The Ohio ground was hard the day the governor, my dad, said goodbye to his dog.
Dad always called Teddy “Anna’s dog.” I picked him out. But Teddy picked Dad over and over again, even on his last day.
Born on a farm 4 miles from ours, Teddy was the runt of the litter. As runts are, he was babied from the start. Cradled in a set of arms, with a belly full of warm milk, he‘d fall asleep each night to the cadence of a rocking chair. When it was time for a springer spaniel puppy to go home with us Thanksgiving 2005, Teddy wiggled into my lap and never left. He knew I was the runt, too.
The brown-and-white spotted pup — strikingly resembling the protagonist in “The Poky Little Puppy” — turned out to be anything but poky. So I named him “Teddy,” after President Teddy Roosevelt.
Whether floating atop my pillow or bounding up the basement stairs, Teddy was King of the House. A trusted sidekick to our chocolate Lab, Maggie, the two made it their mission, at the dismay of 13-year-old me, to explore Annandale, Virginia together when Dad was in the U.S. Senate. No fence, no matter height or strength, deterred the pair. They‘d nonchalantly traverse strangers’ yards, once crossed Little River Turnpike, and caused the informal neighborhood search squad to be called many, many a time.
But Teddy’s true home was Cedarville. Teddy was a country dog at heart, covering more square feet of the Ohio farm than perhaps any other creature by foot or paw. And he sprang! There was no greater joy for Teddy than to be out on the land, Dad not far behind, crashing through the woods, swimming in the creek, springing up over the fields — just to return to the front porch, dripping in mud, his beautifully-feathered ears and wispy tail thick with burrs.
Although not trained as a hunting dog, Teddy lived up to his name and his lineage. He was known to catch an unsuspecting bird in mid-flight, could unearth a bone in a matter of minutes, and tracked down his humans, wherever they went.
And when I came home from college, he was there, tail wagging for me.
Teddy’s true loves were simple — listening to Sam Cooke on Sunday morning, licking a good drippings-coated skillet from Mom after dinner, and falling asleep at Dad’s golden-toed-socked feet before bed. Naps were his favorite — curled up in a red leather chair, under the kitchen table, in the sunshine of the driveway or, on the most perfect occasion, in front of a roaring fireplace.
In his lifetime, Teddy watched 13 grandchildren join the family, each just another set of little hands to pet him. Teddy volunteered at many a campaign ice cream social and was certainly the only DeWine who never walked a parade. Teddy lived through four statewide campaigns — one gut-wrenching loss and three jubilant victories.
Teddy was solace after a long day, a quiet comfort after a funeral. He was the first cup of coffee in the morning, the second-to-last light switch before bed. He was a freckled nose against your knees, a quick lick to the chin. He was all eyes — probing, yet soft — eyes that would look through yours and heal whatever was broken, even as he went blind.
Teddy was always there.
He was even there, at a stroke past midnight on Jan. 14, watching as Dad became the 70th governor of Ohio.
Teddy lived his last months at the Governor’s Residence, sitting in on meetings with Dad, strolling through the gardens with Mom, and befriending every guest who walked through the heavy oak front door.
Once a small and eager U.S. Senate puppy, Teddy grew into the distinguished and beloved “first dog” of Ohio. Teddy was carefully curious and clever, unfailingly sweet and gentle. Teddy was fiercely loyal, unconditionally loving. He was the greatest companion.
Two days shy of his 14th birthday, on Sept. 29, I wrapped Teddy in my grandparents’ green cotton blanket, the same green as their DeWine Seeds seed bags. He rests at Mile 3, marked by a granite boulder, just off the farm’s cross-country trail he so loved. Teddy is just one-tenth of a mile away from the finish — or the starting line, depending on how you look at it.
I find comfort in knowing that next summer, when the ground is softer and the wheat is at full height — Dad will look out over the field and, in his mind, see Teddy — springing through the waves, his head and floppy ears popping up over the golden heads of grain once again.
— The Columbus Dispatch
Anna Bolton, of Cedarville, is a Xenia Daily Gazette staff reporter and columnist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.