Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dobie

To start with, I didn't even want the dog. We already had a dog, and 'way too many cats, and taking on another pet just didn't make sense. But our neighbors wanted to find a new home for him, and Livia and the girls wanted to take him in, so I said, Sure, we can take him. He was a small, black-brown-and-tan dog, part Chihuahua, part Doberman, at least a year old because he was fully grown, and he came with the name Dobie, which suited him so we never changed it.

Without a doubt, making him part of our family was one of the best decisions we ever made.

It didn't take us long to realize that this was a dog accustomed to getting his own way. When he wanted out, he wanted out right then. Same with wanting back in. He wanted to lay where he wanted to lay, and by God, that's where he was going to lay. Usually that was in somebody's lap, most often either Livia or our daughters Shayna and Joanna. But he liked me, too.

Not much of anybody else, though. He was pretty fond of Livia's parents, especially her mom. Anybody else who set foot in our house was in danger of getting an ankle nipped. He snuck up and got Livia's brother Bruce often enough I think it became sort of a game between them.

He was also the smartest dog I've ever known. We installed a dog door at the far end of our house. Dobie would come to the front door, scratch on it to be let in, and we'd yell, "Go around!" A minute later, by the time we could get there, he'd be inside the room where the dog door was. He understood so many words I can't even come close to remembering them all. All we had to do was say, "Where's Shayna?", and Dobie would jump onto the back of the sofa where he could look through the picture window at the driveway and wait for her to drive in. That was one of his favorite places, perched on the back of that sofa watching the world go by.

Speaking of which, he hated horses and cyclists with equal passion, and any time either came by while he was outside, he announced his moral outrage at their existence at great length and volume. Even after the years were catching up with him and he couldn't see very well anymore, he always seemed able to spot a horse, even at a distance, and would bark angrily.

I'm making him sound sort of cantankerous, and he was, no doubt about that, but he could also be incredibly loving. He really enjoyed spending time with all of us. For most of his life, with Livia and the girls that meant sitting in their laps (even if it meant sharing that lap with a—shudder—cat), but for me, well, he was my walkin' buddy. We went up and down this country road hundreds of times and hundreds of miles. He knew when it was time for our walk, and if I didn't get the leash and the halter, he'd start to whine. A number of years ago when I was going through some personal problems that really had me down, I walked even more as I tried to sort everything out, and Dobie was right there with me, every step of the way.

The years caught up to him, as they do to us all. Cataracts took most of his sight. He couldn't hear very well, and arthritis kept him from getting around like he used to. Then in December 2012 he had a stroke that severely limited the use of his legs. His front legs still worked well enough for a while that Livia built him a cart he could roll around in. He'd bang it into the kitchen cabinets, get stuck, and holler for help, which he always got, of course. Eventually he lost all the use of his legs, so Livia built another apparatus that supported him so he could stand up and eat his food. He was always a very healthy eater and never lost his appetite despite his health problems until the last two weeks of his life. Even then there were days when he rallied and ate fairly well.

The past eighteen months weren't easy on him, though. He didn't understand why he couldn't just get up and run around like he always had. I'm sure he was uncomfortable a lot of the time. He had trouble sleeping, so I stayed up with him many nights, trying to keep him quiet and as comfortable as possible. He liked the fresh air, so we'd sit out on the front porch at three o'clock in the morning with the temperature below freezing, me bundled up in a coat with Dobie inside it nestled against my chest, and we'd listen to the night and I'd talk to him and he would butt the top of his head against my chin like he was telling me, "Hey, it's okay." We'd be back out there in the middle of the summer with the heat of a scorching day still lingering. Those times he liked to lay on his side in the grass and rub his face in it, then lift his head a little and sniff the air like he'd just smelled something intriguing. He couldn't go see what it was, but he smelled it, and that moment was his. And mine. And the bond between us from those times will never be broken.

