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  • Writer's pictureTori Sipe

In Memory Of Dale 2006-2020

I miss you. It’s been two weeks since you’ve crossed the rainbow bridge and I can’t stand the fact that you’re not with me. We went through everything together. You were my first dog, my baby, my buh boy, my Walers. This is for you Dale Narwhal Sipe.

This is how I got Dale. Back in April 2006, I was engaged and living with my fiancé. I was 19, and didn’t know what I was doing. To be fair most people that age don’t. I felt so lost. We moved about four hours away from our hometown to right outside Emerald Isle, NC, so he could pursue the Coast Guard. Looking back it seemed like someone else’s life that I remember. How was that ever me? I was miserable. Living in the middle of nowhere, stuck in a toxic relationship, without friends, or family, was taking a huge toll on me. Fast forward to the end of July, and I was on the brink. I knew I needed to leave but I was scared. He was never physically abusive, but gaslighting, mental abuse, and infidelity were a constant in my life. I don’t like to dwell on it, and years later I did see him again, at our high school reunion in 2014, and he apologized to me about how he had behaved back then. Watching him that night I noticed that he was the exact same person and it made me smile. I smiled because I knew I had dodged a bullet. He hadn’t changed one bit. I smiled because I got the fuck out of there and moved on with my life, and grew and changed as a person. I smiled because I was finally with the real love of my life, my future husband, and was so lucky I went through all of that to get to where I was. I felt closure from the whole situation and I don’t regret anything.

Going back, while I was contemplating leaving him, one day we drove by our neighbor’s house and they had a sign out front. FREE JACK RUSSELL/FOX TERRIER PUPPIES. My face lit the fuck up and for the first time in months I was exuberantly happy. For the rest of the car ride I talked about it. Growing up I wanted a dog more than anything else in the world. I was not allowed to have one, and it devastated me. I would check out puppy training and dog books from the library multiple times in a row. I would make a list of the things I would need to do and get for a dog. I fell in love with Jack Russell Terriers because of Wishbone. That lovable pooch on PBS who would dress up in costumes and re-enact classic novels. I had a big thick dog book about all the different breeds and took it upon myself to study Jack Russell’s.

In my opinion, Jack Russell’s are just as misunderstood as Pit Bulls. They don’t have the awful reputation Pit’s do, but people see them on TV and think they’re well trained angels. Jack’s are tough, smart, stubborn, extremely high energy. The number of them I see at shelters because they had “too much energy” is crazy. When I got my dog Clementine, she had been at the shelter for 6 months, because no one wanted her because she was so energetic. When I got her she was 11 months old, minus 6 months at the shelter, she was only 5 months old when whatever insane family gave her up because she, a 5 month old Jack Russell puppy, was too hyper. Please, if you are looking to get a specific breed of dog, please do your research, and make sure you are well equipped to handle them, so it doesn’t lead to future heartbreak for everyone involved.

As the day went on, my heart sank, because I knew it wasn’t meant to be. It would’ve been selfish of me to bring in a puppy, my first puppy, into a failing relationship, especially with how broke I was at the time. I felt sad again, and another night passed by me. The next morning I woke up fairly early, around 9 or so, and saw him on the couch. I laid down next to him, still tired, and he said he was going outside to smoke a cigarette. I continued to lay on the couch with my eyes closed. I wasn’t really paying attention to the time or how long he was outside for. I’ve never smoked so I’m not good at keeping track of that sort of thing. He came back inside some time later and I felt something very soft be put in my lap. I opened my eyes and there he was. Nothing else mattered and I was in love. The sweetest, cutest, Jack Russell puppy to ever exist on this planet. He went on to tell me how they were two puppies left and the other one had an extra paw or something. I never knew if he was telling the truth or not, because I believed him to be a pathological liar. Right away I had the perfect name, Chandler.

Could it BE anymore perfect? He said that the name was too long, and dogs were stupid and he would never remember the name. Yes, I was engaged to this person. We do a lot of dumb things in our youth. So I racked my brain for a shorter name. I loved movies and TV and wanted to bestow a name upon him from something I loved. Eventually I narrowed it down to a few choices, Dane, for Dane Cook, Ari, for Ari Gold from Entourage, and Dale from Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers. Luckily I still love Disney. Can’t say too much for the other things. Very 2006 college fuck boy of me to suggest those names, but luckily they didn’t fit him. Dale fit.

I went to the Wal-Mart, there was only one, and maxed out my high interest, low balance credit card to buy everything that Dale would need. I spent about $250, which had been how much I had made in tips the entire week before. He never offered to pay for any of it, which was fine. He wanted to play with him, but I remember him saying, it’s your dog. Funny thing to say to the person you’re engaged to. Besides our relationship, so many more red flags came up when Dale came into our lives. Negative behaviors and patterns continued, but now Dale was here, he was my baby, and I wanted him to be safe and happy, and I knew that wasn’t in North Carolina with him. I called my parents on the phone and told them I wasn’t in love with him anymore and without hesitation they said they were coming to get me next weekend. That week was absolute torture for me, because I knew I was leaving and he still had no idea. He was already mentally abusive and I was afraid of living with him for a week with him knowing the truth. I was afraid he would hurt Dale, return him, leave him in the woods near our house, who knows, but I was more terrified of what he would do to Dale than to me. I could handle whatever he did to me.

