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First Dog

28 Jun

This is not how I wanted to break my dry spell of blogging, but life is what it is.

This was our last morning with Terra, aka Terrapin, the mixed-breed brindled beast that has served as our household’s middle manager for the last 14 years. We called her Best Dog, because she was the best dog you could hope to start out with — already housetrained, very good with separation, respectful of things, but still loving and excitable and prone to see fun in the world. When we later adopted two more dogs, we stopped calling her Best Dog (because, you see, in the fiction that dogs understand you it would make them feel bad), and instead called her First Dog. She was the first dog Aileen and I had as a couple, and the first dog Aileen has ever had as a household pet.

Last night at 2 AM, Terra lost control in her hindquarters. This was the second time in two days, but where she recovered from the first bout after a few scary minutes, today she was still unable to walk, or stand, or even sit up long enough to have breakfast six hours later. We took her to the vet, where the doctor was very understanding of our situation: it is incredibly hard to make the call to let a dog go when she’s still lucid, but we didn’t want her to be a prisoner in her own failing body. She hated being picked up and carried around, and for that to be the only way for her to move from place to place… she wasn’t going to be happy. Not the creature that was formerly known as the Brindled Bullet. Not the creature that followed us from room to room to make sure things were in order, or who demanded that I knock off work at 5 PM promptly so I could go sit on the couch with her and bond for half an hour before it was time to feed the dogs.

It was a hard decision to make — and at the same time we’d been getting ready for it for months. We don’t know how old she was, but conservative estimates put it at about 16. As she slowed down and her arthritis got worse and she slept more soundly (in part due to the painkillers), we would stop and look at her sleeping just to make sure she was still breathing. If Lyca decided to roughhouse, there was a chance Terra would get knocked down and have troubles getting back up — and of course, stairs were an increasing issue.

But those twilight years are just part of what we remember. She invited herself up in front of the old gray pickup when we took her home the first time, and felt very disappointed when we got a new truck that didn’t have a bench seat for her to sit between — “between” became a key concept to her, really. She’s the only dog I’ve ever known who didn’t pick one person out of a family as principal contact: we were always a duo to her, so instead she bonded to a schedule. Aileen makes breakfast, I make dinner. I was the Walker, Aileen the Washer. This is how it works.

14 years, at present, is over a third of my entire life up to this date. It was a good long run. I would do it again, though I think this time I’d be more tyrannical about keeping her from jumping up and down from furniture. Mind, it’s going to be a little emptier around here for a bit. Safety Dog is not around to tell us what is or is not safe. The furry alarm clock won’t make up for the digital one. Lyca will have to bear an extra burden of attention.

But as dismally sad as I am, this is why dog ownership is what it is: I’m still very grateful to have done it. I feel I am in part a better person because I had that beast relying on me, and looking out for me. She was, in the end, Best Dog.

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7 Comments

Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

7 responses to “First Dog

  1. zazas11

    June 28, 2012 at 11:58 am

    So sorry about Terra, loves. *bigbigbighug* from Rideout ❤

     
    • ethanskemp

      June 28, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      Thank you, Ride. It’s much appreciated.

       
  2. Eddy Webb (@eddyfate)

    June 28, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Damn it. This is not a good month for old dogs.

    I will miss Terra telling everyone that I showed up, just to be sure people knew. I will miss her nosing me when I sat down before walking off to be ready for the next person to arrive. And I’m sure she’s happier now, where she can run as much as she wants to.

     
    • ethanskemp

      June 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      It really isn’t. There’s a bit of “comes in threes” in my personal experience: My parents had to put down their increasingly senile old dog earlier this month. My Father’s Day phone call was essentially full of reminiscing about old dogs and reflecting on how many pets my family has buried over the years.

      Thanks, Eddy. I’m glad she was the kind of dog that people other than ourselves will miss.

       
  3. Michelle Webb

    June 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    You have my most sincere condolences, Ethan. I know how hard it must be on you and Aileen right now. You are both in my thoughts.

     
    • ethanskemp

      June 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      Thanks, Michelle. In some ways it’s easier not to see her uncomfortable any more, but of course in some ways it’s also much harder.

       
  4. Vucki Lane

    June 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Beautiful, E.

     

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