Stars for Dark Hearts

It was always my stated opinion and worry that whenever Cassie “went,” Cleo would not be far behind, in a tragedy fashioned off of “Where the Red Fern Grows.” This was not entirely fantastic in thought – Cleo was ALWAYS devoted to Cassie. When she left her littermates and joined her big sister, she stuck to her like glue. If Cassie was home alone and we returned, her first interest was us and not Cleo. If Cleo were home alone, the very opposite was true.

That’s why it was hard to come home, sans Miss Cassio, and see Cleo’s wagging tail, her nose held forward in eager excitement at seeing her sister once more – and the confusion when she wasn’t there to mob and greet and wrestle. Yet it seemed within the first day that she had figured it out. Cassie had been away before, and Cleo had been heartbroken – but grown from the experience. But now that she wasn’t coming back, it seemed Cleo knew why. It is said that dogs can smell cancer, and even if they can’t, then it surely must be so that Cleo knew her sister so intimately, she would have seen the end coming, even if she didn’t understand it. Animals are very en-tuned to that sort of thing.

So I was worried about Cleo – but within the first few days, she seemed to understand. She still looked for Cassie, for a little while, or at least came upstairs for comfort. But she cuddled, which was usually Cassie’s job, and was much more patient than she had ever been before, which was also Cassie’s hallmark. As if she knew that she must fill in the paw prints of her older sister, Cleo seemed to stop all the bad behavior I’ve scolded her for on here: she listened closely; she waited patiently and did not rush for food or play; she even allowed herself to be picked up with very little fuss, an unusual thing for my little tubby puppy. Perhaps most shocking of all, the dog that scarfed down food without even tasting it hasn’t finished her dinner four hours later. Oh, she ate the tasty bits, but she is nibbling the kibble at her own leisure. She took one small nip out of a bone, and was content to leave it there without concern. Perhaps with no one to be jealous of, even that will change, as Cleo was always a VERY jealous dog.

It must be said that it is likely much of this is due to a little depression – Cassie is gone, and that upsets Cleo, and she gets our unhappy vibes as well. But even if I wanted to wallow in a pit of despair over my own sweet girl (and I don’t), I could not.

For Cleo may not greet me in the way Cassie did – but she was at my door this morning to say hello. She still gives me kisses when I lean my head close enough (which is something Cassie never did). She makes known her own quirks and personalities, but shows her potential to listen and be a good dog when she follows behind me in the tree farm without much reminding. Which certainly has never happened before.

I haven’t cried too much over the last few days. Working so hard sort of put it from my mind, though I’ve certainly been sad about my girl. It was a little tougher when my parents came home, since they were still so upset. But however sad Cleo may be, and even if she isn’t as bright as Cassie was – she knows that she can’t do anything but live her life, day by day, as best she can. And the beauty is – she does it so well.

And who could martyr one beloved and shun the other? Cleo is a light in a dark tunnel, and that is something to be glad about.


About emilydnelson

A recent graduate of Hofstra University with a B.A. in anthropology, Emily is like every other twenty-two year old on the planet - trying to figure out what the hell to do now. Follow as she struggles with writing, her social work job, and bopping from coast to coast.
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