The shelter volunteers had named her Dot, but my older kids were going through a Yu-Gi-Oh phase and decided she needed a Japanese name, so they tossed around a number of unpronounceable options from their favourite Manga shows. In the end, the youngest suggested "Panda" because she looked like one, and pandas are from Japan. It was cute, different, and appropriate - so who were we to correct a five-year-old on the origins of pandas?
Over the years, she was my constant companion. I said we got her for the kids, but she always was my girl. After getting the kids safely to school, we settled into a cozy routine. I'd write, edit or format, and she'd snore softly at my feet. She rarely barked to announce visitors, occasionally howled if she was feeling vocal, and she groaned like an old man when forced to move or do something she didn't want to. If we had unexpected company, usually of the animal type, she'd growl low and menacing, ready to protect her people, but we never knew her to be aggressive.
When my husband took work in another province, spending weeks at a time away, she promptly filled his space on the bed, keeping me warm, letting me know we were safe. Stoic, dependable, and sensitive, she supported us all through some pretty rocky times.
She'll always be part of our family, her soul is embedded in my heart, and her energy continues to filter into every corner of our lives. It's only been a week, and I know time will soften the sharp edges of grief, but today, with the kids back at school, my husband at work, and the silence of the day surrounding me... I miss her.