Princess Sassafras: The newest Howell

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Kitchen Table Talk

There will be so many mixed memories and feelings we each will have about this unique time of life during the introduction to COVID-19. Even within family units, there are good days and bad, new ways of life we want to keep and old ways we can’t wait to reclaim.


Princess Sassafras

For my husband, Neville, and me, we hope to have a reminder of our days sequestered at home for many, many years to come. Ten days ago, after more than a year without our beloved Lexi, a Chihuahua/Yorki mix we loved for 15 years, we welcomed Princess Sassafras into the family.

She is Sassy, for short, and she is indeed sassy. A rescue from middle Tennessee that we learned about from our daughter-in-law Kinsey, Sassy is Chihuahua and something else. First reports were that the litters rescued from a breeder-gone-wrong were Chihuahua and Shih Tzu – a designer dog sometimes called a ShiChi. We don’t see any Shih Tzu in her, but she is only between seven and eight weeks old, so who knows how her future looks will shake out.

I think Neville and I hovered between believing we would never have another dog after Lexi and knowing with certainty that we would. For months, it was never mentioned. Our hearts were broken. Even with all the conviction that Lexi had been well-loved, loved us and had a long, good life, we missed her, and the thought of another dog just didn’t seem to be an answer for that ache.

After about eight months, the topic came up. It was an off-handed comment, along the lines of “The kids do know better than to try to give us a dog for Christmas, right?” Still, the subject was out there. So were the excuses: Travel schedules, bad weather for training/housebreaking a puppy, not being sure what we wanted, etc. “Time is never going to be perfect,” I remember saying, at one point in a discussion.

And then, suddenly, it was. Homebound, all travel plans blown to smithereens, good weather coming in and Kinsey on the phone with screen shots of puppies being fostered by a pet rescue organization in her Franklin, Tenn., neighborhood.

We went through the application process with the caveat that we were still discussing and making up our minds. Everything was topsy-turvy even in the pet adoption world because of COVID-19 isolations and not inviting a parade of folks into foster family’s homes to look at puppies. Plus, we were three hours away.

Through photos, conversations with foster families and a Facebook Live yard visit with the two puppies we had picked from pictures, we met Sassy. She was one of three, the only girl and the runt of the litter. When all two pounds of her practically vaulted into the arms of our 5-year-old grandson, King, we were sold.

It’s been 10 days. She already has Neville wrapped firmly around her little paw and will no doubt be spoiled rotten very soon. We are so proud of her and absolutely adore her.

The name? That was the hardest part, once we made our decision on what dog we wanted. Her first name was Bucky, which was changed to Madison when they realized she was a girl. I wanted something short and ending with an “e” sound, like Lexi. I was leaning heavily toward Daisy, but Neville didn’t like it. He wanted to name her Corona, but I absolutely refused.

King came up with three names: Lexi 2, Princess and Poo-Poo Head.

The weekend before we were to go to Franklin and pick her up, Andrea, her foster mom, texted and said she thought the puppies were beginning to recognize their names. Did we have a name picked out that she could start using?

At that point, the name we all agreed on was Bella. So I told Andrea, “Bella.”

She texted back: “That is perfect for her sweet but sassy personality. I have recently been calling her Sassafras.”

And with that, Princess Sassafras, aka, Sassy, became the newest Howell.

Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.

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