Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Dog's Life






How does one write a eulogy for a dog? Can one? He is a dog.

And of course the answer is yes and you try and pour your heart into it because of what he is. You try and tell his story. There is no way to write something entirely true because how can you write in words what he meant to you? You cannot but you try because he deserves nothing less.

PEI

It was an early winter in 1997 and in November and December I would take my puppy a street over from where I lived. We'd take a path between two homes and there I would let him off the leash and he would run as I walked in long circles around the field and frozen marsh and scrub brush, beating my hands together to keep them warm, just the two of us under the cold black sky, he a little black blur, running and running, running forever, until finally I would call to him and we would go back to where the two of us lived, just the two of us.

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Poop and Puke

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I had been dating Jenn for maybe a month when I mentioned that I might get a puppy. She thought it wasn't a good idea. I joke now that I didn't listen because the sex wasn't that good (I lie - it was absolutely amazing) but the truth is that I have always been a stubborn little guy who marches to his own drummer and so a few days later she drove up to my place and found me sitting on my step watching a little black guy with floppy ears and a white seven on his chest chase his tail on the lawn.

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Those early days.

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She was not a dog person and never became one but he was always a Jenn dog. She would come over and I would take him out and he would look in the apartment window and see her and start to cry and run to the door to see her.

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Florida

We lived in a complex of a couple of hundred apartments, pretty standard in Clearwater. An inner ring around the pool and clubhouse, an outer ring as well, two stories high. We lived in the southeast corner, as far away from the entrance as we could be. Ben would be lazing about and then suddenly go to the window and sit patiently. A few minutes later Jenn would pull up in her car.

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We lived fifteen minutes from the causeway over Tampa Bay and at the western end of that causeway was a beach where you could take your dog swimming. Once or twice a week I'd bundle him into the Neon and we'd drive over and walk up and down the beach. I'd throw a stick into the bay and, as dogs are wont to do, he would plunge in again and again. When the tide was out we'd walk along the western edge of the bay and he'd rush into flocks of seagulls, scattering them complaining into the heat. He would charge about like a madman and a few times I found myself facedown in the shallow water after he had blindsided me like a linebacker, knocking me flying.

One day we took him it was particularly rough when we went. He brought me a stick and I tossed it into the waves and out he went. Again and again we did this, about thirty minutes worth of it, until I realized that if we kept this up he'd drown. Brought him back to the car, he was asleep before we got off the beach.

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The Time He Fucked Me

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We got married in 2001 and returned to Clearwater to pack up our shit and move back to Canada. Went to the vet and asked for some dope for the big guy as we were to be on the road for nearly twenty four hours and didn't want to deal with him roaming about the car. A few nights before we left I gave him a dose on the vet's recommendation, a test drive as it were. My new bride called and asked how it was looking and I answered that I think we got snookered, he wasn't reacting at all. On cue I looked over and saw him walking, well, leaning against the wall as he tried to get across the apartment. Like a drunk he staggered across the room, stoned out of his mind. Never mind, I told her, I think we're good to go.

Toronto
When we moved back to Canada we lived in an apartment in a 1920s Art Deco building in midtown Toronto. Right across the street was a private school and in the evenings I would take Ben to their grounds to run around. One night he suddenly jumped into a bush and as I walked over to see what was behind his odd behaviour I was enveloped in skunk stench.

After I had showered I ran out and picked up some tomato juice. By the time I was done with him it looked like someone had butchered a cow in our tiny bathroom, there was red splatter everywhere.

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A few days after our oldest was born I was up at four a.m. or so doing baby stuff and let the dog out to relieve himself. Thrity seconds later he tore by me, up the stairs and into the room where the baby was, making sure that the skunk that had just sprayed him had somehow not gotten in to threaten the newest member of his pack.

Two years later the exact same thing happened a few days after the boy was born. Neither he nor I learned from that mistake apparently.

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With each addition to the family he slid down the family pecking order but there was never any resentment, never any jealousy, instead there was a deepening in his loyalties, a new fierceness to him. When our oldest was a toddler she was playing with her Poppy, who was adored by the dog. As they played she ran between Brian's legs and he playfully tapped her on the bum. Suddenly with a deep low growl Ben rose up from his lazy laydown and Brian had to reassure him with quiet and gentle words that he meant no harm.

