It is with deep sadness and complete heartbreak that we share our beloved Piper passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. A few years ago, she was sick for one day - the only sign of weakness she ever showed in her life. We’d like to thank the Golden Bone, Point Breeze Vet and my sister Tori for all they did to try to save her. It was instant and there was nothing anyone could do, but everyone gave it their all anyway and that kind of love and community are something we cherish.
Piper was the most agile dog we’ve ever seen, she ran so fast people would ask if she was part greyhound. She could jump 6 feet in the air from a cold start. She loved to swim, her webbed paws made it easy for her slide across the water. She could hike off leash for miles and miles. She could play fetch for hours, and often did.
A loyal companion through and through, Piper came bounding into our lives a few days after Halloween in 2013. I found her at Bideawee, a rescue shelter in New York. We had been looking for a dog for months, and then I walked into Bideawee and while I was looking through their binder of available dogs, she came in from a walk with a volunteer and we shared an elevator (a very New York story!) and that was it. We were destined to be together. They had given her the name Sage and she was about 6 months old and 20 pounds, half the weight she would eventually grow into. She looked like a Piper to me, and so our life together began.
We had no way of knowing that she would immediately become a therapy dog, helping Taylor through losing his best friend, Jeremy, who passed away unexpectedly a few days later. Her boundless energy was easily contained when it included curling up with one of us. That first year she was there to console us through the Hidden Valley house fire and through the loss of my best friend, Nathan.
It would be completely fair to say we only made it through that year because of her. The losses, one after the other, were so severe and shocking, but because we had someone else to take care of we had to leave our apartment for walks and we got to see the city through her fresh eyes. She became a bright light pulling us through the darkness. Our neighborhood took on a whole new life, people wanting to stop to ask us about her, little girls wanting to pet her, and we met a whole new community of dog owners and dog shops. She made a city that can feel cold and unforgiving feel alive and welcoming. It was a great gift.
And so, we fell in love with her. The kind of love where you forget to hold back a little bit and jump in with everything you’ve got. We didn’t harden from our year of loss, instead we found a way to love again and see beauty around us. That kind of love, we realize now, meant we never pictured life without her. Or if we did, it was many years from now. Of course that’s unrealistic, she was a dog, her time with us wouldn’t be forever. But we forgot that in our love for everything she had done for us and the way we rebuilt our lives with her being a central part.
Everything we did started to revolve around taking her. We planned trips so she could come, we hunted down coffee shops that allowed dogs, researched hikes that were safe for her to be off-leash. We spent most of her first summer with us in Eagle Bridge, NY at Katy’s grandparents house, working nearby on Eliza’s farm. She made the transition from city dog to farm dog with ease and was by our side every day. She lived her best life keeping the chickens in line and adventuring in the woods behind the house. We went on to spend a cold but glorious January in Vermont taking long walks together in the snow. She would curl up in a chair and look out the window and we would curl up next to her. It was heaven. Thinking back on the past 5 years, there are only a small handful of nights and trips she wasn’t with us, she was always right there by our side.
They say first comes the dog and then comes the kids. As much of a cliche as it is, it was true. Taylor and I were a good team and through our partnership and sharing in the responsibility of having a dog, we started talking about having children. When we decided to move back to Pittsburgh and went house hunting, we knew we wanted a yard so she could play. At our new house, she would sit out back almost all day in the summertime, laying in the direct sun, getting overheated on purpose, a big smile on her face. She kept any critters away from our growing garden, she was our guardian and protector.
With the birth of Felix three years ago, we were so careful to make sure they fell in love with each other. I sent an item from the hospital home with Taylor so she could smell Felix and know he was coming home. We should have known that we had nothing to worry about. They were immediately smitten with each other. Piper was so careful and immediately protective of Felix. We told people that she thought Felix was hers. She was always aware of him, never stepping on him, never a cruel moment, even when he could start to pull and yank on her. In a sea of toys on the floor she always knew which were hers and which were his.
As Felix got old enough to play tug, she knew his strength. She let him win all the time (she never lets us win!) and as he got older and stronger, she gave him a little more of pull, but still let him win. Every night they had this routine of playtime after dinner. Every night we played together. He recently graduated from his crib to a “big boy bed” and I had been wondering for two years what would happen, would Piper leave us to sleep with him? The answer was sometimes, she did like to sleep up on his bed though mostly she was still with us, an arrangement that suited us just fine.
