My good dog chased one bear too many on our behalf and pulled his ACL (a crucial ligament of the ‘knee’) bringing a halt to our favorite pastime—discovering new trails together.
That was almost 8 weeks ago, enough time to weigh options, fortify resolve and make the dreaded appointment with death. I had always wondered how he’d go but had hoped it wouldn’t have to be at my hand. But here we were with the choice of continuing on in pain with never another care-fee walk, or choosing death. And the decision was mine as his caretaker, and now, undertaker.
Decisions. My dad used to be the one to deal with these things, protecting us kids from such harsh realities. He hated to do it. I cried. But now roles are reversed. Dad scarcely makes a decision for himself. His life is managed by others. Protest is futile. And I am cast in the role of making hard decisions—must be a grown-up thing—an evidence of maturity (and sanity?)
Well, but enough of philosophizing. For this post I will indulge in some fond memories of a good dog now laid to rest where willows weep…
He was always a sport (once all the squirrels had been chased) to patiently sit as sentinel on any given scenic bluff while I mused or ‘cat napped’…
I remember the dusky summer evening up Scout when he detoured a bear looming big and oh so black in the narrow homeward path– while my heart raced and time stood still…
…and the charging St.Bernard that turned tail in surprise and fled for home when Louie was unleashed!
He fetched sticks as if it were a serious profession, looking the part of a police dog in action; no game this!
But never quite mastered swimming without getting water in his ears—he hated that—but loved to hike down to the lake and plunge into the icy water to retrieve driftwood. If I sent him in over his head too many times, the wood was his to keep; game over.
Bringing his ‘bucket’ at dinnertime on command –“Go get your bucket’”—was a favorite trick that Bethany taught him and always made him look so clever.
One time overhearing me exclaim, ‘What is it, Louis?!’ as I was reading aloud to the kids about Louis Braille, he jumped up barking in fierce readiness to avenge me of any perceived threats…
“BEAR!” and “Cat” and unfortunately “Go Home!” were other serious signal words he rarely failed to catch whether addressed to him or not.
And of course, the “W” word, as we came to call it—no word could call forth such animated tail wagging, eager whining (Jim hated that) and prancing. It was his favorite pastime, always in hopes of trying a new trail. “WALK”s are what he lived for.
But now no more.
I’ll miss them.