Una Bella Vita…

When I awoke this morning I was conscious of the fact that I was alone for the first time in over 15 years.  There was no sound of Cinder’s yawning, stretching and general head shaking to rouse me from sleep.  There was no pacing up and down the hallway, long toenails clicking away, making her morning routine sound like a tap dance.   My beautiful girl was gone.  The tears, which have been flowing freely since yesterday once again commenced.

The last year has been a roller coaster of ups and downs.  I thought last summer that Cinder had finally decided to leave me, but she’d hung on to see one more spring in Tuscany.  Next week makes four years living here.  And while it may be unusual for a Weimaraner to live to 15, I shouldn’t really be surprised.  All of my Italian neighbors seem to live well into their 90s, so it kind of makes sense that Cinder would get a couple extra years out of her retirement.  She was living with blurry vision from cataracts, had become almost completely deaf and her weakening back legs gave her a slope that resembled a German Shepherd.  And then there was the incontinence.  But she was still full of life.  And she still greeted me with amazement and delight each time I entered the house, even if I had only been gone ten minutes.  When telling my Italian friends yesterday that she had died, I used an expression that one of my friends here told me when her grandmother died: si è spenta.  Which basically means extinguished like a light or a flame.  And I think it’s an apt way of describing Cinder.  Because she really had been the essence of burning energy and light.

Our early years together were not easy.  We met in Miami where she’d been taken in by friends.  A rescue, she was an emaciated puppy, probably nine months old, all spindly legs and sporting that gaunt look famous among supermodels.  She was scared of everything, especially men.  I had more than one postman who looked on the verge of cardiac arrest when she would jump up on the screen barking.  She was full of energy and most of our walks were more like trots as I valiantly struggled to keep up with her.  She was quite horrible to my Labrador Miranda, always showing off her alpha status and making poor easy-going Miranda get off the couch or give up a toy.  It took a long time for us to establish a bond with Cinder because of this.  She moved in and definitely made her presence felt.  I haven’t had to set alarm since she entered my life.  If she was not up with the sun, she was up before it.

She went from Miami rescue, to city girl when we moved to New York.  She and Miranda, now best of friends, spent many happy years socializing in the dog park and learning how to pee curbside. She suffered the torture of me dressing her up for Halloween each year and she took on a maternal role with the other dogs that I used to walk and take care of.  Her royal bearing made many a puppy tow the line.  She loved the snow in New York and would bury her head in it like she used to do in the sands of the beaches of Miami.  We spent Sunday mornings walking off leash in wilds of Riverside Park.

And then Tuscany.   Some of my favorite reviews of At Least You’re in Tuscany have been by people who have called it a book about a girl and her dog.  I didn’t seek to include Cinder in the story as I wrote it.  It just happened naturally because she has been such a part of my life.  And I relied on her a lot especially in those first isolating moments of the first year here.  Cinder outlived boyfriends, some friendships, put up with my terrible PMS, and saw me through some of my toughest moments as well as my greatest joys.  She had a sense of comic timing and was really quite funny and expressive.   She was a cuddler even though she was big and even in the last months as her legs were getting worse, she would stand next to me, her big silky grey head on my leg as I worked on my computer.  She slept a lot in the last year.  Only the scent of roasting chicken or baking sugar cookies would rouse her immediately from her naps, which were getting longer and longer.

In the last two weeks or so I could see she was starting to really labor when walking.  Marinella once again was taking her out when I started back to work at Poliziano, and she too noted that our time was nearly up.  I resolved that when she couldn’t get up, we would say our goodbyes.  We had a beautiful afternoon together on Friday.  I took her little mat outside and we soaked up the strong Tuscan sunshine in our parking area.  We were both lizards, happily lazing and enjoying the gorgeous scents of spring.

And then Saturday morning she didn’t get me up.  I woke up anyway on schedule ready to take her out for a pee, my body now on a sleep cycle usually reserved for nursing mothers.  I heard her struggle from her bed and then saw that her legs had finally had enough.  She was shaking and breathing hard and I could tell she was scared.  I sat with her for hours, soothing her, this time resting my head on hers.  Marinella’s son Giacamo, who is our veterinarian, came to us in the late morning and we agreed that it was time to let her go.  I sat with her in my lap as she drifted off to sleep, thanking her for being such a wonderful companion for these many years and telling her it was okay to go.  Miranda was waiting for her.

So now I am here in my empty house keenly feeling her loss.  This is one chapter of my life I have been dreading to start…

One of Cinder's last pics

Cinder sunbathing while I studied for my sommelier course

New York…

Ist Christmas in NYC.  For someone reason I thought it would be cute to make the girls wear I Love New York t-shirts

1st Christmas in NYC. For some reason I thought it would be cute to make the girls wear I ♥ New York t-shirts.  They were troopers!

Our cozy apartment in the Big Apple

Our cozy apartment in the Big Apple

Cinder shows off her sexy side with feather boa...

Cinder shows off her sexy side with feather boa…

After a bath, it's best to roll in the disgusting dirt of the dog run.  Repeat until the clean smell is but a distant memory.

After a bath, it’s best to roll in the disgusting dirt of the dog run. Repeat until the clean smell is but a distant memory.

You can blame William Wegman for these next photos!!

But I don't wanna be a pirate!

But I don’t wanna be a pirate!

Super Friends!

Super Friends!

She's got nerve calling me a witch when she put me in a tutu.

She’s got nerve calling me a witch when she put me in a tutu.

Retirement in Tuscany…

First apartment in Tuscany

First apartment

Un bacio for Nan.  Our first friend from NYC to visit us in Tuscany

Un bacio for Nan. Our first friend from NYC to visit us

First snowfall that dumped almost two feet our first winter.

