If you are lucky you get that one four legged beast that shows up on your door step and you know you have been blessed. We have been super lucky and had two of those beasts. Zeus was one of those beasts. He arrived homeless and in need of a new family as his old owner had died. Zeus had guarded the mans body for three days before the fire dept. showed up; figured he didn't snack on the guy so he had to be a good dog...... little did I know. He hated cats and ground hogs and loved the lake, end of story. He came with more papers, pedigrees and certificates than my kids had....... we ruined him in a week. Yes, we fed him from the table and let him get away with murder. He was a dogs dog. He stole all the toys at the doggie beach and didn't share. If you tipped over a glass of water he was jubilant, it was H20 and it was on the floor so it was his. I paddled my kayak out in the lake one Sunday morning as Butch and Zeus waved from the beach. Past the break wall I heard what sounded like a tug boat chugging along...... it was Zeus. Some how we both got back to shore and I remember Butch saying...... That dog would die for you. And so it went for the next many years. When I left for shows I would get the phone call...... he stopped eating. Arriving home I would dash in the house and after a raucous greeting his food bowl was empty. He laid under my throwing stool in the studio, he drank slip, and ate a toad throwing up on my bare feet, he lived large and unapologetically.
Yesterday I helped him out the back door, towel under his backside to aid his arthritic hips that no longer worked. It was icy and we both went down in the driveway. There we lay on the icy driveway, me laughing and him face down in the snow. He looked just looked at me ...... here we are again, we had been in these situations before. I ran in the house and got another towel for his front legs as I became aware they were now worthless. It took us 45 minutes to get back in the house, he had watered my boots, my jeans and sleeve. We made it to his bed and he had a drink of cool water, both of us out of breath and panting. It was time to make the call. We had a good day, a bit of toast of eggs, another drink and the sun came out. Butch came home at 3 p.m. to spend some time with him and 3:40 pm we loaded him in the backseat of the car. I rolled the window down so he could feel the sun on his face and breeze on his face, I could not deny him this last joy. I sat on the floor of the sterile office and held his head as I closed my eyes and breathed him out. Behind the darkness of my eyes I saw the rainbow bridge and three old friends sitting perfectly waiting for him. He crossed the bridge and was greeted by the Miller pack. As they ran off into summer fields they turned to look....... I waved and smiled with the sun on us all. He went peacefully and the pain was over. Five of us stood in the vet's office weeping at the loss of one good dog.
We got in our car, no blankets, no open windows, no dog. We drove home in silence, as we pulled in the driveway neither Butch or I could bring ourselves to go in the house. It would be the first time in 15 years we would not be greeted. We stepped off the porch and went for a walk, steeling ourselves to the empty house. I ran around gathering up toys, food, beds, bowls and meds. All will be distributed in the morning to shelters, he had good stuff.
We cracked the bottle of bourbon, poured two stiff drinks, grabbed a box of Kleenex and headed down to the lake. We walked the beach. The lake was so still, the birds soared, called and bobbed on the swells. At 5:15 pm the sunset and on stillness of the beach, the Coast Guard Station played Taps to conclude another day. We broke out the Kleenex and toasted to one fine dog.
Today........ my first day without a dog in a very long time. And yes, we will do it again just not right away.
Run hard big dog....... you were loved.