he mumbled.

“Well, if it doesn’t work out, you can always give her back,” I offered brightly.

The first thing George did was to rename the dog Daisy II. Her coat grew out, soft and fluffy, and she learned to walk on a leash and come when called. She still got anxious when he left her for grooming, then exploded in a yapping fury when he came to pick her up.

“Watch this,” he said one December day, placing his car keys on the chair beside my counter. “Daisy, want to go get doughnuts?”

In a furry flash, she raced to the chair, jumping up and then landing squarely at his feet, head cocked to one side and keys gripped tightly in her mouth. George beamed proudly.

David and I stood in the doorway, watching the happy pairwalk across the snow-dusted parking lot as the church bells chimed a Christmas carol. “Merry Christmas, George!” I called after him. “And don’t forget—if it doesn’t work out, you can always give her back!”

Kathy Salzberg

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners