Pepper, 67


Pepper, 67, Duluth, died Tuesday, December 4, 2007. Born June 2, 1998 in Austin, Minnesota to Chispa, she was our companion for over nine years. It was a complete surprise. Monday, she was fine.

Sherry came home from school Tuesday and Pepper wouldn’t stand up or move, and her breathing was labored. Not knowing what to do, Sherry got her outside somehow where she lay on the deck while Sherry tried to shovel. We had 16 inches of snow that afternoon. Some of it piled up on Pepper as she lay and watched Sherry work.

When I got home shortly after, our vet had told Sherry we needed to go the the Emergency Vet Clinic because they were about to close and the snow was intensifying, so we headed out into the snow. We put her on the floor of the car, but before we could get in, in classic Pepper fashion, she pulled herself into the driver’s seat. We figured she’d be OK. Perhaps she’d swallowed another Lindy Rig (Thanksgiving, 2006, she pooped one out. Orange spinner, hook, neatly packed into a turd).

Somehow we got there. In my lap, Pepper was in obvious pain, but still insisted on looking out the window. In stop and go traffic, and by alternate route because of roads clogged with idling vehicles, we got to the clinic where we were informed that the the doctor was two blocks away, snowbound but slowly getting closer.

The assistant took one look at Pepper and put her on oxygen. After awhile, the doctor arrived, and after a brief look, asked us if Pepper might have eaten rat poison because she was bleeding internally. Her abdomen was full of fluid. It was either that or a tumor had burst, either on her spleen or liver. In either case, she said, her chances were not good – slightly better if she’d eaten the rat poison. We decided to conduct a blood test to determine if it was the poison, but the test never happened.

PepperMaiaThe vet returned shortly and told us we’d better come into the back room because Pepper was breathing her last breaths.

When we saw her, she was laid out on the table, unconscious, breathing in occasional spasms. Up until that moment, I still believed this was some minor alarm that she would get through, but seeing her then, we knew this was it. We stayed with her as she slowly went on her way. Sherry was in tears, but I couldn’t feel anything. My hands on her head, I numbly watched the doctor check her heart rate every few minutes. It steadily got slower. Putting her to sleep was hardly an option, she said. By the time they did it, Pepper would probably be gone anyway.

We knew we had to call the girls, so since I was still emotionless, I dialed the number. I talked to Maia, and I was fine. Maia was a rock. I talked to Maritha, and still I was a machine. Maritha was a little shakey. Then Kylie got on and sobbed, and I was blubbering. Pepper was gone. I loved that dog.

We decided against bringing home her ashes in favor of her paw prints pressed into a clay disk. Come spring, we’ll bury it. Until then, some memories.


Pepper chased basketballs. Early in her career, she chased them all over the yard, never catching them because her mouth was too small. At some point, however, she discovered she could catch them under her abdomen, which she enjoyed to an embarrassing degree. Leaving a basketball out in the yard eventually became a definite no no.

She was also good at fetch. She caught a mean Frisbee, and soaked up my 90 mph fastballs (tennis balls) better than Joe Mauer, but she never caught on to the return part of the fetch game. She always made us chase her to get it back.

She was strictly a dog food diet dog, except on movie night, when Sherry would toss her popcorn, after popcorn, after popcorn…she never dropped one. She also liked any dead and stinking thing she could get her mouth on.

She also had paws that were more like hands. She could lay on her back and hold a chew toy or rawhide as she gnawed, and I could swear she had opposable thumbs.

She was always afraid of men. Any strange male that entered the yard or house was persona non grata, and she was full of threats and bluster for nearly a minute before she would start to fawn skittishly – dying to get some affection from this evil entity, but terrified at the same time. What a weirdo.

She pretty much loved everyone else to the point of annoyance. No hand or ankle went un-licked.

Pepper is survived by many dog friends who will miss her. Early in her life, Jennifer Montgomery’s Scout and Pepper were absolutely amazing. They were about the same age, and when Scout would come to visit, they would chase each other around our Bismarck back yard literally for hours, gnawing on each other’s ears. Weirdos.

Of course, there’s is Pepper’s beloved brother and litter mate, Blizzard, who were also like peas and carrots. There’s also Pepper’s mother, Chispa, who continues to lick her paws down in Austin, and though Pepper outweighed her 6 to 1, insisted on physically demonstrating her dominance well into Pepper’s adulthood.

Other surviving canine pals are Sadie, Abby, Baxster, Luci,  Henry, and Rex (who Pepper could easily best in any fetch game, but she always allowed him to win to protect his ego).

Preceding Pepper to the Afterlife are Buddy, may he rest in peace, and Wilson and Simon, may they also rest in peace, and Amy and Mindy, may they rest in peace.

Pepper touched the lives of many animals and people, mostly with her nose and tongue. She will be missed. I think we’ll give it a week, and then we’ll start vacuuming up dog hair around here.

Thanks for being a great dog, ya moron.

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4 Responses to Pepper, 67

  1. Valeri Vegar says:

    Steve and Family,

    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Pepper sounds like she was a wonderful part of your family. She will be missed alot. Animals have away of reaching in and warming your heart. To have known Pepper and loved her sounds like even though this time is painful was well worth it. Take Care,

  2. Jack, the Aussie Shepherd says:

    My deepest sympathies. Although I never knew her, the death of anyone diminishes us all.

  3. Sarah says:

    Sorry to hear about Pepper. It’s a bit shocking to have it happen so fast.

    I catch myself grieving the loss of Jack, although he is just two, because odds are that I’ll outlive him. I’m hoping to ease the grief when it really happens by worrying about it while he’s alive.

    Pepper would have wanted you to get another dog…

  4. Jocelyn says:

    You got me all teary there, you know. No fair having both you and Kylie blubbering.

    These traumatic life moments always seem to have a dramatic natural backdrop–a flood, a windstorm, a blizzard. Those two events will now be tied together for you, eh?

    I’m so sorry.

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