Aspen Princess: All dogs go to Heaven, so enjoy the clouds, Aspen pug |

Aspen Princess: All dogs go to Heaven, so enjoy the clouds, Aspen pug

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

“Do you always drive with a live animal in your lap?” the state trooper asked, as if looking for a reason to throw the book at me.

I wanted to say, “Why, is it against the law?” But I bit my tongue.

Yes, I drove with Gertie in my lap. I know it was wrong, dangerous, irresponsible and stupid, but Gertie was always in my lap. She was always attached to me in some way, skin-to-fur, like an appendage, like she could never get close enough.

Gertrude Angel Margo came into this world on March 21, 2013, and she left us on Monday, April 8, just five days after being diagnosed with Granulomatous meningoencephalitis (GME). I knew this because it was disclosed in the breeder’s contract that the sire of the litter had died from this very disease shortly after the litter was born, at exactly the same age Gertie was when she passed.

You would think that might be a red flag, but we had already met her, so it was moot. We fell in love with our baby girl at first sight. She walked right into our arms as if she’d been waiting for us and not the other way around. On the long drive home from Cimarron, Kansas, a tiny town on the dusty plains outside of Garden City, she slept and behaved as if she knew exactly where she was going, like she’d summoned a ride back to Aspen.

We’d just suffered a miscarriage after a long struggle with infertility, so she immediately became our baby. As a pup, she was only 5 pounds, so we carried her everywhere and she loved us as if she was put on this Earth to do so. No, she was not an athlete, but we took her on hikes anyway, carrying her in our backpacks if we had to. She still managed to summit every hike in the area from Smuggler and Arbaney Kittle to Cathedral Lake. Ryan used to like to tell stunned passersby she was a rare breed of mountain pug. Our friends were a little bit horrified. “Why would you get a dog like that when you live in the mountains?” they’d asked, doing nothing to hide their disgust.

I didn’t care. I loved that dog like nobody’s business. She completed me like the perfect accessory on a mind-blowing outfit, not with me but a part of me, strutting around town in princess style. I biked through the streets of Aspen with her on my pink cruiser, perched comfortably in the front basket on the pink blanket she’d come home in. I couldn’t get 2 feet without someone wanting to take her photo. Once, we were on the 6 o’clock news, and the reporter referred to her as “Gertrude, the Aspen pug.”

When our human baby finally came, forget about it. She took to that baby like he was her job, always lying as close to him as she could manage. Cruising town with the baby in the stroller and Gertie riding up front like the hood ornament of a fancy car, people went nuts. They’d come running up and go, “How old is your pug?” as if the baby were just extra baggage. Once, we found ourselves in the center of a large crowd in front of Paradise Bakery, that little butter ball being passed around with a look of total entitlement on her face, like a movie star who couldn’t get from the limo to the red carpet without having to sign 100 autographs first.

That dog has been everywhere with us, riding on the plane in her little pink harness with the emotional support animal badge attached, her chest puffed with pride. We used to joke that she provided emotional support for everyone. She was like this little joy-spreading machine. We took her to Target, Lowes and once or twice into the supermarket, smuggled in my big purse. She’s traveled with us everywhere, often paying fines for the abundant dog hair she left behind when we’d rent a car or an Airbnb. She always slept in our bed and under the covers, either spooning me or on my pillow with her little head on my shoulder, her breath hot in the crook of my neck. I was always pushing her over, and she would complain, letting out this noise that sounded like something between a screech and a whine, more like a cat than a dog.

Mostly people knew her as the fat little white dog that was always perched on my lap at various local coffee shops with her paws up on the table as I worked on my computer, as if she were helping me in some way, ever my muse.

Her passing was sudden and traumatic. She was diagnosed on Thursday and died early Monday morning. She took her last breath on a big white down comforter on our king-size bed with me by her side. I scooped her into my arms and gently lay her to rest in her leopard-print dog bed, wrapping her in the pink blanket she arrived in.

Ryan says she was our angel. She came to us when we needed her after my miscarriage and got us to where we needed to go, with our beautiful baby boy who isn’t a baby anymore, robust and flourishing. “It was time for her to go so she could help someone else,” Ryan said.

I have never cried more tears or struggled so hard to breathe in this clean mountain air or felt suffocated by my own skin, like it’s on too tight. My baby girl is gone, and I can never replace her. There will never be another Gertie. She was one in a million. I can only hope her spirit is soaring high and that we will meet again.

Until the next life, Gertrude Angel Margo. Thank you for being our angel.

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