The Dinghy that keeps our family afloat

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAQuite often, the thing that wakes me in the morning is not my alarm clock. It’s not the National Anthem blaring over the base loudspeakers. It’s not my husband plodding off to the bathroom. And it’s certainly not our teenagers getting themselves up on time.

Most mornings, our dog Dinghy, a 110-pound labradoodle with an explosion of blond hair and long gangly legs, is the first to wake me up. Whether he has snuck up onto our bed, leaving my husband and I teetering at the edges, or splayed out on the cool hardwood floor of our bedroom, he starts his morning with a stretch, followed by an elongated yawn before beginning his “bath.”

As a male dog, he starts with the unmentionable area that males find most important. After spending an inordinate amount of time licking that general location, he comically attempts to scratch inside his ears with his long awkward hind feet. Inevitably, he misses the first few times, haphazardly wapping his neck and the back of his head, until he finally finds that sweet spot. Without looking, I know he’s found it when I hear him grumble deeply as if to say, “Oh yea, that’s the ticket.”

Once done scratching, he cleans his paws in preparation for what is arguably one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. Alternating each enormous front foot, Dinghy wipes his own face over and over, then with paws daintily crossed, he licks them one last time.

When finished, he looks like the canine reincarnation of Phyllis Diller, but is ready to face the day. And after kissing the fuzzy top of his head, so am I.

There are so few constants in military life. We hold on to those things that bind us together and make us feel that, despite frequent moves, deployments, separations, and an uncertain future, we are a family. No matter where we are in the world, we belong to each other.

Ten months before my husband left for a yearlong deployment to Africa, we picked Dinghy out of a litter of fat pups on a farm in North Carolina. During that deployment, Dinghy chewed countless socks, dug trenches in our lawn, and stole an entire baked chicken off the kitchen counter, but he captured our hearts. Every morning, I’d open my eyes to his fuzzy face and hot breath, urging me, “Look! It’s another day! I want to spend it with you because you’re my best friend and I love you!”

Sure, some days became stressful and chaotic. I had my share of meltdowns and drank my share of wine. But I found it nearly impossible to be sad for long, because I started every morning staring into the face of pure, unconditional love and utter acceptance.

Dinghy moved with us from Virginia to Germany to Florida to Rhode Island. No matter whether we lived in a stairwell apartment, temporary quarters, base housing or on the economy, Dinghy, like us, felt at home as long as we were together.

Eight days ago, our family rented a cabin with no internet or phone service at a remote Navy Morale Welfare and Recreation center on Great Pond in the North Woods of Maine. We had a wonderful week of hiking, doing crafts, watching favorite movies, cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and cutting down our own Christmas tree. Dinghy was there with us, tramping through the woods, swimming after sticks in the cold lake, stealing socks, demanding attention, and sneaking into bed to snuggle with us at night.

As always, he was a constant reminder that we belong to each other and are loved.

Late on our last night in the cabin, Dinghy suddenly seemed sick. In the morning, my husband went to the park office to use the phone to call a veterinarian. But it was too late. Unbeknownst to us, Dinghy’s stomach had twisted – a sudden and deadly condition known as “bloat” – and he died that morning in our cabin, with us all around him. With permission from the park manager, we buried Dinghy in the woods near the lake under a huge elm tree.

This morning, for the first time since March of 2006, we woke up feeling sad. But Dinghy would not like that. In his unbridled enthusiasm and perpetual loyalty, he taught us that, as long as we have a family who loves and accepts us, every new day has promise.

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Comments: 12

  1. Chris December 3, 2014 at 4:27 pm Reply

    RIP Dinghy, you good-boy. You will be missed.
    Deepest condolences to the whole family.

  2. Bob & Celeste December 2, 2014 at 5:40 pm Reply

    Lisa, , I am so sorry for yours and Francis’ loss We’ve been there and it hurts. Bob & Celeste

  3. Behind the Story December 2, 2014 at 1:04 am Reply

    Oh, my goodness! Reading your post, I was taken totally by surprise–as I suppose you were–by the sudden, sad turn of events in the last two paragraphs. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m glad you were all together when it happened.

