She came to us as a young dog, meant to be a companion for my 90-year-old mother. Her original owner had to kennel her most of the day and decided she wanted better for her pet ñ a more tactile home, where she would be frequently cuddled and loved. And oh my, did that owner ever hit a double jackpot when she sent the dog to our house!

Mother kenneled her in her lap for her last couple of years of life; then Jim tucked his new cohort into his windbreaker whenever he went out, and the dog, called Liddy, enjoyed sassing the world from her protected perch. After that, like Maryís little lamb, wherever Jim went, Liddy was sure to go. She followed him to the mailbox, and checked on him in his study, sitting at his feet, making sure he wrote monthly bills properly. When that was done, she supervised him in the yard as he mowed the grass, weeded the garden and cleaned the pool. All the while he had to be careful not to step on the dog, who was constantly trotting beside him.

I thought her name must be short for Elizabeth, after some queenly background, as the tiny brown and white creature had elegance about her. Then I checked her papers more carefully and discovered she was officially named ìRed Hot Liddy.î Surely this was more appropriate for some wind-swift racing Greyhound or one of those chic, curly haired Afghans, not for a little Shih Tzu with moist eyes like shiny black marbles and mini-teeth the size of seed pearls! Liddy was quiet and gentle. Clearly hers was one of the sweetest of all dog breeds.

Jim had always downplayed what he termed ìfoo fooî dogs, preferring larger, huskier canines. Until Liddy.  Then he totally lost his heart and changed all his thinking about the ideal pet. It was mutual from the get-go.

A few months back, Liddy began to fade. She lost her hearing, then much of her sight. Her hindquarters fish-tailed whenever she climbed stairs and her functions were failing. She was in a swift decline. A week ago today, she left us.

Tuesday we got a formal card from The Nemasket Clinic, our vets. At first I thought it was an extremely early holiday greeting. But it was a caring, personal note of sympathy, accompanied by a helpful brochure called ìDealing with Pet Lossî and an anonymous poem entitled ìIf I Should Grow Frail.î The last two stanzas read:

    I know in time you too will see

    It is a kindness you do for me.

    Although my tail its last has waved,

    From pain and suffering I have been saved.


    Do not grieve that it must be you

    Who has to decide this thing to do.

    Weíve been so close, we three, these years,

    Donít let your heart hold any tears.


We buried Liddy outside the kitchen window, under our flourishing Japanese maple. The tree, (fittingly, a gift from mother), was a bright autumn scarlet until just after that final rite. It dropped its leaves the very next day. In our minds and at her gravesite, Liddy will always be Red Hot.

I guess she was aptly named after all.