This post originally appeared March 20, 2018, on the Chile Today Hot Tamale! website. (www.chiletodayhottamale.net)
The event that I feared has come to pass. My pal and faithful companion of 12 years, Ronnie, died last night at the veterinary hospital here in Madison.
Ronnie was my fifth dog. I barely remember my first, Rusty, a companion of the early to mid-1950s. I have seen a few photos of the two of us, and apparently we got along splendidly. We lived in town, and it became apparent he would do better on a farm. And that is where he ended his life.
Rusty was a bulldog. Canis, dog number two, was a lab mix. We got him when we lived in Baltimore, in the late 1970s. Canis was a jumper. He could clear our four-feet chain link fence with all the grace of a horse clearing hurdles. In fact, he looked as graceful as a horse, and somewhere there are pictures of Canis in mid-jump, legs tucked perfectly, with about a foot to spare as he gained his freedom from our back yard. Canis moved with us to Covington, Virginia, but soon fell ill. The vet called me at work, telling me he needed to be put down. I told the vet I wanted to see him one last time. He said, “You'd better hurry.” I left work immediately, but by the time I arrived at the veterinary hospital, Canis had cleared that last hurdle.
Quincy, dog number three, was also a lab mix, but with thicker hair. (With Quincy I began my habit of naming dogs after presidents or prime ministers.) We acquired her after a decent interval following the death of Canis. Quincy was sweet-tempered, and had a very good run, lasting from the early 1980s until 1996. She was an outside dog, and in Virginia often broke free from her restraints to explore the countryside. Most of the time she came back a mess. Once, I took her to a target range back in the woods. A deer nearby startled her, she gave chase, and I didn't see her again for several days. She finally turned up, dirty, hungry, and ready to resume her life.
Winston, a corgi, really wasn't my dog. He belonged to my son, Jason. But I loved him just the same. I knew that Jason had become a man by the way he treated Winston during Winston's last few months on earth. I saw compassion, gentleness, and sacrifice. A man needs a dog, if for no other reason than to become a good man.
My youngest, Reilly, found Pepper running around her school yard. No one claimed her, so Reilly did. Pepper passed away a bit ago, and we are guessing that she was somewhere around 16 or 17 years of age. Pepper was a chow, but as sweet as honey. And Pepper, through a union with a lab that jumped the fence in her back yard, became Ronnie's mother.
Ronnie was born on New Year's Day, 2006. Reilly took care of him for his first three months, and then we became pals. He was the best of them all (with the possible exception of Pepper), and we did most everything together. I tried very hard to treat him as well as I treated my children. When Kathy arrived on the scene, she set a new, higher standard. I treated him like a prince; she treated him like a king. I grumbled that she fed Ronnie more filet mignon than she served to me; she joked that if she died, she wanted to be reincarnated as my dog. We were a happy family: you, me, and baby makes three.
I have written about his recent bout of anemia. It wasn't that simple, of course. He suffered an auto-immune response that destroyed his red blood cells. At his last laboratory workup, we found he had about 1/3 the normal number of red blood cells. We spent a part of Sunday on the phone with the vet, trying to figure out what to do. We had a plan, and so we hospitalized him the next day, yesterday. The vet tried to stabilize him in preparation for a procedure. It turned out to be a futile attempt.
Ronnie hated thunder, as it scared him. Last night, in the midst of the worst thunder storm we have seen in awhile, he passed away, without his family by his side, in the veterinary hospital. I regret that he died alone, possibly scared.
But I regret nothing else about his life, except that it was too short. In human years, he made it to 85 ½, but that is still too short. We really needed another 12 years together.
We dog lovers are fools. We know full well that, when we adopt another canine into our family, we are most likely setting ourselves up for the type of heartbreak I am suffering now. And we do it anyway. Because man and dog are made for one another.