In Memory of Penelope “Penny” Obrecht

Septemberish 2004 – January 23, 2019

The bards sing of Penny, brave and true, the fiercest and most loyal of hounds. The troubadours sing of Penny the deer-slayer, who launched off into the underbrush, bounding under brambles and over fallen trees, in frenzied pursuit of the deer—the lean lithe deer, the fleet flown deer—as they fled in fear.

I, myself, sing of Penny, my old Sunday napping companion back when she was allowed on the furniture and when I used to get to takes naps on weekends. I would lie down on the couch and lay her on her side across my chest and stomach, and I’d put a blanket over us, and soon we’d both be asleep, often by a fire, master and hound. I sing of Penny who rarely barked, who never chewed slippers or belts, who never stole food from the table. I sing of Penny who was notoriously untrained and largely untrainable, who nonetheless could balance a carrot on the bridge of her snout, who would patiently wait with a treat placed on top of her head—“wait… wait… wait… okay Penny!”—and then drop her head on command and eat the treat that fell to the floor. I sing of Penny who let toddlers crawl all over her, tug on her ears and tail, and never growled. I sing of Penny who was neurotic and dunderheaded, fleeing from the sight of acoustic guitars and the sound of cardboard boxes being opened, refusing to walk on checkerboard-tiled floors, but who would gladly have darted into four lanes of traffic to chase a squirrel.

Penny spent the first five years of her life in DC and Maryland, chasing deer, adventuring in the woods, and largely avoiding ticks (except the one time when she came home from a hike covered in hundreds of baby ticks, and while she was tied to a tree drying off after her tick bath, she stepped in a wasp nest). Her next four years were in New Mexico, where she tried in vain to catch prairie dogs and got sprayed in the face by an asshole skunk. She spent many hours guarding the house by running back and forth along the front fence, barking at every dog that walked past, until she’d worn deep grooves in the dirt and pushed up mounds of soil at either end. But she also spent many hours roasting herself on hot flagstones until her pink underbelly turned brown. Seattle was home to her golden years, where eventually her walks became shorter, and running—which had been her true passion—became painful and eventually impossible. In her final years, Penny developed a love of a certain leaf-filled birdbath in the neighborhood, which lay at ground level under a fir tree. On every walk, she’d turn at that street and stop to drink deeply of its brown water.

Penny was our first dog, our first child before we had human children. She was widely loved by those who knew her and spontaneously appreciated by those who passed her on the street.

May the deer be slower and more succulent in heaven.

Julie Howe