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Tuesday, February 04, 2014


Eulogy for a good dog.

If this does not make you cry ...

It’s been such a long slow decline; normal gets redefined every month or so. But two weeks ago his bladder mastery began to escape him. I worked at home so I could hear the clank of his dog tags when he decided to get up and head for the door, as the old instincts rose up and required the civilized response. Didn’t always make it in time. Lots of swabbing the deck. Sponge baths. Spraying the carpet, washing his bed. But you don’t think “this is annoying. Let’s put him down.” If anything you just make sure he gets outside.

Last Thursday: a day and a week before the appointed time, he went out at 12:45 AM as is his wont, miserable wind whipping the temps down to minus 10. Snout to the wind to check the news. He decides to walk into the yard to do what needed to be done - I watched from the door, expecting him to get stuck. Last year there were dog prints in the snow all around the gazebo, but close; the year before, the orbit was further out. This year it’s back and forth by the stairs, like an old man who shuttles between desk and bed.

He headed to the back gate, a new objective in recent weeks. Last week he found an open gate and traversed the long march from back gate to front, alone in the snow. This week he stops and turns back. He heads into the snow, heads north, and I realize this means going downstairs for the boots because he’s going to get hopelessly becalmed in the drifts. Bring him inside. Hug. I know, I know. Think: one week. Too soon. Think: overdue. Guilt. Make the usual excuses as I carried him back in. That must be cold. Let’s get you warm. I listen for a grunt of discomfort when I pick him up, a soft whine if I’ve pressed a tender spot. Nothing. I lay him back on the bed and when I check a while later, he looks up with the same expression of patience and forbearance.

Whatever you have asked him to bear, he bears it.

You’re surprised to realize that’s what you’ve done. You’ve been waiting for a signal. He’s been waiting for permission.

Please read the whole thing.

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