2004 – 2016
There is no love greater than that which you learn from a dog.
He was five when we met, about 50 pounds of small body and big head. He had a mommy before, but it had been just him and Daddy for the past several months. They were just a couple of regular guys, hanging out in the bachelor pad, eating cold sandwiches for dinner - roast beef or pastrami or turkey subs from the convenience store. Watching baseball or football, or whatever sport happened to be on that day. He was happy with it all. Just him and Daddy.
He sure loved his Daddy. He fiercely protected him from any bad guys who knocked at the door or made any noise at all beyond the backyard fence. He missed his first Mommy, but went about his daily business taking care of Daddy. He wasn’t too happy around some girls. Something happened one time, but he mostly forgot about that. He just didn’t like some girls, and that would get him into trouble one day.
Daddy brought him home as a baby sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. He was named after Kirby Puckett, the Minnesota Twins baseball player. His middle name was Todd. Probably after Todd in the Disney movie, The Fox and the Hound. I joked around with that line a few times, but neither Kirby nor Daddy took an interest in promoting or denying that theory.
He was mostly white with a few patches of tan. He had medium-sized floppy ears and big paws. He was a little on the small side of a medium-sized dog, but his head was a size or two bigger than his body proportion dictated. It made him look tough.
His bark was ferocious. It was a deep, serious bark usually reserved for dogs of a larger, more menacing variety. Like Cujo. Be on the other side of the door and hear that bark, and you will rethink wanting that door opened. You can ask the wannabe-mayor, the censor-taker, some Jehovah’s Witnesses, and multiple sales representatives.
The pizza delivery lady took a liking to him, though, and he to her. Their friendship started before me. She was an older lady, friendly, and always the person to deliver from one of our favorite pizza places. She never failed to bestow upon him dog treats while we were distracted smelling the hot and fresh pizza she just delivered. Besides, she wasn’t technically a “girl” since always brought treats for the entire household whenever she came knocking.
Not long after I moved into the Bachelor Pad and touched it up with feminine-yet-sensible hands, I brought my 18-month-old spoiled brat to live with us. From the first day Kirby and Bella met, Kirby was hard-pressed to make sure we all knew he was the dominant dog of the two. Day after day of humping turned into week after week, month after month. But if they were both virgins upon meeting, they remained virgins forevermore; Kirby was not very adept at the art of procreation. Still, the humping was incessant. What the hell, Kirby? Do that in privacy.
I was his last Mommy. I give credit to his first Mommy. I know she loved him even after her and Daddy parted ways. But, he eventually became “my dog” in the household - following me around wherever I went, napping on the floor in whatever room I was in, keeping one eye on the lookout for anything I may have dropped in the kitchen. My little white shadow. I would talk to him while I cooked, just silly puppy talk mostly. Sometimes I would talk about things that made me mad or sad. He always listened.
Both dogs had several nicknames between them. Bella became Girlfriend, Fat Smeller, Belly. She is the most expressive loving member of the family, though preferring the company of the boys – Daddy and my adult son. She’s a weight gainer, and always on the heavy side. Little head, big body. Quite the opposite of Kirby, who was always a trim and active dog.
Kirby was a healthy pooper. I eventually called him The Poopster, or Poops, for short. He was also Kirby, Kirbish, Buddy… While patrolling the perimeter of the backyard fence – always patrolling that fence – he would work himself up barking at whatever or whomever was making noise in the beyond. At times he would have to stop and make a poop before continuing his tirade. But he was a protector, and never failed to walk the fence when he was in the backyard. Always moving and on the go.
I noticed he was getting more tired each day. I told Daddy. He had Kirby since he was just weeks old. Denial is so much easier. For me, too. I didn’t want to think about one of our babies not being here. But I also didn’t want him to suffer. I kept an eye on him over the next year or so. Being more gentle with him, more understanding of his little quirks.
He slept on the floor on my side of the bed and always accompanied me for coffee every morning, no matter how early I was awake. Except towards the end. He slept in late with Daddy one day. I was careful getting out of bed every morning so I wouldn’t wake him (or step on him), but he was a diligent protector and was always awake and shaking his tag before I could leave the room. That day, when they awoke somewhere near noon, he looked apologetic for sleeping in. And still so tired. That’s OK bud, you sleepy-head. You needed your rest today.
I became the protector of him, even though he continued to be my protector, at least in theory. Thunder and fireworks scared him throughout his life, and he would stay close to our legs, his body shaking with fear until it was over. He would climb up onto the couch and try to sit on one of our laps, or squeeze himself behind our backs against the couch. We usually made a fuss, but we stroked his back, or I would sing a conversation with him, and assured him he was safe.
Toward the end, he couldn’t climb the couch by himself anymore. One of us would lift him up so he could sit on our lap or squeeze behind us as he did when it thundered. Shaking until the storm passed. We stopped making a fuss over it.
He never liked his behind messed with. During a trip to the vet, he chased one of the techs down after she took his temperature. He ended up biting her on the hand before she could climb up on top of a table. He was right there barking his formidable bark at her. The vet was able to restrain him for the remainder of the visit. One more bite, our vet said, and he will have to be put down. We properly muzzled him for vet trips, and watched him carefully when we had company.
He was getting thinner. His ribs were showing through his fur. He was in pain, his hips weak, his legs giving out on him sometimes.
It was during this time that we sold our house (the perfect seller’s market in our neighborhood) and moved into an apartment a few miles away. Nine days after moving in, and after having pooped on the floor almost every one of those mornings, he could no longer stand up on his own. He tried. He always tried to do as I said, just as he tried to make it for what would be our last walk.
As he lay outside on the ground, just outside our door, he was panting and looking up at me for direction. I ran inside to tell my husband that it was time to go. I came back out to stay with him, talk to him, pet him, tell him it’s OK, you’re getting to be an old man, Bud. We’ll get you fixed up. I promised him I wouldn’t leave him again. I know he tried, and I know he hurt. I didn’t want him burdened with the pain or the need to protect us, anymore. He has been a good dog, but it was time to protect him, now.
Daddy picked him up from the ground, carried him to the car. Nothing but skin and bones, that boy. We drove to a nearby animal hospital our vet recommended. Daddy carried him inside, and then to the table where he would remain for the rest of his life.
We said our goodbyes, petting him, cooing to him. He looked into my eyes as if telling me it’s going to be OK. We talked to him, assuring him the doctor is going to make him feel better. Words of reassurances to fill the void that was about to settle upon us. Reassurances him or for us, it didn’t matter. Everything’s gonna be OK, I promise.
The first drug made him very drowsy. He tried licking, but his tongue was just too weak. It hung out of his mouth. It’s OK, Poops. You’re just loopy. We laughed quietly to lighten things up a bit. For him, and for us. Through our tears.
The final drug was pushed through the syringe into the tube connected to his body. His breathing slowed to a faint whisper. He stopped panting.
The vet let us know he was gone. We pet him and cooed to him. Daddy and Mommy, we held each other’s hand until it was time to go. He wasn’t there anymore, but he was somewhere – IS somewhere now, and he doesn’t hurt anymore.
He’s that big ole puppy again, romping through the biggest backyard he’s ever seen. All that grass to sniff and poop on. Markings to make, especially after a good rain and he has to start all over again. So much to check out, who’s been where. Keeping an eye on the squirrels and birds, patrolling the perimeter of a fence that never ends, with plenty to bark at on the other side.
Tagged under# Memories