I loved Winston before I ever loved Richie.
Richie and I met in college, when we both were accepted to the Mays Fellows program. I think we were both dating other people at the time; memories and details blur, but this I see in perfect clarity. We were at an organization-sponsored dinner at Christopher’s (at the time, THE fine dining of College Station), placed at the same table. I rolled my eyes internally as Richie made some comment about not being “the kind of person who gets married straight out of college” and mentally tuned out of the conversation until I heard the phrase “getting a puppy”. I instantly perked up. A puppy? As a lifelong dog owner who missed her Pepper greatly, the idea of a puppy within a 5-mile radius overcame just about any obstacle. “Can I meet him?”
With those words, my life has changed forever. I’m not saying this for drama, or emphasis, but to be completely transparent, my love of dogs – which became my love of Winston, specifically – has led me to where I am today. In college, it meant that Richie and I spent a great deal of time together. Our friendship clicked – we immediately saw each other as “kindred spirits”, in the words of Anne of Green Gables – but that friendship was cemented by Winston. We dated other people, and those relationships came and went, but our friendship remained. Richie’s love of Winston, and my deep and lasting affection for him, was at its core.
Years passed, and my friendship with Richie turned into something deeper. Winston would burrow himself between us while we sat on the couch watching movies. I joked he was trying to push us apart because Winston wanted to be Richie’s only true love; Richie would say that he was trying to get as close as possible to both of us.
Richie and I married, and on the first night we were home after our honeymoon, I tried to stand firm that as much as I loved him, Winston should not be allowed in our bed. After several hours of Winston pacing outside the door, I relented and let him in our bedroom. He instantly curled up on my pillow and became my cuddly companion for years to come.
We moved to Budapest within a few years of marriage, and Winston was responsible for forcing me out of my comfort zone and into the expat world. If we didn’t have the dogs, I would have remained hidden in our temporary housing for days while I tried to figure out what on earth I’d gotten myself into. Instead, I immediately had to force myself into the city, finding dog parks where Winston would announce his presence with a resounding howl, telling the world, “Hello! I’m gracing you with my presence!” Over our time in Budapest, especially at Klauzal tér, this howl became well-known amongst the other dog owners, who greeted him with love and affection and dog treats. When we moved back to the States, I’m pretty sure the dog park community was far more upset about the loss of their little törpe schnauzer than the rest of us.
When we moved back to the U.S. and soon learned that our Jonas would be joining our family, we worried about Winston. He was aging, and a little bit set in his ways, and we were concerned we wouldn’t adapt well to a new (tiny) (human) addition to our family. To our great surprise and delight, Winston became a gentle and sweet furry brother to our little Jojo. He was one of the constant “bodyguards” of the baby, one of the first incentives for J to crawl, and one of his first words (“puh-puh” for puppy).
Aging is a strange and terrible thing. Winston didn’t have cancer, or a severe illness, but over time he was slowly robbed of his joys, great and small. His love of adventure and exploration was limited by a body and legs that wouldn’t support him, and the things he once loved like cuddling and long walks became uncomfortable and unpleasant for him. But my memories of him won’t be these days at the end. I’ll see him running into the kutyafuttatók in Budapest, howling, and everyone bursting into laughter at the kis-király. I’ll see him enthusiastically running towards the ducks at White Rock Lake and causing them to take flight. I’ll feel him cuddled against my side, keeping me warm on the long and lonely nights when Richie was traveling. I’ll picture him excitedly lunging at every person who visited our home, climbing into their laps and making himself comfortable. I’ll picture him standing guard, curiously and cautiously, over our little boy when he joined the family.
We love you, Winston. Always and forever.