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Ben had been in two scraps in his youth and in each he had laid down and snapped at his attacker ineffectively until they were pulled off of him. He was always a lover, not a fighter. ;)

One day as we walked down our street a porch door burst open and a vicious mutt and its running mate, a massive pit, charged at us. I dropped the leash and snatched up my daughter and figured that I was about to see the end of it all until our old gentle boy launched himself into them with a fury. By the end of it the mutt had disappeared and when the pit's owner and some neighbours pried Ben off of his foe and looked to find the source of the blood smears on the sidewalk it became clear that our guy hadn't a scratch - it was the other who had been torn up.

It was ice cream for him that night.

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As He Lay Dying

For a month he had been struggling and I had been falling apart, thinking of the inevitable. Twice he looked to be in bad shape and twice he had bounced back with defiant energy but last week he was slowed noticeably. His hind legs were swollen and he struggled to get up even with my help. He was on something for the pain but his panting told us that it was becoming ineffective. I talked to the vet on Thursday and I said that I figured he'd get through the long weekend and then he'd be at the end of it.

Thursday evening I came home with a beautiful sirloin but when I let him out he collapsed in the grass and was unable to get up. I lifted him into my arms and carried him into the house. A month before he had been a load, now he was light as a feather, the cancer having worn him away. I barbequed his steak and we took turns giving him pieces. That night I tried to lift him up and carry him to the living room so I could lay on the couch beside him but he was in too much pain and he wearily snapped at me to warn me off.

Friday I alternated between my laptop, trying to work some, and laying beside him on the floor, holding him close, giving him steak and cheese and whatever else I could find in the fridge. In the morning we had to pull our sobbing daughter off of him to take her to school. When Jenn dropped her off her classmates consoled her as the tears ran down her face still.

I sat beside him in the afternoon, a pint of Guinness at hand as I stroked him quietly. Just before three I lifted him one last time and carried him down the stairs and laid him on the blanket in the wagon. Jenn said her goodbyes and then I pulled the wagon up the street and around the corner to the vet's. Two men standing on the sidewalk looked at him and commented on this old dog, look at him, being pulled about like a king. Then they saw my stricken face and they fell silent and as I went into the vet's I heard one say 'oh, oh no'.

They prepared him and I went into the room and he was anxious, resting on a blanket on top of a table. I calmed him down and I held him and the vet came in and explained to me what was going to happen. I gave him treats and even at the end his appetite was fine as he gobbled them up. I gave him some more and as she pushed the needle he had one, two, three, and then he began to nod and then I laid his beautiful grey head on the blanket and he was gone.

I took off his collar and put it in my pocket, I hugged him and kissed him and I told him how much we loved him and then I said goodbye and walked out into the sunshine.

Our Hearts Are Broken, Where Is Our Dear Friend?

I have been in mourning for a month and so for me I am lost in thoughts of what joy he brought us. His dishes are put away and most of all what I have noticed is that his presence is not here anymore. I turn and expect him to me laying there, grinning at me. I hear him panting or so I think. I keep thinking that he needs to go out or that he has to be fed and all of that is gone.

He is gone.

On Friday night my daughter crawled into our bed. She has not been in our bed since she was two months old. She lay there sobbing and cuddled in as if her heart was breaking.

And Jenn has been stunned at the depth of her grief. She was never a dog person and her relationship with Ben was often an uneasy one and yet she has been tearing up at random times. looking for him, missing him. She never thought that this would rip her apart as it has.
The baby walks by calling his name, looking for him.

Dear Old Ben

He lived nearly thirteen years, our dear old dog. He was there at our beginning and through everything that has come since then. He never questioned, never grumped, never turned his back. He gave us everything even when we could not reciprocate.

The other night we had a drink and we laughed as we told stories about our dear old friend. We miss him dearly and we are sad now but we also celebrate what he gave to us.

He gave us his all just as any good dog does.

Goodbye dear friend. Rest easy now.

60 comments:

Anonymous said...

Condolences

mc79hockey said...

Sad to hear Pat. He certainly sounds like a great dog.

PPP said...

Condolences Pat. I am not a dog person either but the big guy sounded like a great one.

mike w said...

Pat, sorry to hear it. I was dry-eyed until the end of the post, then came the blubbering.

What a great dog. He was a good boy.

PDO said...

Just brutal... very sorry.

On the Bench said...

All the best Pat. I couldn't imagine Ben could have had a better companion.

The Human Torch said...

I've never met you, never played with Ben, yet here I am half a world away sobbing like a baby after reading this. You and your family were truly lucky to have such a friend for so long. Condolences.

YKOil said...

Well loved.

Well said.

HBomb said...

