Wednesday, July 22, 2015

All dogs go to heaven, or something.

We're all gonna die.

I'm not trying to alarm anyone, but that's a fact that needs no reference. The earth revolves around the sun, rivers run to the ocean, light races along at nearly three hundred million meters a second, and our time living in it all will end. You can count on it. You're alive at this moment or you would not be reading my post, but some day (and there's no getting out of it) you will pass on; as will all of my friends, as will I.

As will my dog, Monty. And that one really hurts.

My favorite human person with my favorite canine person.

Don't get me wrong, I will certainly mourn you, I promise. But I'm not expecting you to go very soon, and you'll have to forgive me if you're not at the forefront in my mind, given that I can't really be sure who is reading this. With Monty, every morning for years he's the second person I see, and every night he's the second to last. Every day I watch my beloved schnauzer, and I know that for him the end is nigh.

Monty is thirteen years old. He still wants to play with me - I know this because he always finds me and stands in front of me until he has my attention, then runs away to the only room we have with a rug (where he can get traction) and stands above his rope-bone, waiting for me to try and steal it. It's hard to imagine why anyone would want a frayed smelly old rope-bone, but I usually oblige and snatch at it, only to have him grab the other end and tug until "he wins". He still meets me at the door when I get home from work (most days), looking up for a pet and for me to let him immediately out the back door (even though he likely just came in!). He sticks his nose up to my bed and sniffs at me until I rub his head, then turns around so that I can scratch his butt while he throws his nose up in the air, making grunting noises and looking at me over his shoulder.

That's about 50 pounds of handsome, right there.
He does not behave like old dogs do, yet. But I can see it coming. I can tell by the way he needs a couple of attempts to get out of his bed, or resorts to a full-on belly flop when he tries to lay down gracefully. Or how he struggles with stairs, and often won't trouble himself to rise for every little inconsequential happening (like he used to). His hips are old, slowing him down. Soon, more of him will slow down, and parts of him will ache all the time. He will stop having fun, and will be simply tolerating his own existence.

I know this is true, but I don't like to admit it. Of course, we're going to see if we can get treatment for his hips, and maybe that will get him over this hurdle and buy us more time. But my lovely wife, ever the realist, the ultimate pragmatist, won't stop reminding me of this truth. I don't know if she talks about it so much in order to make sure we are prepared, or if it is because she wants me to be prepared.

Well, I am preparing. It kills me, but I am. It sounds odd, but I have never lost anyone in my life who is as close to me as this little canine. I have raised him since he was a few weeks old; trained an alpha male to be part of (and not the head of) a family, and watched him grow to trust and be trusted. I have literally bled (since he was so dominant as a puppy that he was vicious with anyone who dared to handle him) for him. And he has bled for me, saving me multiple times from deadly groundhogs striving to overthrow the sovereign territory of our back yard. We are the truest friends. And I have to be ready for him to go.

Here he is as a vicious, domineering puppy. It's OK to say "Awwwwww!"

Despite the title of my post, I don't believe I will see him in some sort of doggie Heaven. That's a story we often feed to children because it's too difficult for us to tell them what we know to be true. I don't need that kind of hope anyway. Like with everyone else in my life, I am honoured to have had his love for thirteen years, or fourteen or fifteen, or whatever fortune brings. Things will not be empty for me when he is gone, because I will have my memories. I will say my good bye, and he will be gone, and I will never see him again. But I will always remember, as long as my mind and body are connected. And I will not be alone, since there are other dogs, and cats, and humans that will want my love.

Don't we kinda look alike?

I could certainly feel guilty that there are people in my life that may leave me, and that I won't have said all that I need to say to them or made it clear to them how much I care about them. That's the beauty of a relationship with a dog - I will never imagine that he didn't know I loved him. Every time I trip over him while he's circling my ankles, I know he loves me back. And every day when I see him limping and tripping, I'm reminded how brief the rest of our time together might be. But people don't get under my feet, and they live far longer, and sometimes they leave without warning me that they're on their way out. There is no way to give myself to everyone the way I have given myself to Monty, so I must hope that my loved ones all understand that I do cherish them, and always will. Even when they are gone for good, I do not expect to mourn the time I can no longer have with them, or regret the time I did not have with them - I will rejoice that I knew them, and that I loved them. That is a great legacy for anyone. That is what I also hope those that I leave behind will do for me.

All this, I learned from an old dog, my hairy cousin with bad breath. I wish that all could be so lucky as to have a friend like my Monty.

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