Not Just a Dog

Earlier in the week, I announced on Facebook the passing of my parent’s dog. Tilly was an old, spoiled, and stinky Bassett Hound. Food hound… snorer… stubborn… hunter of moles (in the barn). My parents have always had a thing for Bassetts… they are a lovable breed but they can also be pain in the asses… they don’t really listen well… they have their own agenda. This agenda is primarily harmless though, sleep… eat… sleep… bark at nothing… eat… sleep… refuse to move from a comfy spot, even if the comfy spot is your chair.

When I posted this information I did not expect the immediate and abundant responses. Even though Tilly wasn’t my dog, friends felt an immediate urge to respond and express their sorrow at the loss of the Queen of Stink. I once thought that I had a profound thought when I would state things like “a person that will kick a dog will kick a child,” or “dogs understand us the way we understand ourselves.” Obviously, a vast majority of us understand dogs and the impact they have on our lives. Historical and anthropological data shows that dogs have been stinking up our homes and warming our hearts for thousands of years. We have a loving symbiotic relationship with dogs. Most of us understand that dogs are never “just” a dog, but they are part of our families… we love them and we miss them when they die.

The death of the Queen of Stink made me think of the last dog I owned… I have been unable to get another due to how fantastic this dog was. Trotwood (Trot for short) was a true mutt. Yellow, short-legged, tiny pea-headed, and lazy. Trot was the dog of a friend. When this friend and his wife started having kids, they found they didn’t have the patience for a dog too. I was asked to adopt him… they had adopted him from a pound. I was living in Texas at the time and had the space for him. Trot was flown out to me… that first weekend with me set the standard in which Trot would be part of my life. The little yellow fucker did nothing but sleep in the sun, eat, and reluctantly go outside. There were no fears of him being unhappy if left alone…. because he did nothing. He wasn’t fat, but he wasn’t active.

Trot would not play fetch… Trot would play fight for about 2 minutes… relaxing was his primary role in life. Trot would sit on command… but he was usually laying in the sun… so getting him to sit seemed moot. I joked that Trot was actually a cat in a dog’s body… without the attitude. Trot did not bark… Trot did not lick. Trot just was… he was the Zen master of dogs. Friends and family were amazed with him. I could put raw meat on the floor and tell him “no” and he wouldn’t touch it… even if I left the room… yes, I really did this because I knew he would do as he was told. Trot was the kind of dog that didn’t need a leash… when I walked him, he would stay right by my side… he chased nothing… Trot didn’t give a shit about anything. Trot obeyed completely to a simple and low-toned “no”… Trot was nearly perfect.

Trot did have a weakness though, Trot loved bourbon… I shit you not… the dog was coo-coo over coca pebbles for bourbon. This was discovered one evening when we were watching TV together and I had a bourbon in hand. When I placed the bourbon on the floor Trot jumped… literally jumped to get at it. He had smelled the sweet elixir that is bourbon and couldn’t control himself. At first I was totally amazed and entertained… but I knew bourbon wasn’t good for dogs. But with bourbon, a simple “no” wouldn’t suffice. I could never leave Trot alone with bourbon… the dog was a lush. The simple Zen dog had a taste for bourbon and I had to ensure he was never around a glass of it. On one hand I was proud that my dog loved bourbon, on the other I was sorry that I couldn’t allow him to imbibe and I had to keep my bourbon out of his snout’s way. However, if bourbon wasn’t bad for dogs I would have gladly shared with him… like I said… I loved this dog.

Trot a few years later developed diabetes. Under-exercised, over-fed dogs have a tendency for this. His blood sugar levels were off the charts. The vet suggested diet and exercise… both were greeted by Trot with a lazy roll of the eyes… but the little fucker tried. This didn’t work though… Zen lifestyle may be good for the mind, but it is awful for the dog’s body. I then had to start giving insulin injections every 12 hours right after feeding… like I said, I loved this dog. I became a master at administering shots… the two of us became trained. If I was slow in administering the shot he would bump against me… the shot was always followed by a vegetarian dog treat… yes they make them… Trot loved treats even if they tasted like cardboard… yes I know they tasted like cardboard because I tried them.

One of the things that goes hand-in-hand with diabetes in dogs is cataracts. Trot developed these… Trot’s life didn’t change upon becoming blind… the dog didn’t do much… he found sunlight by touch of warmth… he learned how many steps there were in the house… he knew where the furniture was… he knew how to get around in his world. The problem was that even though he was getting insulin twice a day, his blood sugar levels never normalized… his body was getting worse due to my inability to regulate his blood sugar. After two years of having my life scheduled around Trot’s insulin shots, I decided to put him to sleep. Never an easy decision… never a thing one does without wondering if doing the right thing. Finally, one must overlook their own pain of loss and realize what is best for the pet one loves. Trot died in my arms doing what he loved best… sleeping… and farting… Trot was a notorious farter… I laughed through the tears.

Trot’s picture is prominently displayed in my office… he is wearing a Mardi Gras necklace and staring with a I-don’t-give-a-shit grin. Trot was the perfect dog, perfect friend and companion… and he was never just a dog. I understand why people feel compelled to give condolences when they learn a friend’s dog has died… when a dog dies, a member of the family, a loved one has died.

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