Those final days certainly sounded tough, but you can take solace in that there's no doubt he was, as we'd say about hockey players, "full value". 13 years is a hell of a run for a dog, and he sure sounds like he didn't just exist, he LIVED.

Wonderfully written eulogy for what was without question a wonderful family member (people who don't have pets often scoff at such a status for "just a dog" or "just a cat"...unless you've had one as a part of your life, you don't really understand, I suppose).

Once again Pat, deepest sympathies.

~T

Anonymous said...

Awww sad. I'm sure he loved you all just as much! Feel better.

doritogrande said...

That was beautiful Pat. With even you sparce writing about Ben, I felt I knew exactly what kind of dog he was. I think the qualities I'll look for in a canine companion are very similar to the ones you brought out in your dog.

All the best.

Katebits said...

I'm a longtime admirer of this blog. You write so beautifully about the people (and animals) that you love. I'm so sorry for your loss.

marconiusE said...

I had to put down a cat I had for 17 years about 8 years ago... your post had me crying a river as I remembered the way she too looked up at me as the needle went in and the last little flutter of her eyes

William said...

Loved all the stories and even though I've never met him, it feels like I know a bit of Ben through all of your words. All the best to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully done BD. My condolences are sent as well.
Thank you sharing him with us.
Goodbye Ben.

Man, I'm a mess right now.

General Factotum said...

Beautifully written, Pat. My sincere condolences.

Our girl, a black lab mix, is also 13 this year, so your recent posts about Ben have really hit home. Thanks for sharing what he meant to you.

Raising a glass to you. And him. Godspeed.

crapsie said...

That was the best eulogy I've ever read. For a man, or for a man's best friend. Ben was a beauty.

macaotim said...

"Thursday evening I came home with a beautiful sirloin..."

Good dogs deserve an owner like you.

Good owners deserve a dog like this:

"With each addition to the family he slid down the family pecking order but there was never any resentment, never any jealousy, instead there was a deepening in his loyalties, a new fierceness to him."

When my wife's old boy could chase foxes no more, this stuck with me:

"I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?"

-Sir Walter Scott

quiltmom said...

Pat,
I feel such sadness for you and your families loss- Pets are such an integral part of our family life. We had a large dog Venus that got older ( she was 11) and then suddenly contracted a disease called canine bloat. Our household was devastated by her loss- even our cat Mars roamed our home looking for her.
There is a children's book called " The Tenth Good THing about Barney" by Judith Viorst that is a story about losing a cat. I am not sure whether your daughter would find it of comfort or add to her sadness but you might want to check it out. It does celebrate the special things about the pet.
Your Ben lead an adventurous life and was well loved by your family. We all can wish to have a life that was so well lived and enjoyed.
With sincere condolences.
Anna

Jon said...

Thank you for sharing the big guy with us. I read your blog as much for the stories as the hockey insight.

I sit here all teared up for you, for your family, and for the dogs that I have loved and lost. Every time thinking, "no more, they leave too soon and it hurts too much" and then inevitably find another four legged friend who needs us and who we need in our family.

Our dog is slowing, 8 years old now. My three boys don't know life without him and he also comes from our beginning. We have a few years yet I hope, we will try to embrace them as wholeheartedly as you clearly have with the big guy. Thank you again for everything you have given to us with your writing. Be comforted and know so many of us (the nameless, comment-less readers) are thinking of you.

Brad said...

"To Ben!" [clink]

Jonathan Willis said...

Terribly sorry, Pat.

Bruce said...

Sitting here with a now-empty box of kleenex, reading your beautiful eulogy and rereading all the linked stories that caused me to love a dog I never met. As I read I'm snuggling with my current "best friend" and thinking of the four mutts who preceded her, each of whom enriched my life for 11-15 years. The parting is so difficult, nearly unbearable in fact, yet is a price well worth paying for all the days and years of pleasure and companionship and fun that preceded it.

It's an extra-special dog (and an extraordinary human companion) that has the power to make me laugh and cry from half a continent away. Thanks for sharing all these stories about the best hundred bucks you ever spent.

My heart goes out to you and your family for your loss. Rest easy yourself, my friend, Ben could hardly have chosen better. He had a great life.

***
Word verification: rewardis

Scott Reynolds said...

My condolences go out to you Pat. I never met Ben but he was no doubt a great dog. As you said, there's never been a time when he wasn't a part of your family. Here's to him living on through those fine people he brought joy and sought to protect.

spOILer said...

