In 1970, I was away in the Air Force, and my older sister was a Carmelite nun, working at a nursing home in Maryland. This place was one of the first to understand the value of a "house therapy dog," and they had a white German Shepherd named Barry on their staff. Barry was very smart and very well-trained, and my sister started a campaign to have my parents get one of his puppies. Since she always got what she wanted, when Barry sired a litter at Cloverley Kennels in Hyattsville, she twisted my parents' arms and Dante came to live with them in early 1970. He got his name because my father loves the poetry of the Renaissance figure Dante Alighieri, and had hoped someday to name a son after him! My mother had always wanted six children, but in the end settled for five plus a big dog.
Dante was a very, very, sweet and gentle dog, who loved everyone he met, but who was not, regrettably, anywhere near as smart as his sire. He hardly ever barked, would have welcomed any burglar in as another new friend, and worshipped the ground my father walked on. He'd sit in the window of the front porch all day and watch for him to come home. That big white dog sitting in the window looked scary to anyone who didn't know what a pussycat he really was. His life was one of sitting quietly in the family room, waiting for someone to pay attention to him. He deserved better.
His death was a betrayal. He was old and arthritic and had an ear infection; my parents were moving from the house they'd owned since 1946 to an apartment in Pleasantville, and had him put to sleep. They justified it to themselves as "the best thing for him," but in reality it was a matter of convenience for them. My father carried a burden of guilt about that decision for decades: three days before his death at age 94—some 30 years later—he asked me if "...Dante was still alive."
Dante's ashes are buried on the lawn of the second country house my father once owned in Dutchess County, New York. My parents bought that place after he was gone and he never so much as laid eyes on it. But Dante's ashes should have been scattered in the stream shown here. My father bought Honey Meadow Brook Farm in 1961 and sold it 20-odd years later, long after Dante had died. Honey Meadow Brook was the place Dante loved more than anywhere in the world, but he wasn't given even the courtesy of having his remains scattered there. This injustice has bothered me for better than 40 years but there is nothing to be done about it now.
A quiet presence,
I deserved more than I had
And died for your convenience.
| Gordo | Penny| Dante | Toby | Tucker | Meg | Tessa | Tycho | Lucy | Tehya|