I like to joke that as soon as I and my brother left the nest our mother replaced us with dogs. She rescued Sadie and Taffy, two miniature poodles, first. Then came the dobie sisters.
Pepper was the runt and Cracker, although not a runt, was the reject of the litter because she had a cowlick. Not perfect for breeding but perfect for us, especially in telling them apart. I don't have any puppy photos to share of them but they were the cutest pups. Obviously. They grew up to be rather big girls. So big, our parents put them on a diet. Still...they were "big boned" girls. Both very smart and sweet despite their fearsome appearances.
Cracker was definitely the huskier and stronger girl. As a younger dog, she was less interested in cuddling but as she got older she loved affection. And she loved food. She was always hungry, and would steal vegetables from the garden: crunchy cucumbers dangling from the terrace; cherry tomatoes hanging within her reach; and zucchinis from the vine. She would make herself sick from eating green apricots. Cracker girl also loved to chase rats that she'd hear at night in the garden. My brother and I happened to be home the night that she finally caught one. She delivered the rat, in its death throes, to our poor mom. Cracker was so proud of herself, and couldn't figure out why mom, whose shrieks had woken us up, was not happy. It was an exciting night. Kinda scary--who wants a half-dead rat running around in the house?--and very funny. Mostly at our mom's expense.
In the past couple years Cracker had problems with arthritis and was starting to gray. I was home last year in November and took some photos of all the dogs as part of a photography project on their aging. And, thinking ahead, for nice mementos of them.
I was home again in May and Cracker had slowed down quite a bit. She had a couple tumors that were benign and the vet said Cracker didn't have more than a few months left after a stomach infection. I took most of these photos of her during that visit. She was limping and didn't like to move around as much but she would still get up at the chance for food. A week after or so after I left, our mom took her to the vet again and the vet said Cracker had cancer. Our parents tried to make her comfortable as they also prepared to let go of her. When they told me Cracker had stopped begging I knew she was not much longer for this life. If Cracker was not thinking about food, she was not herself.
Cracker went to sleep eternally on July 18, 2015. She was almost 10 years old, or 70 in dog years. Cracker is survived by her sister, Pepper, and Taffy, and the rest of her human family.
I like to joke that as soon as I and my brother left the nest our mother replaced us with dogs. But they weren't replacements. Everybody who came over to our parents' home also knew and loved the dogs as one of the Fitzpatricks. Cracker's personality, escapades, and devotion to us (and food) are part of the memories and stories we treasure as a family. We loved her and miss her.
Part of what I love about photographs and taking photographs is that they are powerful records of important moments in our lives and of the people, animals, and things we love. They capture the personal and the public, the historic and the political. Photographs are a specific type of memory and memorial. This is my remembrance of our sweet Cracker: rat chaser, garden thief, affection glutton, and food beggar.