“Pineapple!” the young pet shop girl shouted as her colleague dropped a tiny pineapple-shaped object into the cage on a fresh piece of poo that the puppy had been curiously sniffing and licking. Apparently, the smell of pineapple deters dogs from eating their own shit. I don’t even want to know how anyone would’ve discovered that. That puppy at the pet shop was a tricolour beaglier with soft floppy ears. She was to be our first family pet. I’d never had any pets before. Growing up, Dad would say how hard they were to look after and I remember both Mum and Dad being overly obsessed with keeping the house clean and tidy.

Looking back, I wish we’d named her “Pineapple”. The kids thought “Rainbow Sparkle” was the perfect name for her. My partner did not agree. We decided on “Lila” and then because the kids could not say it properly, her name became Lara.

In our time together, I found that a puppy is very much like a baby. She cried throughout the night for nearly a month. She was teething. As she grew so did the number of things she chewed on. She taught us to keep the floor clear of toys. I lost count of the hands and feet chewed off of Barbies and gutted stuffed animals. It didn’t matter. Lara was so much more fun than any old toy. My kids would sometimes confuse Lara for a toy too. Especially my youngest was stuck in the idea that Lara should be a rainbow dog. The white fur would often be painted over with pink, purple, red, orange and what other colours my kids could get their hands on. Lara didn’t mind. She loved being a part of the family, no matter what.

Lara’s Sacrifice

As she was nearing her second year, which is the mark of maturity in dogs, she was much more calm and grounded. She’d still jump up on kids and give them a fright, sure, but she was more likely to come back to us when called and sit when told. She still had the playfulness and the sparkly eyes of a puppy. Seeing her in her cage most of the time, I’d promise myself I’d take her to the fenced dog park. I procrastinated because that park was not on my way to any coffee shops. For me to go to that park would be a purely selfless act and I was not up for it. There had to be something in it for me if I were to take Lara there. Now I realise Lara’s joy and delight is such a privilege and there’s so much in it for me to witness that. I forget how good it feels to watch a puppy or a person truly in their element, running around, playing, using up their energy, and doing what they were born to do.

Our beautiful Lara did as her nature and slipped out of the door one last time to run around on the Sunday before ANZAC day. When called, she made a movement for us and then decided no, she didn’t want to come back and ran across the street. She was hit by a car. I have a feeling the impact caused brain death immediately so hopefully, she did not suffer. In a way, she went doing what she loved the most, playing as a puppy should. Like the ANZACs she will never grow old. She will always be our playful puppy. In Lara’s spirit, I will give myself a break from worrying about the future. I will break out of my mental cage of fears and resentments, and go for a walk (or a run, you never know) to adopt a healthier and more playful outlook on life.

Let Life (and Juices) Flow

One of the most playful traditions we forgot about in our household is Friday Cocktails. Nothing’s better on a Friday afternoon than to sit on the porch, enjoy a cocktail, and shoot the breeze about dreams and ideas to bring to life without fear or worry that they won’t work out. What’s to lose for trying? Watching a business or an idea fail is never fatal. Losing one’s dreams and lust for life, now that’s no way to live.

In Lara’s (or “Pineapple” to me) honour, we will have a pineapple cocktail, maybe a Pina Colada this Friday, to drop shit-thinking (the guilt and resentment we feel that we couldn’t stop her from dying) and move forward with her spirit and bring joy and hope to those we encounter.

Over to you…

What was your first family pet? Can you remember his or her name? What’s your favourite memory with your first pet?

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