Small Maltese Makes a Big ImpactPublished July 4, 2012
Courtesy of Elizabeth Santeramo
“This is my daughter, Liz,” mom repeated as she introduced me to Emmy. Mom put her in my arms. I held her like a baby, speaking pupese. Her dark eyes connected with mine. It was happening: I was falling in like.
For the next 10 days, Emmy took us away from the realities we faced: grandpa’s unusual 23-hours of sleep and our failed attempts at reasoning with grandma over her revolving door of “the help” – strangers without referrals during times of high crime against seniors. Grandma ignored the fact that money and jewelry were missing and that Emmy barked away suspicious characters. Mom offered, “I’m glad Emmy is here. She’s both companion and protector.” Both mom and Emmy endured grandma’s verbal and physical abuse, yet both growled at distrustful intruders. When grandma’s new hires arrived, Emmy barked at the ones she didn’t like. My perception changed. Emmy channeled her inner K-9 and I approved.
We took turns holding Emmy, quelling our worries. We combed her hair, clipped pink bows and cradled her in a blanket when grandma decided to shave her coat. She protected us spiritually and physically. In return, we pampered her.
I bonded with Emmy, realizing that even though she was small, we could play ball, chase each other around the apartment and even engage in girl talk. She took me back to my dog sitting days with Charlie, but Emmy, petite, swung in my arms like a newborn. I placed her on my lap and massaged her back. When grandma lay her on the kitchen table, I said, “Emmy, you’re 5 and I’m 35; we’re the same age and neither of us has a boyfriend. We both have overprotective mommies and we look alike with our fair skin and dark eyes. Hand-to-paw for high fives.” Grandma grabbed Emmy, completely enamored, and gave her ear-breaking kisses.
I was in small dog heaven.
To treat Emmy, I wanted to walk her – something grandma didn’t allow. So one day, I stayed behind when they went to the doctor’s. “Let’s go girl, let’s meet the world and boy doggies!” Emmy ran down the streets like a horse with blinders. She didn’t stop to smell or socialize. I coached her, taking her to trees and the grass, but nothing. As we headed back home, I felt a tug. Surprisingly, Emmy was on the grass doing number 2. I cooed like a proud mom.
Soon after, my grandmother was hospitalized. My mom decided to speak into Emmy’s ear: “Emmy, your mommy is sick, but I am going to sneak you in to visit her. You need to be very quiet. You can’t bark or squeal, okay? I want you to transmit your healing love.” For days, it worked until mom was caught. Emmy consoled not only her mom, but mine, too.
When grandma passed, we put grandpa in a nursing home. My grandparent’s best friends, a gay couple who suggested grandma get Emmy, became Emmy’s new owners. When we visited Emmy sometime after, she was a different dog: her hair was longer and she chased the other two Maltese dogs living with her; she was now living a real dog’s life. But one thing hadn’t changed: Emmy taught me to appreciate the smaller breeds, realizing that size doesn’t have to matter. It’s about love. I will always remember her as the Maltese who melted my heart in a big, huge way.
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