Tessa gets lost outside the double doors sometimes. One of them, as she well knows, is merely decorative – it doesn’t even open. Right now, there’s a bucket of fireplace ashes in front of it, and a big, yellow snow shovel. Still, Tessa wedges herself in behind them both, barking at me through the glass, furious that I do not come and let her in right this minute.
I am, in fact, standing in the other door, the one that does open, shivering in bare feet and a t shirt. I step outside, into the snow, and gently poke her with my foot, saying “hey, psst. Old lady. The door is over here”. She startles when I touch her, shakes her head, comes over to the proper door and stomps past me, clearly pissed beyond belief at the shoddy service she gets around here lately. She places herself in front of the couch, and barks a short, angry, imperious bark at me, code for “Put me up on the freakin’ couch, and make it snappy!”.
Tessa’s eyes are dim, and her hearing is pretty much non existent. Some sounds she can hear – the vacuum cleaner and snow blower, for example, both of which still send her into a fit of barking. She still has moments of fury – when her food is late, when the door isn’t opened fast enough, when the other dogs piss her off.
Last night, after two hours of sleeping peacefully on the couch, wrapped in a polar fleece blanket, she emerged from her stupor and noticed that Journey was on her side of the couch. This was not acceptable, and she launched herself at Journey with a frenzy of snarling and snapping. Journey, who has both the placid nature and size of a manatee, responded by recoiling in shock, which knocked Tessa off of the couch and onto her side on the floor. Tessa is fourteen years old – old enough, one would assume, to know better – and yet when put back onto the couch again, she would have gladly re launched herself at Journey (who was huddled behind a pillow, trying to make herself as small and innocuous as possible – no easy feat).
If you purchase one of the 2009 “Les Vieux” (‘Old Dogs’) Calendars from The French Bulldog Village, you’ll find Tessa on November’s page. Entry criteria for the calendar is that the dogs must be ten years of age or older (ten years, by the way, is the age of Stump, the Sussex Spaniel who won Best in Show at Westminster this year, making him the oldest dog in history to do so). Ten is a pretty good age for a French Bulldog, but a lot of the dogs pictured are older than that – a few, like Tessa, are quite a bit older. Chances are, some of the dogs pictured on this year’s calendar won’t be around for next year’s. In late January of this year, Melissa Bowersock lost her beloved Maizy (sister of Sailor, daughter of Tessa), May’s cover dog. Lola, who I bred and who is owned by Maggie Cacciotti of New York/Toronto, is also in there. Lola is mother to Diva, grandmother to Bunny and Tula, great grandmother to Izzy, Heart, Tucker and so many others of our dogs.
This calendar doesn’t just celebrate the old dogs pictured. It celebrates all of our old dogs – the ones still here, the ones gone, the ones who won’t be here much longer. It also helps to support the work of the French Bulldog Village, which has become a refuge of sorts for the old dogs, the forgotten dogs and the dogs no one else seems to want.
Buying a copy sends a message – that the old ones still matter, and that we remember.