There is a saying that behind every myth or legend is a grain of truth; no matter how small the grain may be. The same may be said for every story conceived by the heart of man. Somewhere between the layers of fiction and fantasy…..amid the fanciful scenery and unknown realms…..wrapped inside the quirky habits and eccentricities of the characters that draw the reader ever deeper into the story they enjoy lays some truth about the writer’s heart. Whether it be a writer’s love of the history so artfully woven into a historical novel or a striking resemblance of a villain to a writer’s own real-life nemesis, reading an author’s stories will tell you something about them, no matter how insignificant the revelation may be.
To read The Chronicles of Mister Marmee will reveal much about me and my heart, for it is a tribute to one of the greatest love stories of my life. It is a love story that will forever shape and influence me no matter where my life may lead me. It is a love I cannot and will not ever forget. On Tuesday, February 19, 2013, the real Sir Happy Heart – the inspiration for the Sir Happy Heart in the Chronicles of Mister Marmee series – died. He would have been 15 years old February 22.
Sir Happy Heart, or Happydog as we were prone to call him, was a miniature black and tan dachshund. He was a small dog – about 15 pounds – but there was nothing small about this bighearted little boy. In so many ways, he was a giant even among giants.
Trying to capture the essence of my Happydog in words is like trying to capture the magnificence of the universe with a single photograph. It is a task which is impossible to accomplish because the tools are inadequate for the task. Oh certainly, he was as much a down-to-earth dog as the next spectacular canine companion, but there was something about Happydog that made him different. It was his spirit, and anyone who ever had the privilege to meet this little dog felt it as clearly as one feels the sunlight on their skin on a warm, summer day.
Happydog survived demodectic mange, 2 serious back surgeries (within a month of each other), and a host of other illnesses that would have put any other dog down. We jokingly called him our million dollar dog because we spent every penny we had and maxed out every credit card to save him each and every time. Had he been any other dog, he would have succumbed to one or all of these physical battles, but Happydog was a fighter that wouldn’t give up, so we didn’t either. And he pulled through, every time. I thought he would live forever. He marveled his vets and the specialist who worked with him. He humbled them when they said he might never walk again and he did within hours of the surgery, but that was just the way my little miracle boy was. His spirit wouldn’t let him give up. He kept fighting, right up to the very end.
Happydog wasn’t just a fighter. He was a soul mate, and not just to me but to each member in my family. Happydog was my momma’s dog, but I guarantee if you were to ask anyone in the house who his favorite was, they would whisper behind their hand (or paw), “It’s me!” He just had a way of making you feel like you were the most important person in his world when he was with you. When I had my tonsils removed and had an arterial bleed…..twice….Happydog lay with me and never left my side. For six weeks, he lay on the couch with me watching and waiting for me to get better. In 2011, when I ended up in the ER where doctors found massive tumors in my abdomen, and we feared it was cancer, after the surgery and for two months during my long recovery, Happydog lay in bed with me watching and waiting for me to get better.
It was just his way to always be there, like my beautiful black and tan guardian angel. When I was in school, he did homework with me and when it was time for a break, we played. Is it any wonder that such a glorious heart would become the breath of inspiration for The Chronicles of Mister Marmee? Oh yes, I know, Mister Marmee is a cat who tells the tales of his adventures with his beloved friend Sir Happy Heart. But if you listen carefully, as you read the words of the story, you will begin to hear the melody of the heart of my boy in the tenderness and charming refrain of Mister Marmee as well. For I can no sooner separate the voice of my boy from my two favorite characters than I can remove the love I have for him from my heart. He is everywhere within the pages of my books.
Through every word of the Chronicles of Mister Marmee ~ The Case of Jack the Nipper and through most of the first draft of the Case of the Wayward Fae, my own Sir Happy Heart lay with my little girl Peanut Pumpkin Pie and watched me write his adventures.
Now that my Happydog is gone, there is a void in my spirit that defies description. I did not know I could feel such pain as this. I know in part it is magnified by the loss of my beautiful Jessie Bess in November of last year, just three short months ago. He was another glorious dog who left me way too soon. For Happydog, there is a special sense of emptiness for he gave life to the stories I love to write so much. For a time, I feared his voice would be silent forever, buried beneath a grief I could not overcome. This weekend however, I dared to try…to face what I feared the most…..the unbearable silence of my boy’s stories. I am still working on the ending of the Case of the Wayward Fae, and I need to finish it for Happydog. I need more than anything for his story to continue. For it to end would be like losing my Happydog all over again. The most miraculous thing happened as I once again looked upon the written words that represented in some small measure the spirit of my boy……his voice once again came alive in my head.
I may have lost the precious Happydog that brought such joy everyday to me, but I still can celebrate and share the spirit that gave him life. Sir Happy Heart…..my Sir Happy Heart…..will live on in the pages of each new novel in the Chronicles of Mister Marmee series. It is the greatest testament to his love for me and the greatest way I can honor him for 15 years of selfless love and devotion. I know one day I will see my boy again if God deems me worthy to run among the angels, for surely that is where my Happydog is. He was an angel come to earth for a time who has returned back to heaven. Run free my little love. I will miss you, always.