I’ve written several columns about Nicky, the rescue terrier who rules our hearts and home with an iron paw. Long ago, I loved two other dogs: Elvis, the fearless pit bull, and Jezebel, the inscrutable Chow. They crossed the Rainbow Bridge years ago, but they’re still in my heart—and on my shelf.
When Elvis died I had him cremated. His ashes went into a rosewood box topped with a plaque engraved with one word: “Beloved.” Jezebel died three years later; I added her ashes to his because they were inseparable in life. The box, about the size of a Costco can of cashews, is displayed in our dining room.
That’s my back story. Now here’s a story from Angela Pittard, who contacted me last week.
Her parents, Mary and Joe Leaphart, have lived in Meadowbrook subdivision in Summerville since 1969. Last month they went to North Carolina for a family Thanksgiving--and returned to find their home burgled. Only after a deputy responded, took a report and departed, did they discover the most important missing item: A box containing the ashes of Joe’s beloved toy poodle, Brandy.
Joe called Angela, devastated. “He is grieving again as he did when she passed away many years ago,” Angela said.
Brandy's ashes were kept on Joe’s dresser in a brown wooden box, with a flower design carved on top and a brass name plate with Brandy's name, her birthdate and year of passing.
The thief “thought he’d taken something valuable, and he was correct,” she added.
It’s a long shot, but the family hopes that whoever took the box returns it anonymously. “Just put them in the mailbox and there will be no questions asked,” Angela said.
There’s another hope, however: “Maybe the person who took Brandy realized he had nothing to profit from, and tossed [the box and ashes] somewhere where they might be found,” Angela said. “I pray that someone will find the box and contact us. There is a reward for her return.”
Brandy came to the Leapharts’ home as a puppy, and lived to the ripe old age of 17. “My sister Kathy and I wanted a dog. Daddy wasn't in favor of it because he thought he’d end up with the responsibility for her,” Angela recalled. That’s exactly what happened…. but before you could say “Snausages,” Joe and Brandy were in love.
“She was another child to Daddy. He treated her like a baby. She saw him through the shipyard closure and was his constant companion. He always called her his best friend,” Angela said. “One of his favorite things was to give Brandy a bath and blow-dry her. She would lay perfectly still while he brushed her and dried her.”
Joe loved to take Brandy to McDonalds. It became such a common practice that the employees kept dog treats for her. When Joe and Mary went on trips, Angela stayed at their house to care for Brandy. “I always left them notes written from Brandy's perspective about her adventures while they were gone. Daddy loved those stories,” Angela said.
Now all the Leapharts have is memories of the little dog whose cremains were to be buried with Joe.
If you find Brandy’s ashes or know anything about the theft, Angela can be reached at email@example.com.
“They could have taken anything else and it would have been okay, but they got what was most precious to Daddy--and that's not okay,” she said.
Julie R. Smith, who talks to Elvis all the time, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.