On Monday, my sister-in-law’s dog, Duke, passed away. He’d been ill for a short while, and when the diagnosis came last week, it was the worst news. Advanced cancer. He wasn’t quite ready to go–he still menaced the rabbits in the yard, and brought Karen his tennis ball, still wanted to go on walks, albeit slower ones. But he couldn’t eat, and the day came when the tennis ball was ignored and the painful decision had to be made.
My heart aches for my sister- and brother-in-law, and for my nephews, who’ve lost a loyal and loving family member.
Their loss also brought back vivid and visceral memories of our first Jack Russell Terrier, Woody, the first dog I ever owned. We picked him out as a puppy when our son was 2, because, I rationalized, a boy needs a dog. But the boy didn’t get the dog. I did. Woody came with me everywhere. He was my shadow. He cuddled the boys because he knew they were special to me, and sat curled in the triangle I’d make of my legs every time I relaxed on the sofa. On leash-less walks he never wandered more than a few paces from my side, always in view—his view. Because, while I thought I owned him, he thought he owned me. He trained me up just right.
He got very suddenly ill, sepsis set in and within 24 hours of first recognizing he was sick, he was gone. But thankfully I was there at the end. I’d been working at my kids’ school, so I missed the first call, when his lungs failed and his heart stopped, but the emergency vet, angel that she was, kept him on life support and kept calling, so I could say goodbye. I petted him and told him I loved him. I wanted to be sure the last words he heard from me were ones I knew he’d understand:
You’ve been a good dog, Woody.
And you were a good dog, too, Dukie. May you both be chasing rabbits and squirrels to your heart’s content, and if, perchance, we see you once again, you can be sure we’ll have treats in hand and a loving caress for our loyal companions.
Duke, d. April 27, 2014
Woody, d. June 7, 2005