My father was a dog lover. He didn’t care much for cats. I’m told he even fired a shotgun in the general direction of a cat when it came too close to his bird feeders. It was a warning shot but it worked, as that cat never came back looking for another bird in our yard.
BUT THE dogs, they were never treated so rudely. Dad used to carry biscuits in his pockets on his walk to the office. It’s said the dogs knew him well and faithfully followed him on his way, hoping for one or two of those tasty treats.
WE ALWAYS had a pet dog, but Dad did not like to keep them confined. He said it was unnatural, that a dog shouldn’t be penned in, or chained up. That was admirable, of course, but as a result we went through a lot of dogs. They would get hit by cars, or run away, or get poisoned. One even hanged himself at the end of a too-short leash. When we finally had a dog for as long as five years and it died somehow, Dad was once again heartbroken and said he would never own another as it was too painful to say goodbye.
SO, MY love of dogs comes naturally, and thank goodness I married a wonderful woman who shares the same love.
OUR FIRST dog was a stray that wandered into the newspaper office one day shortly after we were married. We named him Gatsby. We had him several years, but he died after being injured in the street. We got another when we moved into a larger house. Santa brought him from the shelter and we named him Doc. He was joined by another little dog that was bought with gift money by one of our boys. He was named Snicker, as he had the colors of the candy bar. Both of those dogs were with us for many years and died of ailments related to old age.
THEN CAME Pawley, another mixed breed puppy, who we named after the town of Pawleys Island, S.C., a place we often visited during the summers. She grew to weigh 55 pounds and was big like a rottweiler but colored like a sandy beach. We later added Raggs, a puppy literally found in the middle of a road, and Trooper, another foundling puppy.
LAST WEEK, after 14 years and 8 months of sharing our homes with her, we said goodbye to Pawley. It was painful for us, but not for her. Dr. Pinson made sure of that as we sat on the floor and spoke to her and stroked her graying hair.
THE PAIN of losing a child is the 10 on my scale of sorrow. We’ve been there. The terrible events involving our daughter a few weeks ago brought that scale back into relevancy. Thankfully, Molly is doing well in her recovery, but just as we were leaving that terror behind here came Pawley’s health crisis.
IT DID did not end well. The vet said if she were a human she’d be in the ICU. He didn’t know that we’d spent many days in one of those units just two weeks ago, so we knew what he meant. Due to her age, Pawley’s decline had made us somewhat prepared for her last farewell, though no one was looking forward to visiting number 8 on my sorrow scale.
WHY DO we get so attached to these animals? It must be due to their unwavering loyalty, their constant companionship, their sense of adventure and their playfulness at the slightest invitation. Children, of course, look like us and maybe even act like us, so they are a part of us. Dogs are not, but their traits leave huge holes in our heart when they must leave.
PAWLEY SMILED one last time and wagged her tail to say goodbye, then she left to go visit my father. He was up there waiting for her with a biscuit in his left hand and a gentle stroke of her hair with his right, and the words we used so often: You’re a good dog, Pawley. And so she was, right up until the end.
Bill Weaver lives in northern Monroe County. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.