First snowfall that dumped almost two feet our first winter.

At Least You're in Tuscany... At Least You're in Tuscany...

Babysitting for a friend’s five children meant more costumes… At Least You’re in Tuscany… At Least You’re in Tuscany…


A girl's best friend...

A girl’s best friend…

21 thoughts on “Una Bella Vita…

  1. Thank you for sharing your memories of such a beautiful soul! May she be enjoying a good bone and romp in doggy heaven, smiling down on you and thanking you for being her best friend!

  2. What a beautiful story Jennifer! It brought tears to my eyes. I am so sorry for you loss of precious Cinder, but what a gift to have had 15 years together! I forwarded your blog to my sister who has an old dog that she rescued 8 years ago. Telly, her dog, will not be here much longer. Thank you for sharing.

    Best regards, Angie Horner

    Note: I am the Expat American whom you e- mailed after receiving a note from me. I will return to Montepulciano and hopefully we will be able to meet. I did read your book and enjoyed reading about your journey…you are an excellent writer!!

  3. Thanks, Angie… It’s a hard day, but I have great memories of my girl that I will definitely appreciate over time. I look forward to meeting you on your next visit!

  4. Oh Jeni, I am so sorry. All of us who have loved and lost a pet know the pain you are feeling. They are the totally unconditional loves of our lives, and there is nothing like it. How lucky Cinder was to have you in her life! She knew she was well-loved, and you brought joy and security and companionship to her as well. How fortunate you both were to have found each other, and to have memories of the heart forever…..

  5. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. You were so lucky to have each other. It is like losing a best friend. I lost my Maurice in October. He was a lovely 22 year old seal point Siamese cat. He did not wish to go. But it was his time. He could not even walk the last day. Alas, these saved animals are the best.

  6. Dear Jen,

    My most sincerest sympathy go out to you dear friend. How I remember Boobie Head and Cinder. They had the most gentle of souls. I carry them in my heart as well as you. Thank you for letting Dylan and I be there babysitters in Miami. I have so many wonderful memories of them. I know your loss is great, but seek comfort knowing that those two sisters are now together. I can picture them jumping up and down and already finding mischievous things to do in heaven. They will be keeping a spot warm for their mommy. With Love, Patty

  7. Thank you, everyone. Your thoughts and comments have made me feel a bit better on this day where my house which a few days ago seemed small, now seems impossibly big and empty. 😦

  8. I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet Cinder. There is nothing that compares to the unconditional love a precious friend like Cinder gives. I have often thought if more people were like dogs our world would be a better place to live in. Just remember that all dogs go to Heaven.

  9. You have my deepest sympathy on the loss of your beloved Cinder. Our dogs are so a part of our lives and family that the pain is so deep when we lose them. May all your happy memories of her bring you joy.

  10. So sorry to hear about Cinder, she was a great dog. Rescued in Miami, Queen of NYC and retirement in Italy – you gave her a life full of love, adventure and great food! I hope everything else is well with you.

  11. Jenny, I am so sorry to hear about Cinder’s passing away. I loved your stories about that great big dog in NYC and Italy. It brought tears to my eyes because we just had to put our sweet Maxine down last January. We had her for 15 years too, that is a lifetime together. I still miss Maxine and sometimes cry wishing I could here her long toenails clicking on the floor when she was trying to get my attention.
    Maybe Maxine and Cinder are chasing a few balls together right now.
    Love, Aunt Krissie

  12. I just wanted to say thank you to all of you again for all of the love and support. It feels so strange to be alone in my house without Cinder but I know I will one day be able to look back at all the wonderful times we had together. I know you can’t fast forward through the painful bits, but it should would help! Love, Jen

  13. My heart aches for you so. We had to do the very same for our old friend and totally understand that awful vast emptiness in the house. I found it helped ease my pain to put his pictures EVERYWHERE and talk to him the same way I did when he was physically there. It’s amazing how our furry friends wrap themselves around our hearts while they are with us.

  14. So sorry to hear about Cinder. Caterina told us about her a few days ago. A dog is truly the best bargain a person every gets. They give us so much, and ask for almost nothing in return.

    Le diamo le nostre sentite condoglianze.

  15. We are so sorry to hear about Cinder’s passing. We lost our little girl, ALlie two yeasrs ago and again she couldn’t get up. It is so sad, but they don’t want to be like that either. You certainly have sweet memories and your pictures show it. Thinking of you.
    Wally and Judy Heleen( Daryl’s friends)

  16. Pingback: Book Review: At Least You're in Tuscany (live in Tuscany)

  17. I am one of your newest readers. I am so sorry to learn of Cinder’s passing. It is so hard to lose a beloved pet. I hope you are doing well, and are comforted by your lovely memories of your beautiful “girl.”

  18. Awww, Jen – I’m in tears reading this about Cinder. I’m so sorry. What a great friend you both have been to each other. After finding your blog a year ago, I’ve checked in sporadically and tried a few times through word press to leave a comment – unsuccessfully 😦 . I’m hoping when I hit “post comment” it will actually post. Congrats on your book and your new life in Italy. I’m so proud of you for living out your dreams – most of us only think about visiting Italy, let alone move there and start a new life and learn a new language! I remember well our fun times in Miami – sometimes not so fun with that Diane Van MESS character we had to endure! You are quite an inspiration and I’ve told your story to many of my friends after I found your blog – I see a glint of envy in all of their eyes! I wish you the best of it all – you deserve it!

    Kim Ismailoff

    Great to hear from you!! I just sent you a friend thingy on FB. I too think fondly of our time back in Miami. If you want to come visit, you always have a place to stay!! Thanks for your words about Cinder, it was a hard spring! I hope we can stay in touch. love, jen

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