Sure, everyone thinks that their dog is the greatest dog in the world, but in my case it happened to be true.
Penelope Amica Vergara was rescued from the streets of Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York, some 12 years ago by my wife. I only had her in my life for four short years–from when she and I started dating–but she changed my life completely.
Penelope was big. She was a big, adorable, loving pit-bull who clocked in at around 75 – 80 lbs (closer to 75 when I was taking care of her). Her size alone made her less like a dog and more like another person in the room. Her personality took care of the rest.
She didn’t like me at first, which is fair and good: she wanted to protect her mom from more dumb guys. She would growl and bark at me, then hide, then repeat. Then I broke her down one night: I got down on the floor, harrumphed and growled like she did, and we wrassled for about 45 minutes. That’s where our love began.
It’s hard to explain in words why Penelope was so special; just more of a feeling you got from her. She was just so warm. You could feel that her primary motivations in life were giving love and receiving it…and maybe eating. Eating was probably in between those two. Even strangers meeting ‘Pony’ for the first time could tell what a magical, happy dog she was. ‘How old is your puppy?’ they would ask about the smiling, running, jumping senior citizen.
She had great comedic timing, serious drama chops, and a Machiavellian understanding of human emotions that allowed her to manipulate my wife and I at will. A well-placed groan or sigh. A withering sideways glance. She got what she wanted most of the time and on the rare occasions she didn’t, her pouting at least made us laugh. Such is love.
Penelope died last year, and a big piece of our lives is missing. In some ways, her death is even harder to process than my father’s. With my father, we all saw the end coming, we were all there, able to say goodbye, we all shared the grief together in the moment. Penelope was a surprise–here today, gone tomorrow, no explanation. We knew she was getting older, we tried to cherish every day with her, and we did, but you still never have enough days. It still feels like some kind of mistake was made, some cosmic error.
Penelope was supposed to be involved with “Night Showers” in a few different ways. I had written a song for her, and originally intended for it to be on the album, but something about it didn’t come together the way I wanted before we began recording and I left it out. I regret that now.
I also wanted to make a music video with her, for the song “Night Showers”. The concept: a guy (let’s call him ‘me’) wakes up in the morning and goes through your typical shitty day–traffic, people yelling at him at work, various writing utensils and food items exploding on him. The pressure boils within him and on top of him until he can finally let go by taking a night shower, washing the day’s turmoil away. When he comes out of the shower in his towel, he locks eyes with his dog (Penelope), they share a moment of understanding, and they begin full-on wrassling, letting go with pure joy. In the process, his towel comes off, and his fiancee walks in the front door to see him naked, his arms wrapped around the dog, appearing as if he is engaged in something terrible. She drops the groceries. Cut to black.
I don’t mind telling you this whole plot because this video will never be made now. Like a Brando or Jack Nicholson in their primes, no one could have played this role but Penelope–the realness, the gravitas, the pathos. And to think: I was willing to show my bare ass to work with such talent.
I made up for that video by making a video for the first song on the album, “Green Apples”, and dedicating it to Penelope (she does have an important cameo in it).
And I did finally record my song for her. I changed some lyrics since I first wrote it and did it at home. I’ve included it here as a free download for you.
I miss her every day. But I know for a fact now that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. Penelope taught me how to not be a selfish asshole all the time, how to put another soul before yours and actually become stronger for it. She gave me so much love, that now, even after she’s gone, I have reserves left. And I’ve learned the patience and compassion that helps me regenerate more even when those reserves get low. I am sad now, but my sorrow will fade in time. I will be grateful forever.
We should all be so lucky in life.