Do you stencil on those perfectly round circles? (No). Does her fur naturally grow short in some places and long in others to make that fancy hairdo? (How I wish). Is she a show dog? (Yes, a retired champion). May I take her picture? (Of course! Thank you!!). Do you dress in black and grey or black and white to match your dog? (No, she dresses in blue roan to match me). The title question, or some variation, all day long, because she really does, at times, look like a goat. And, no, not even my wonderful English Cocker Spaniel breeder several times over can guarantee a dog like Sister Faye. I never tired of answering those questions again and again.
On our twice daily loops from home to the Four Seasons Hotel for a biscuit, where the door men and women regarded her as their mascot and treated her like royalty, to Anthropologie, where she also reigned as their mascot, and then back home, dozens of people a day would ooh and aah and smile and point and giggle. Sister Faye's mission was to make friends with everybody, and as such, sat patiently as babies and toddlers petted her Pi Day-perfect big black spot and others snapped her into their selfies. She once wandered into a wedding party photo shoot, upstaging - and charming - the bride and groom. Smiling eyes shyly peered out from niquab slits and once a hijab-clad woman and her child, both in party dress and from a land where dogs are deemed dirty, stunned me by plopping down on the promenade to procure doggie kisses.
Sister Faye was gifted to me eight days after I lost my sister Sharon Faye, and as eight is a Mobius - an endless loop - her name chose itself. In an instant she healed two hearts and my marriage. As her celebrity handler (for lack of a better term), we constantly encountered lovely people from all over Baltimore and all over the world who were drawn in by her stunning appearance and huge magnetic personality. For sure, no black/white/grey dog was ever so full of colour. Or was chauffeured in a car bearing CHEVRE (literally, goat, from the French) vanity tags.
With one, still too sad to contemplate exception, I always said the newest dog was the best ever, that nirvana had been reached (again). That Sister Faye will have no successor speaks for itself.
Having dogs is a bargain we make with ourselves, that we will love them madly, devote ourselves and our bank accounts to their care, but eventually outlive them - and agree that is, and should be, the natural order of things. But anyone who has experienced this particular, extraordinary sort of unconditional love unavailable from human companions understands what I just said seems gibberish when the end comes, whenever and however.
Though Sister Faye's mission on earth remains incomplete, today was that day. Up until yesterday, when yet again asked her age, I replied "14 this coming November 1st," knowing full well only a miracle would render this the correct answer.
Lost in this thicket of grief, I nonetheless sense a way forward meditating on the belief that health and vitality have been restored to my little chevre and that she's once again smiling and merry, and perfectly coiffed, holding court up there somewhere over the rainbow.