On the Christmas before her tenth birthday, she got a puppy. I could hardly begrudge her, I had my own dogs I adored. My pack of misfits. The same year, my parents gave me riding lessons, on a sweet gray mare. The gifts changed both of our lives, although I feel some small guilt that mine has lasted the better part of my life. Or so it seems
But Binky, her little pug puppy, gave Kate something she needed most of all. He gave her the self-confidence she wears like a second skin. Like the confidence I carried from an early age, from the moment I discovered I could read at three, from the knowledge that I was bright, then smart, than intellectual (or deep, as my Nana would say), this little girl’s dog taught her that she was athletic, then skilled, then talented, then a ten year old force of nature.
Three days after her tenth birthday, when she was finally old enough to show her puppy at an American Kennel Club show, she walked into the puppy class, won the class. Then she won the prize for best male. Then she won best of breed.
They called the toy group and she won that too. And for the next four shows, she did it over and over. Until grown men who showed their entire lives, who made their living showing dogs, feared this little girl and her dog. They made space for her at the front of the line, for her little dog could fly.
Until at ten and a half, she became the youngest winner of a best in show in AKC history, and after that, there was nothing that she didn’t think she could accomplish. Four sports a year while running tech for her middle school plays. Writing articles and stories and books.
Saving me from myself.
I may not eat much now, but that is a sea change from ten years of active bulimarexia. numerous hospitalizations. Medicine and drugs to enhance my metabolism.
And then one day, when she was a teenager with a different little dog, she set out to fix who no doctor could accomplish. She sent my eating disorder into a long remission. So confident in her ability to cure me, in all the ways that she knew me, she simply and unapologetically followed me into the bathroom every single time I ate. She must have known I would do practically anything but be sick in front of her. My role as her big sister and protector simply too ingrained. And when I did try, just once, she popped me on the jaw.
We always did express affection through a little violence.
Within a month I was all but cured. Within a year, my body returned to normal. For so many years I struggled with dysmorphia, but this gift my sister gave me was too big not to honor. It was perhaps the only time, except after my Mom killed herself, that i let her be my equal and set aside my role as her protector.
When I hear the announcers call the Toy Group at Westminster, I always think of her, and how she walked into that ring at eleven, shining with self-confidence.
My amazing sister. The little girl and her pug.