Even the smallest dogs have a job to do.
A miniature dachshund named Mr. Peanut had such a job. It was seeing his owner, Carla Zambelli, a Montgomery County blogger and photographer, into safe harbor from life’s hard knocks.
There was something about that joyful, high-pitched bark and the dancing on little back legs that was consoling when he greeted you at the door, even if you didn’t know his story.
Lifted onto your lap, he would burrow into your armpit and fall asleep, a package of warm contentment.
Mr. Peanut did not have a good start in life.
Near as we can tell, Mr. Peanut was found by firemen abandoned outside a gutted housing complex in Norristown in the mid-2000s. His family simply never went back for him. The firefighters scooped him up and took him to Main Line Rescue, where Carla saw him and was smitten.
When the experts examined him, they found that he had never been given dog food, leash training, or any medical care. Most of his teeth were rotten and had to be removed. He spent the rest of his life taking antibiotics for various health problems.
Carla had some setbacks, too. Her personal life went south in 2010, and Mr. Peanut, along with standard dachshund, Iggy, were a tag team, helping her cope.
When Carla learned she had breast cancer, and mounted a fierce battle to beat it back, Mr. Peanut and Iggy were there. The tag team of rust-colored clowns never stopped being a force she could lean on.
Carla beat the cancer and created a new life in West Chester. His human was safe, his work on earth done, so Mr. Peanut began to cycle down.
Carla called us about a month ago, saying that Mr. Peanut was failing and we better come quickly if we wanted to see him one last time.
On a rainy Sunday, we went. Carla put Mr. Peanut in our arms, and he settled in quietly without the usual clamor, his graying muzzle and black nose resting on our elbow.
When Carla put him out to do his business, he could be seen circling the deck on determined little legs, the will to live still strong.
But even strong little hearts give out.
Last night, before the sun set, Carla and her life companion, a kind man named Ben, had Mr. Peanut put to sleep. The legs are still, the bark quiet.