You did Ben proud today. You did every day. I'm glad his pain has ended. Heroes, both of you.

Softest, warmest comforts to you and yours.

And thank god I rarely wear mascara.

Julian said...

Pat, this makes me want to get a dog. Beautifully done.

Pete. said...

Genuine condolences on the loss of your dog. Over the years of reading this blog, your series of excellent posts have made me feel like I knew him, and I've been dreading the inevitable, final post. But you did him proud, and now I'll have to explain to my wife why I look misty-eyed when I'm supposed to be studying.

Fantastic eulogy. You're a good man, I believe.

Baroque said...

That was beautiful. There is nothing that gives as much while asking nothing in return as a dog.

I am so very sorry for your loss.

My mom wanted you to have this poem (they have put down three dogs, and another is very close to his end now):

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...


Bless you, Ben.

Chappy said...

God dammit Pat, I'm so sorry for your loss.

Ben was a wonderful dog. He couldn't ever have had a better owner.

He'll always be looking upon you, smiling, panting maybe.

Thoughts, prayers and well-wishes to you and your family. I wish you all the best.

Ribs said...

One hell of a dog, Pat. One hell of a dog.
My condolences to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

I sure haven't been looking forward to reading this one. Just got back from camping, and all that's left is some sort of pink vodka cooler.

Cheers Ben and family.

Dennis said...

Love that picture of him and the baby.

Rider Guy said...

Wow Pat. Beautiful tribute. My deepest condolences on the loss of Ben.

I'm 37 and have never had a pet of any kind - really not an animal person at all. Yet here I am, bawling my eyes out as I read about a dog I've never met, yet feel like I've come to know through your stories on your blog over the years.

Here's hoping my wife doesn't come in and ask me to explain why I'm a blubbering mess.

Meggie said...

I am a dog person, and cannot bear to contemplate losing either of ours now. My little Honey is almost 10, but she seems to keep well.
I think your Ben had a very fortunate life with you.

Jay said...

A beautiful eulogy for a beautiful friend. Condolences.

uni said...

Condolences are all I can offer and you have them. From everything you've written here, I'd say Ben was as lucky to have you and yours as his caretakers as you were to have him as a pet.

Jordan said...

Thank you for sharing a peice of your life with Ben. He sounds like a wonderful side-kick, and a true companion. I think it's time go spoil my girl at home with some bacon... either that or find some mice for her to chase around the acreage...

Anonymous said...

I am a long time reader of your blog and I have enjoyed your stories of Ben and your family. I had a close call about a year ago with my dog, so I somewhat know what your are going through. God bless Ben and may he rest in peace. Pat, I hope you and yours can find a way through the grief in this very hard time. Even though I have never talked to you or met you, you and your family are in my thoughs and prayers.
Take care.
Shawn

Downright Fierce said...

Pat:

Losing a friend is never easy. You have channeled some of your pain here on this blog, just as you have channeled all the joy and laughter Ben brought you. Through this you have brought that love to all your readers and I can easily say that Ben will be missed by us all.

The last time I got this choked up about another person's pet was when I saw this for the first time:

Jimmy Stewart on Carson reading a poem about his dog, Beau.

Alice said...

Beautifully said - should we get such a tribute on our own exits. A dog's life, indeed.

Like others here I have some recent experience, and if there's something I can pass on it'd be that while you grieve for and miss very particularly Ben himself, the hole he leaves behind is mostly shaped like a dog. I'm pretty sure Ben couldn't imagine you looking after yourselves without one. :-)

So enjoy your summer vacations free of dogs and dog worries, but come September don't be afraid to open the classifieds or hit Kajiji, some mutt of uncertain lineage will be waiting for you, a nice Sunday afternoon drive up to Keswick - just to check it out, of course.

All the best.

Peter said...

Beautiful story. I was truly dreading the final chapter, and yep, it delivered.

I hope that you can convince Jenn and yourself to find another dog.

Vic Ferrari said...

Sounds like Ben had a wonderful life. My heart goes out to you and your family.

Jer said...

I have read your blog for several years now with ever commenting, but just wanted to say that I was really moved by your tribute to Ben. You have a gift for story telling and you told this one just right. I wish you and your family the best as you morn this loss.

IceDragoon said...

Sorry about Ben, Pat. My thoughts and prayers are with you and yours.

Louise

Woodguy said...

13 years.

What an amazing gift you got from Ben.

It sounds like his life was close to perfect for a dog, so he got a great gift of an active, full life from you too.