With the birth of Monroe this year, it was the same. They were immediately taken with one another. He was already learning how to love her and play with her. He’s starting to learn to stand and used her as a “table” to balance himself. He’s just starting to sit in a highchair and puts his hand out when he’s done eating and she licked off the leftovers. They had started their own routine.
Our family Instagram account started as just her @piperdauphine. With Felix it became @felixandpiper and this year once more we are now at @davidsonfive. My preferred @piperandtheboys was taken. She was central even to our digital lives.
In our new life in Pittsburgh the past three years, we’re home a lot. Taylor is almost always home, I’m out maybe a few nights a month for work. And so on our nights at home we are always all together. “All together” is the phrase we use when everyone in the same room. From the living room to boy’s rooms to the small third floor bathroom with their bathtub, we would all squeeze in and laugh at how ridiculous it was to all be in that small space. Piper was in heaven. All she wanted was to be close to us and share in our experiences.
Piper had a big personality. She was “intense” as we liked to call it. She barked incessantly at the mailman, her tail went back like almost like a pointer when she saw a squirrel, she pulled in the direction she wanted to go on her walks. Now we wonder if she was intense because she was squeezing everything in knowing she was on borrowed time.
We’ll never know what breeds she really was, all we knew is that she was found along the side of the road in rural Georgia. We would tell people that everyone comes to New York City with a dream, hers was to find a family to love her. I created an elaborate children’s story I tell Felix at night about how she came to find us,with Piper curled up right there with us while I told it.
We’d like to think she is a Southern Hound, that’s probably the closest, with a bunch of things mixed in. Her middle name Dauphine, after the street in New Orleans. That’s where Taylor and I met and it felt like as much as New Orleans brought us together and was chapter 1, chapter 2 was our life with Piper.
Every day she sat with Taylor in his home office. They were inseparable. His calls were frequently taken as “Piper Walks” or spent playing ball with her in the backyard. He faithfully took her to every doctor appointment, never missed a tick or heartworm medication, never didn’t give her a good bath after coming home from a hike. Whenever she needed to go out at night, she knew to wake him up. They were the early risers in our house, she woke him to eat breakfast every day, and nudged him when it was time for walks and dinner time and games of tug.
In NYC, Taylor’s early morning workouts became early morning walks to dog friendly coffee shops, and in Pittsburgh they became early morning walks to the park and the reservoir. After the boys were born, Piper’s walks shifted to after everyone was safely away to school or work, and she seemed happy to sleep and curl up with everyone a bit longer. He took her on overnight hiking trips, sleeping curled up in tents or standing watch peering through the tent. She bounded ahead of us on hikes, but never wanted to go too far away from us. A few months ago they went to the Dolly Sods in West Virginia and she came home exhausted (something rare for her) and deeply happy. As our family photographer, Taylor has all the photos and videos of her from over the years. He’s the keeper of our digital archive. You can see his love in the care he took to document her firmly seated place within our family. If she could have a place at the table, I would venture to say she sat at the head.
Every night I cuddled with her in bed and would tell her, “I love you so much, no one loves you more than me. You’re the dog we always wanted. You’re my best friend.” There was a unique smell I called the “Piper Smell” and it was as unique as a fingerprint. I would put my nose into her fur and inhale. We would curl up and fall asleep together.
In a world with so much heartbreak, it’s hard to believe how unmoored we feel by losing her, but we do. She calmed us, she made us go outside and explore, she helped us be present and she never, not once, failed to show us love and affection.
All she ever wanted from us was a place to be loved, and in return she loved us without reservation or hesitation. She was a once in a lifetime dog, and while we try so hard to live our lives without regret and to live in the moment, we can’t help but feel remorse that we didn’t get one more walk with her, one more belly rub, or one more hike in the woods. She deserved a long life and it was cut short. For that we will forever feel a pang in our hearts.
We thank Piper so deeply for everything she did to help build our family. We gave her a great life, but she gave us an even better one. May her memory be a blessing.
– Sloane Davidson, 2/17/2019