  4. ermigal December 1, 2014 at 10:03 pm Reply

    Lisa, so sorry for your family’s loss of a wonderful doggie–this is a beautiful tribute to his impact on your lives. They are with us always, because their love was truly unconditional and sweet. We still miss our Duffy Boy golden retriever. Thinking of you…

  5. Michelle Mikatarian December 1, 2014 at 9:11 pm Reply

    I am sitting here finishing my ugly cry and sharing just what I’m sure is a just fraction of the Molinari family heartbreak, and yet I can’t stop thinking about what a wonderful last week in the woods Dinghy must have had with the family. His joyful spirit was uncontainable and he was a good and sweet boy. Hugs to you all!

  6. Mary December 1, 2014 at 8:23 pm Reply

    This brought me to tears. We lost our cocker spaniel last year but she was old, blind, and deaf. Nonetheless, it about did me in. I cannot imagine the sorrow of your family after losing Dinghy so unexpectedly and at such a young age. Prayers are with you and your family. Dinghy was as lucky to have you for family as you were to have him.

  7. energywriter December 1, 2014 at 6:57 pm Reply

    Lisa, so sad for your family. Try to remember that Dinghy always lived in the present, loving every moment and do the same. You might want to skip chewing on socks and shoes, though.

  8. Laura Sims December 1, 2014 at 6:22 pm Reply

    Oh, Dinghy. My kids loved your happy, sloppy kisses in the stairwell. Lisa, and family, I’m saddened to hear about his sudden passing. He *was* a very good boy. Big hugs to all. ~Laura

  9. tootsfaceDiane December 1, 2014 at 6:10 pm Reply

    Lisa, I am choked up a crying over Dinghy’s passing, I’m so sorry! I wonderful, fun memories of Dinghy in our stairwell living…what a personality!
    I cannot believe how many times I’ve forwarded this to friends who also lost their pets since Roxy passed in January, I hope this helps a little!

    I stood by your bed last night, I came to have a peep.
    I could see that you were crying, You found it hard to sleep.
    I whined to you softly as you brushed away a tear,
    “It’s me, I haven’t left you, I’m well, I’m fine, I’m here.”

    I was close to you at breakfast, I watched you pour the tea,
    You were thinking of the many times, your hands reached down to me.
    I was with you at the shops today, Your arms were getting sore.
    I longed to take your parcels, I wish I could do more.

    I was with you at my grave today, You tend it with such care.
    I want to re-assure you, that I’m not lying there.
    I walked with you towards the house, as you fumbled for your key.
    I gently put my paw on you, I smiled and said ” it’s me.”

    You looked so very tired, and sank into a chair.
    I tried so hard to let you know, that I was standing there.
    It’s possible for me, to be so near you everyday.
    To say to you with certainty, “I never went away.”
    You sat there very quietly, then smiled, I think you knew…
    In the stillness of that evening, I was very close to you.

    The day is over… I smile and watch you yawning
    and say “good-night, God bless, I’ll see you in the morning.”
    And when the time is right for you to cross the brief divide,
    I’ll rush across to greet you and we’ll stand, side by side.
    I have so many things to show you, there is so much for you to see.

    Be patient, live your journey out…then come home to be with me.

    Author ~ Unknown ~♥~

    Much love to your family!
    Diane

  10. Randrup Eleanor December 1, 2014 at 5:46 pm Reply

    He was a love, Lisa –
    Muffin’s Mom

  11. lauriebest December 1, 2014 at 5:02 pm Reply

    Lisa, I’m in tears reading about Dinghy. Our family has been through the wrenching experience of losing a beloved pet many times — from dogs to birds to hamsters. I still miss ‘Poochie’ two years after she died. I always will.I know your anguish. Dinghy looked like a true ‘dingbat’ — always fun and always smiling. The best kind of dog! I have become, as you know, quite attached to my daughter’s beagle, The Pig. Her cancer has returned, despite the daily homemade chicken soup, and I hope we still have some time with her. It never gets easier. But all we can do is love them wholeheartedly and then mourn them properly and remember the great times. A touching blog…I cry with you. Laurie

  12. Patrice December 1, 2014 at 4:51 pm Reply

    oh Lisa….he was a great dog and will be sadly missed……

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