Paul August: Requiem for the family dog
On our California farm, Dad chained up our dog but turned him lose every night. “Frisky,” an Australian shepherd, always returned home.
One morning, as Mom drove me to school, Frisky chased us.
The car gained speed.
“Frisky’s in front?”
I looked back.
“Mom. You hit Frisky.”
She kept driving. I saw my dog stretched out on the road. I later learned that Frisky was at the vet’s and he’d be OK.
A few years later, Mom called me at college. “Frisky got run over by the garbage truck. He’s gone.”
I felt slightly sad. College life absorbed my grief for my best childhood friend.
Fast forward 10 years. Our little son had a broken toy dog he called, “Broken Doggie.” When we got a real Bassett hound, we kept the name.
The sad pet believed he was in our family. If we left our station wagon at a restaurant, he’d mournfully look out the rear window. After 16 years, his legs gave out. The vet put him down. I placed his body in my Dad’s old wooden tool chest, shaped like a small coffin. We drove across California to the Sierra foothills and buried Broken in our pet cemetery, Paw Hill.
Sabo, a pure bred German shepherd, had the beauty. Breeders created show dogs but the genetics contained defects. At age five: Paw Hill.
Next came Lobo who loved to run with the wind in the Sierra. Unfortunately, he ran out the front door and got struck by a car. I made another trip on I-80, from Oakland to the mountains.
Solo came to us through an ad with a photo in the newspaper. Two previous owners rejected him. This mix of German shepherd and border collie appeared willing to please. But if I yelled too loudly at TV football, Solo would run upstairs and hide.
Solo raised our granddaughter for 16 years. He was friendly, cordial and easy going. His dog cancer resulted in an expensive operation. Six months later, the cancer returned. We kept his ashes at home.
By now we were living in the Sierra with a border collie. With Tip, I awakened in the morning to a big nose and two brown eyes looking at me in bed. After I petted his head, stroked his fur and scratched behind his ears, he’d let me get up. Tip stared at me, his way to ask, “Where do we go now?”
I’d give a brief command
He’d trot off to meet me there.
Eleven years later, cancer struck. After a shot by the vet, my dog slid into unconsciousness in my arms. I slipped off his collar and tags and choked up. I was never this close to any dog. We cremated Tip and put his ashes with Solo.
Enter a four-month-old border collie. He had a white face and two light blue eyes. His left ear was white and his right ear was black, giving him an almost comical affect. He had two stray patches of white on his black back. “Patches” radiated with puppy energy and affection.
Unfortunately, he chased every critter in sight. He stopped to eat sticks, poops, plants and roots and scratched incessantly. He pooped and peed in the house and didn’t respond to sounds. So, I got behind him and blew a police whistle. Nothing. The vet later confirmed that Patches was deaf.
We abandoned our weekly dog training. Too much stress. On a Monday morning I was told that Patches had to be put down. What? No. The Little Guy (my nickname for him) had no terminal disease. His bright blue eyes had a pleading quality. I felt terrible.
“Hello, Little Guy, and goodbye.”
What could I do? Inside, later, I found myself falling to my knees, calling out to a God I no longer believed in. I noticed the phone blinking. The taped call was cluttered with static, barely discernible: “vet … sending dog … rescue.”
“Rescue?” Is this what a miracle feels like? I’ll never see Patches again but at least he’s alive. Vets won’t “put down” dogs that can be rescued.
According to the Sacramento Bee, a 13-year-old amputee boy, who lost his leg to cancer, adopted a three-legged dog. The Front Street Foundation entered this story in a Petco Foundation adoptions contest and won $100,000. My deaf Little Guy needs to find a deaf master so they may both truly thrive.
“I’m glad, Little Guy, you’re alive.”
Paul August is a writer in North San Juan.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.