The past two weeks were really hard on all of us, as all his systems started to fail on him at once. But hardest on him because he was in real pain much of the time. Before that, yes, he'd had a stroke and he couldn't walk, but we could tell that he wasn't hurting most of the time. In fact, he seemed determined to continue living the best life he could. When it became obvious that wasn't ever going to come back, we decided we had to do something to ease his pain. We were going to take him to the vet today. In the end, though, he spared us that and passed away in his own bed very early this morning with me beside him rubbing his head and telling him how much we all loved him. Just a matter of luck it turned out that way, you might say, but I don't believe that. I think at the very last, with the same love and grace he always showed us, he tried to make it a little easier for us.

He's at peace now, resting between two rose bushes we planted this morning, surrounded by some beautiful white flowers we also planted. I can see the spot from the window of the upstairs office where I'm typing this. That's a comfort to me, and I know it will be even more so in the future. Right now the loss is still too fresh and it hurts like hell, so being a writer, what do I do? I write about it, and I appreciate each and every one of you who's reading this. I'm going to hang on to that small bit of comfort I feel when I look out the window and let it grow like the rose bushes and the flowers. I read something the other day that struck me as pretty wise: "Time heals most things. Give it a chance." That's what I intend to do, like we gave Dobie the chance to come into our lives almost two decades ago.

He didn't let me down then, and I know his memory won't now.

22 comments:

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

A fine and touching tribute to Dobie, Mr. Reasoner. As a dog lover and owner I can understand how you and your family must feel, and I'm very sorry for your loss. A little over two years ago, we adopted a stray, part doberman, one of seven born near our home. We found good homes for the other six which was a miracle considering that it's hard to find homes even for free pedigreed dogs in Mumbai owing to time and space constraints. What amazes me about dogs is their unconditional love and devotion; they're always so forgiving; and they put up with our mood swings. Our pet, a female, greets us every single time, even if one of us has stepped out for ten minutes, as if we'd gone away for a whole year. As a friend of mine, a dog lover, told me, "Dogs have no ego."

Walker Martin said...

Dogs are great companions and that's a fine tribute James. It has been a long time since my last dog died and I never really got over it. There were times when I thought she was my best friend.

Paul Bishop said...

A grad tribute to a grand friend ...

Marc Cameron said...

Well said. So well said.

Randy Johnson said...

Wonderful tribute to a lost family member.

David Cranmer said...

So sorry for your loss, James. And a beautiful tribute.

Anonymous said...

Nice. I almosdt feel that I knew him too.

RIP Dobie


Jeff M.

Bill Crider said...

Lucky dog. Lucky family. R.I.P., Dobie.

michael said...

I recognise every bit of what you are going through but only you could put it into words so brilliantly. Reminds me of the poem Jimmy Stewart wrote for his dog once. So long Dobie. Sounds like you've had a great life.

Rick Ollerman said...

I've had two to three dogs at a time since I was about twenty. Decades later it's still the same, with our two Goldens--we lost our Dalmatian in January. You wrote a beautiful piece and one that if I had attempted would have had me drowning in tears at my keyboard. Best wishes to your family, and to Dobie, who sounded wonderful.

Frank Roderus said...

Beautiful.

Charles Gramlich said...

A great tribute to a member of the family

Peter Brandvold said...

Great essay and remembrance, James. I never met Dobie in "person" but I feel like I know him now and can feel your loss.

Anonymous said...

What a great story! What a great dog! Thank you.

Beth F

wayne d. dundee said...

Wonderful tribute, James. My heart aches for you and your family's loss. I hate it when people say "I know how you feel" because nobody can really know another's pain at a time like this. But I've lost beloved pets, too, so I have a kindred sense. Dobie can run and play once more and one day you and him will go for a walk together again. Treasure his memory until then.

Cap'n Bob said...

A very heartfelt tribute to a wonderful companion. My deepest sympathies.

Tom Roberts said...

Amor vincit omnia (Love conquers all.)

Tom Roberts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jacquie Rogers said...

What a lucky day when your family took Dobie in--both for you and for Dobie. No one could possibly read your tribute without wiping at least one tear away. R.I.P. Dobie.

larrygebert said...

A heartfelt tribute James .Thank You for sharing.

T Bryan Vick said...

Dobie sounds like a great dog. RIP, Dobie!

Jim Wilsky said...

Beautiful James. There is nothing that compares to the relationship between dogs and humans. Nothing.