Conveniently, the day before my parents came, he was going to some training something for a week so he was going to be gone regardless. I was going to tell him the night before, because I had to work the next morning and wouldn’t be there when he left. I came home from work around ten or so, and found him asleep. Great. I didn’t want to wake him up to tell him I was leaving him, so I thought, he’ll wake up. He did, at 2 in the morning. Okay, it’s now or never. Because I had crippling anxiety and was terrified to say the words aloud, I wrote him a letter, which I watched him read. Yeah, that was bad. He did not take it well. He broke a lamp and slammed doors and left the house. I really had nowhere to go, so I stayed and locked the bedroom door.

Dale was scared and barking. I cleaned up the broken glass and put Dale in the bed with me. A million things went through my mind. I should’ve called out of work the next day, because I was worried that he would do something to Dale, or my stuff, while I was gone. The gap between me leaving and him leaving was about an hour so I hoped that it would be okay. He came back at some point and slept on the couch. I had to walk past him when I went outside to my car in the morning, and he was talking to his mom on speakerphone about the whole situation, because he knew I would hear everything, but I kept walking to my car and before I opened the door, he yelled at me, “You don’t have anything to say?!” And I paused, looked at him, and said, “Bye,” then got in my car and went to work.

Arriving home I was scared to death. I should’ve called out of work but I desperately needed the money. He had been gone for hours. I opened the door and called for Dale, and didn’t hear anything. I saw poop all over the house, he was only a few months old after all. Then I heard a little whine, and looked and he was sitting at the top of the stairs. Dale was okay. All he did was not put him away so I had to clean poop up. Nothing was messed with, everything was fine, and I breathed this HUGE sigh of relief. If picking up puppy poop was his fuck you to me, then I’ll take it. My parents came the next day and that was it. Dale and I against the world. I went through about another month and a half of weird post break-up stuff with him, because I still didn’t actually break-up with him, I just told him I couldn’t live with him anymore, but then in October it was all said and done. We were with my parents for a few months, then in January I got an apartment with my sister and I really felt like that was the start of everything.

Dale catapulted me out of the worst relationship I had ever been in. Dale saved me. Dale was my first dog, and I love him more than anything else in my life. He taught me how to be an adult. How to grow up. When he passed I kept thinking of all the things I didn’t do for him. Did I take him on enough walks? Was I too lazy when he was a puppy? Did I not take good enough care of him? My insecurities were piling up on top of each other. Then I remembered how when I was sad he would cuddle with me, and lick my tears. He would give me one million kisses all the time.

He would be so excited to see me when I would get home from work. He would miss us so much when we went on vacation I never wanted to leave the house. The first time we went out of the country for a week I cried on the plane because I didn’t want to leave him. I taught him how to dance, give high fives, and all kinds of tricks. He was such a good boy on a leash. He loved to play fetch with a regular, old tennis ball. He could rip up a stuffed animal in 0.5 seconds, and loved laying in the sun. He would grrr and gruff when he wasn’t getting what he wanted. He always had one ear up, and one ear down. He loved play fighting with my husband in a way he never did with me. He would cuddle up in between his legs when we would go to sleep. He loved annoying his sister. I’ll never ever forget all of the little things that made Dale so unique and special.

I’m not a very religious person. I describe myself as agnostic. There is something for our souls out there when we die, but what it is I can’t say because I don’t know. I don’t believe in the traditional God and all of that jargon. It’s hard for me to buy into atheism also and to think there is absolutely nothing for us when we die, but I also don’t buy into the other stuff either.

It makes me feel better knowing, hoping, that Dale is somewhere, ripping up endless stuffed animals, laying in the sun, and is the happiest boy. A friend of mine told me Dale would send me a sign that he was okay. Earlier today I was taking my other dog, Clementine, on a walk through the park that is right next to our house. We’ve walked through this park hundreds of times in the almost eight years we’ve lived next to it. On this walk today I saw a chipmunk. No big deal right? But I’ve never seen a chipmunk in this park, and come to think of it, in life, I’ve only ever seen one or two chipmunks in person before.

We kept walking and about fifteen minutes later, right next to us is another chipmunk, hanging out in someone’s bushes. I thought about it for a moment. Was it Dale, sending me a Chip and Dale, saying, hey I’m okay, I love you. Maybe, probably not, I don’t know. Later today when the mail arrived I also received socks that I had made up with his face on them. Two pairs for my husband and I. Obviously I knew these were coming, it was no surprise, but they said they weren’t shipped yet, and they show up a couple of hours after I see these two chipmunks in the park. I probably sound like a total kook right now, but I want to believe that it was Dale, telling us he was okay. It fills my heart with warmth and joy and makes me smile and cry at the same time. I love you Dale. I miss you. You were one of a kind. Thank you for being my first dog, and helping me become an adult. I will never, ever forget you. I love you Dale.

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