Remembering Cindy Lou: April 4, 1996 to Jan. 1, 2005

Former Missouri Secretary of State James Kirkpatrick said one of the shortest, most moving prayers ever offered: “Dear Lord, please make me the kind of man my dog thinks I am.”

That’s how my “Thinking Out Loud” column began on Jan 5, 2005, in the 11th ever edition of The Northern Boone County Bullseye, the weekly newspaper that I owned and operated (some would say “ran into the ground”) in Hallsville, Mo., from Oct. 2004 to Sept. 2008.

It was the most difficult column I’ve ever written, but not one I’m necessarily proud of in regard to quality. It was weak and didn’t do a good job of connecting with readers. At least that’s my opinion, which I render even knowing that 100 columns written to eulogize my best-ever canine friend, Cindy, the most terrific Boston terrier that ever lived, would not have been good enough.

Sorry to rain on the Fiesta Bowl or any other New Year’s-esque merriment you’re enjoying, but somehow — despite another year removed from the memory — new tears streak down my face as I remember Cindy Lou and the bleak morning she died in my arms on Jan. 1, 2005. She was supposed to be Kelly’s dog, and she was. But she was my best buddy, my confidante, my family’s source of entertainment and happiness for almost nine years.

Cindy with Kelly during the silly Boston terrier's favorite time of the year, 1997.

Cindy’s death still brings sad memories. The memory of her life still brings great waves of breath-taking joy. I think I miss her as much today as I did on Jan. 2, 2005. I’m a dog person, that’s for sure. I’ve met or known very few “bad” dogs. “Stupid” dogs, yes. But “bad,” without the aid of a bad owner? I can’t remember any off-hand.

Cindy was in a class of her own. She’s at the top of my best-dog-ever list, a mere .0001 point ahead of Jesse, a tiny, long-haired dachshund-Chihuahua that became Kishia’s best friend two years before she started kindergarten. Jesse matched Cindy in brain power. She was more “person” than “dog.” Jessie lived 15 years and was perky but gray-chinned when she posed with Kishia for our first-born’s senior pictures.

Two other Jackson family pooches belong on that best-dog-ever list: Lexie, a 4-pound Maltese who had no idea she was only 4 pounds, and the current resident of the Jackson Estate, Bella, a Brussels griffon. Lab-mix brothers Fierce and Freddy, my boys that I had to give up when we moved from Clark to Columbia three years ago, came close to filling a tiny portion of the vast emptiness in my heart created by Cindy’s passing.

I’m going to give you the entire Jan. 5, 2005 column below, but first two more thoughts. The column mentions Misty, the first puppy mill rescue that Kelly ever fostered and adopted. (Lexie, Suzy and Bella were also former puppy mill residents, doomed for cruel deaths without Kelly’s intervention). Misty died two weeks after this column’s appearance. I also mention how much Cindy loved Christmas. Okay, you can suggest that characteristic is a stretch, but we knew it as fact. Natasha, our singer and Cindy’s sleeping mate, often sang “Where Are You Christmas?” at bedtime.

Every time that song comes on now, I quickly turn it off. Just can’t take it. (Yep. Eyes watering ever now).

Now let me tell yo about THE best dog ever.

Cindy Lou: April 4, 1996 to Jan. 1, 2005 …

Former Missouri Secretary of State James Kirkpatrick said one of the shortest, most moving prayers ever offered: “Dear Lord, please make me the kind of man my dog thinks I am.”

I’m not sure what kind of man Cindy thought I was — after all, she had seen me at my best and, I must admit, at my worst — but I’m sure I know what kind of dog she was.

Cindy died in my arms at about 6:30 a.m. New Year’s Day at my mother’s house in Warrensburg. Her chronic lung problems — a bane to Boston terriers — finally took her breath. I have struggled to battle the images of her final moments, and although that memory will crush my own chest for many years to come, I grasp for some measure of solace and peace in remembering her as one of the most incredible blessings in my life.

In last week’s column, I did a feeble job eulogizing Jesse, a little dog we’d had for nearly 15 years, and I reported that Misty, the newest part of the Jackson’s canine collection, was fighting a life-threatening infection. (Misty is out of the hospital, but still not out of the woods).

I also hinted at my suspicion that Cindy, who would have been 9 in April, might not be around next Christmas.

Cindy was a gift to Kelly after her graduation from college with a four-year degree at the ripe young age of 33. Cindy saw our youngest, Natasha, mature from fifth grade to the 12th grade.

What kind of dog was Cindy? She was, in every essence of the word, a “good” dog — and the smartest little canine that ever did live. She understood not just words, but entire phrases. And something that makes me feel so good for Cindy is that I can’t recall anyone raising their voice in anger toward Cindy. If it happened, it was very, very rare. There wasn’t any need.

There wasn’t a single, bad trait about Cindy. Oh, she’d get under your feet in the kitchen, but only because she was waiting for something edible to hit the floor. She didn’t routinely get “people food,” so she was opportunistic.

Naturally, I almost always made sure that something hit the floor.

Together, our family shared a common bond with Cindy. Individually, each of us had our own strong attachment, too.

Cindy and I both snored. Loudly. In fact, Cindy’s snoring was a topic of conversation on New Year’s Eve as my siblings and I got together at my mom’s. For so long, that snoring was a constant, even soothing background noise.

Now the house is strangely quiet.

Kishia, our oldest, would get tired of hearing Cindy’s incessant, log-sawing snoring, and tell her in a very stern tone, “Go to bed, Fatty!” To which Cindy responded by getting up from wherever she was and hopping up on Natasha’s bed, where she slept nearly every night of her life.

Other phrases she knew: “Go potty” (yes, she would “go” on command), “Go get in your pen” (when she was younger, thinner and needed to be in her pet carrier for some reason). “Go get your toy.” (Even if the toy, preferably a tug-o-war rag or rope, had not been played with for days). “Sit” and “stay” were too easy, quickly learned with Kelly’s patient teaching and liver-flavored treats. (Incidentally, she knew when we spelled “T-R-E-A-T,” too). “Hop” or “jump up” when she needed extra coaxing to jump up on the sofa. She responded very excitedly to the words “friends” and “babies.”

Cindy never rescued anyone from a well, but she tried to be a sheep dog for a while. She once corralled a small flock of bummer lambs that were running in the back yard.

Everyone who met Cindy will remember Cindy. She didn’t bite; she barked only to feign fierceness, as if she was obligated to announce that she was protecting all of mankind (and, besides, she couldn’t really bark, which was entertaining all by itself).

But perhaps her favorite words were, “Let’s go bye-bye”, “Merry Christmas” (she LOVED Christmas), and “Grandma.” She knew those phrases and words, so maybe it was too much for her to be told, two weekends in a row, “Let’s go bye-bye to Grandma’s for Christmas.”

And that’s where she’s buried.

She understood many words, but the greatest peace I have is that she understood our hearts, too. She knew this, too, above all:

“Cindy, we love you so much.”

Sweet, sweet little Lexie. She wasn't quite yet 3 when she joined Cindy in Dog Heaven.


Freddy and Fierce. Their mischievous motto: Don't fence us in. My boys ... great wrestling and napping-in-the-yard buddies.


Bella, the current queen of the Jackson home. A young dog with an old soul. She seems to know Kelly saved her life.


1 Comment

Filed under MIP: Memoir-in-progress

One response to “Remembering Cindy Lou: April 4, 1996 to Jan. 1, 2005

  1. I couldn’t finish reading this. Because those images of Cindy’s last moments come back to be still…and it’s hard :(. I know it’s a beautiful article though. Enjoying your blog, Dad :).

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