Heloise was my beautiful little dog.

I adopted her in June of 2013 from a woman not-really-affiliated-with-a-rescue who had some very fishy stories about her provenance and wasn’t bothering to keep her, unspayed, separate from unneutered male dogs. In the picture of her online1, her teeth looked funny2, so I wanted to take a look at them. She licked my face with such gusto I was unable to make out anything about her teeth.

heloise elegant sprawled out fluffed out fresh from a bath.

She turned out to be perfect. I don’t know up from down when it comes to dog training, but she was somehow instinctively perfect. She was so trusting you could hold her on her back like a baby. She was quiet, she loved new people, she was so polite you could eat a sandwich while she was on your lap and she wouldn’t try to take a bite…

I’d dropped out of college by then, and was living with my parents3. When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I asked myself some really pointed questions about my goals. I wanted to be able to afford to stay in the Pacific Northwest, to live on the west side of the Cascades, and to live in a city – and I wanted to be able to afford doggie daycare for Heloise during the workday. This was the logic that had me first look into computer science.

I put myself together enough to think of going back to college. I spent a year at a local community college, then chose WSU Vancouver to finish simply because I knew I’d be able to afford to find somewhere to live there that’d let me keep Heloise with me, which seemed real dubious in Seattle for UW. Not everyone sympathized with this line of thought, but my family got it.

In college, having Heloise saved me from a lot of bad decisions. I think a lot of young people make a lot of those just because they’re living atomized lives. It makes you desperately lonely without really being able to articulate that. You can’t be desperately lonely with an 11 pound fluffball who’ll spend twenty minutes every morning staring into your eyes as you ponder the burden of the day.

heloise staring into your eyes over the comforter.

When I got a job, it turned out to be a place where they’d let me bring her into the office. She loved everyone and most everyone loved her; she was perfectly suited to the lifestyle. She was a 10x engineer, no question.

heloise poking her nose over a desk with an ergodox.

During the pandemic, she missed that office life. She missed her many admirers and the sniffing opportunities afforded her by our walk commute4.

heloise curled up in the closet by the server with a monitor connected to it showing a terminal.

In 2021, it turned out her kidneys were failing. She declined. On July 17th, we had a vet come and we let her go.

I don’t know whether it’s right to say she was herself so special. She seemed special. She was everyone’s “I don’t like small dogs, but…” exception. She was better than I’d ever even hoped a dog could be. But doesn’t everyone think their dog is the best? That their cat is the smartest cat? Did I love Heloise more than other people love their pets?

I feel like she has to be special in order to make space for my grief, still embarrassed by “well she was just a dog”.

Oh, Heloise. I’ll miss you so.

orange and white dog

  1. She was being called “Poppy the Papillon”, can you imagine the indignity? 

  2. It’s common for little dogs. They’re sort of like sharks in that they have a lot more teeth than jaw space for teeth. 

  3. Who still deserve infinite praise for the wisdom of letting their semi-comatose young adult daughter get a dog contra all traditional advice. 

  4. Sometimes there’d be small children out with their parents for something or other. I always loved letting them approach and pat her: a dog their size! She was gentle and sweet to them, every time.