You are very lucky and so was Ben.

I hope you find comfort in your grief with your wonderful memories.

Swabbubba said...

I sorry for your loss. Ben was a character.

GF said...

My condolences.

Mark said...

It's sad but true that Ben took more interest in my groin than any other earthly creature. He was a great dog, deserving of your note-perfect eulogy. Understandably, you opted out of the perfect hook to an Oiler story but I think it's worth noting that Ben had the strongest tail wag in the league. Attach a stick to that thing and he would have been the Oilers' top performer.

Let's do a proper wake for old number 7 soon.

Cru Jones said...

Jesus... I step in to read what I can only assume is some commentary on how Tamby is going to foul up the whole Taylor/Tyler thing, and in two minutes I'm crying like a baby.

My sister had to put down our golden lab Bailey a few months ago, and his partner in crime Hershey will soon be gone too. Unfortunately I won't be able to write anything nearly as good to send them off.

A splendid obit.

hunter1909 said...

In time all of you will come to terms with the fact that it was inevitable - doesn't seem possible now but time heals these things.

Doesn't ease any of the agony now, which blows.

Everyone is upset, because we all liked that dog from reading about him and we never even saw him wag his tail.

Anonymous said...

Pat - we don't know each other, yet I feel your pain as I am sitting here bawling about a dog I never knew, yet knew all about. I had not read your blog for a few weeks and thought tonight I would check in on Ben, only to know right away when it came up that he was gone.

Ben had such a good life and died peacefully surrounded by your love. You were a part of him and he will always be a part of you, and thank you for sharing him with all of us. May he rest in peace, and may peace be with you and your family as you adjust to life holding him in your hearts instead of in your arms.

Cathe

Darren said...

I am near the furthest thing from a dog-lover, but my deep condolences. Loved this blog, and the dog was apart of it. He sounded like a terrific dog and made me think of getting one more than once.

Jeff J said...

Whew. The lump in my throat appeared at the ice cream line and I had to read the rest in bits and pieces to keep it together here at the office.

Happy trails, Ben.

Mike said...

Pat - So sorry to read this. Dogs truly are amazing animals.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your dog, Pat. He was a true friend.

Showerhead said...

What I wouldn't give for a life filled with love, steak, cheese, and the occasional terrorization of a raccoon. Sorry to hear he's gone Pat, but happy to hear he was so quintessential in his dog-ness. Cheers to Ben.

Schitzo said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Pat. I can't imagine a better dog, or a better owner.

Matt.N said...

Condolences.

Damn it. I am at work and crying right now.

I have a Golden at home. We are going for a walk and swim tonite.

smiliegirl15 said...

I have always been a dog person and I was at work trying to hold it together when I read your touching final tribute to Ben. I love that your wife misses him too. I think dogs are a reflection of the people who raise them, which says a lot about you and your family too. All the best when you decide you can let another dog into your hearts and lives.

Lisa said...

When mom told me that Ben had passed I am not sure that I really believed it. I think that I may have met Ben before I met you! (Only because I think he ran to me...perhaps you weren't as eager to meet your new girlfriend's sister.)

I finally brought myself to read your eulogy for Ben that I knew was floating around in cyberspace...but I have read your writing before and knew it would be an emotional read. But I was not prepared. I sit here in tears thinking about Ben. He has been such a staple in my visits to Toronto, Florida, wherever...

He was so welcoming...in a dog way...I am sure if he could have negotiated it somehow, he would have offered me a drink and asked me how my trip was.

Of course, only Ben and I really know just how many times we broke the house rules and I would let him jump up in bed with me for a good night's rest. Although I am sure he slept with one eye open for fear of Jennifer catching us. Er...maybe I did too...

Although he may have been lowered on the totem pole of attention with each new child...he had his own pecking order...and him and I were cool as long as I didn't even APPEAR to be messin' with his posse. I had no doubts that if Paige gave the nod...I'd be toast.

When you wrote about how long it would be until you stopped looking for him, my mind immediately thought of Jingles. I am not even sure how long it has been since he died, 5 or 6 years I would guess. But when I go home, I still find myself looking for him when I go into the laundry room, or closing the door at the top of the stairs so he doesn't get up. It's hard to believe after all these years of him being gone...and me not even living there...that I still look for him. I sometimes wonder if I will ever stop looking...but then I think...I don't really want to. If I stopped, wouldn't that mean I had forgotten? That would be sad. So I say...don't ever stop looking for him!!

Miss ya, Ben.

Auntie Lisa