Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Au revoir, Diana P. of Woofville
Today the Maze is draped in black.
My friend Diana P., pictured above on 10/1/2013, departed this world at 1:27 p.m. Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 from complications following surgery for a brain aneurism she had suffered the day before. I like to imagine she was a bit PO’d that she didn’t get to vote Tuesday.
I knew Diana as the owner of a “boutique” pet shop in Wytheville, VA that she had named Woofville. Though predominantly a dog lover, she had given it the official and diplomatic title of Woofville and Meowtown. In fact it was our shared love of animals and puns that had attracted me to her shop—and her soul—in the fall of 2007. She was gently but unabashedly proselytizing for Obama in those days, but her naivety didn’t deter me from forming a lasting connection to a kindred spirit.
After 2009 or thereabouts, we never talked politics again except once, earlier this fall, when she mentioned a local candidate she was supporting. He was running in a different district than mine, however, so I couldn’t have voted for him even if I had wanted to. And for Diana’s sake, I truly wanted to. Speaking as someone who in every election since 2008 has voted for the only people I can trust to govern intelligently, honestly and fairly—myself and my age-eligible family members—that’s saying something.
But we did talk, sometimes at great length, about many other things every few weeks whenever I stopped in to pick up more food and toys for my pets.
Pet product information sat at the top of our chat priority, of course. Diana taught me that the healthiest foods (Canidae for dogs and Felidae for cats, Taste of the Wild, Fromm, NutriSource, Diamond Naturals, etc.), though expensive, were the best for my cats and dogs in the long run. Her wisdom has proven itself in the noticeably reduced shedding of our seven indoor cats, the longevity of our lone outdoor cat who has carried the feline leukemia virus for eight years and counting, and the health and vigor of our new Great Pyrenees puppies that have grown to be almost as large as the goats they guard. She always was giving away samples to try before switching brands, and sometimes “just because.” In fact, last week she surprised me with an unopened case of sample packages, explaining that I was her only customer buying that brand of cat food, and she wanted me to have them as an emergency supply.
I wonder if on some level she knew she would be leaving us.
Diana loved all her customers…and their owners. She took great joy in welcoming them, especially the four-footed ones, into her shop. I cannot count the number of times I would walk in to find her sharing advice about how to care for a new puppy or socialize a rescued dog, gushing over someone’s pictures or the animal itself if it had accompanied the owner, photographing a happy pair, or manning the “Woofwash” dog-bathing station she had established in the back room. Although these days I’m more of a cat person than a dog person, I always enjoyed watching her interact with her other clients while I waited my turn.
And when it was just the two of us, we often simply chatted about our families, our vacations past & planned, and other life events. Sometimes we would vent to each other about our spouses or other frustrations. I felt her thrill and pride for me whenever I would talk about my latest published novel or progress I had made on an unpublished manuscript. I know she bought at least one of my releases, Dawnflight, and was reading it via the Kindle app on “her baby,” her wonderfully bling-encrusted smartphone. I’ll never know whether she finished it, but that scarcely matters now. I may have lost a fan, but what hurts far worse is that I have lost a friend.
Today I bid Diana P. au revoir—“until the re-seeing,” rather than the more final adieu, “unto God.” Because from this moment on, whenever I observe someone advocate for animals, or speak proudly about spouse and children, or smilingly recommend a favorite political candidate, I will see my dear friend Diana again.