Monday, February 22, 2010

Losing your point man

I'm obviously not the only one who loves big dogs, who's had them in his life and had to make the decision to let them go.

This is from a friend, a combat Marine, SWAT officer, great firearms instructor and a soft-hearted Irishman who's as fond of his big critters as we are of ours. It touched me to read it on this first day without Seamus' big smile in the house.

Losing Your Point Man

Many of you have known my over-large and sometimes over-protective canine buddy Ralph. He has been my companion on hundreds of miles of hikes … my “point man” … running ahead and on the flanks with a speed that belied his size and strength, making sure, as a good point man does, that I was not taken unawares. He traded recovered deer antlers for biscuits, and ate whatever of my MREs that I didn’t want.

He came to me an adult dog from an abusive home, and as some of you know, while he was great with women and kids he had problems with men he did not know for a while. Bob, you did more to help with his trust of others than anyone, and I will never forget that fact.

He was very protective toward my family in my (frequent) absence, however, and let me sleep better when far away. He had few vices other than a hyperactive prey instinct that is typical of the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and a tendency to take the best spot closest to the fireplace, for which he is forgiven. He chased and caught small game and fought boldly with javelina (he did not like them for some reason), asking and giving no quarter.

This afternoon, my lap holding that great head with its terrible jaws and beautiful intelligent eyes, he left me to scout ahead again. All his great strength and courage could not conquer the condition that weakened his back and legs, and I could no longer bear to see the humiliation in his eyes at his inability to walk and run and do for himself. Ironically, but appropriately, the same veterinarian that undoubtedly saved his life after his most difficult javelina battle was there, gently and compassionately, when it ended. Terry could not get arrested in my county if it were up to me. She understands.

Many of you whom I know have lost one of those dear friends who cannot speak but still communicate with our hearts so eloquently, and have felt this same hollowness. There will be a good many more tears for a while as some comment or event brings memories flooding back of all the fine times we shared, but it will pass eventually. Life will go on and we will continue, because that is what we do … but life is much harder without someone good on point.

Seamus has gone ahead

"If there are no dogs in heaven,
when I die I want to go where they went"
- Mark Twain

Seamus, our big guy, our sweet man, our loving lovable magnificent hulk of a dog has left us and gone ahead on the trail that we all will follow someday.
He'd been sick on and off for the last few weeks, given antibiotics, got better and got sick again. He spent the night at the vet's on Friday getting IV fluids, then after coming home on Saturday was sick again - throwing up, incontinent, unable to eat or drink. I took him to the small animal hospital in Lexington and he was given IV fluids and antibiotics again, had more x-rays and labs and was holding his own. But by this evening he wasn't gaining ground and we went ahead with an exploratory laparotomy.

He had an intussusception, a telescoping of his bowel, which was something that could be resected and repaired. There would still be concerns about his recovery, but that was survivable.
What was not survivable were the very large and ugly nodes on his spleen and some other organs. Almost certainly hemangiosarcoma, and fatal. The vet could have removed his spleen and we could have taken our chances with his post-op course, but that would have been a crap shoot and the odds were not at all good for him. So I let him go. He just kept on sleeping, and glided on over to eternity.

Seamus was as happy a dog as ever lived. He had a wonderfully expressive face and you never had to guess about his mood. He'd chase a tennis ball until his legs were wobbly and then carry it around some more. He's bring his rawhide chew to show to me, and wag his tail while I told him how lovely it was, then bring it back to me again ten minutes later so we could repeat the conversation. When we were out in the car and I'd go into a store, when I looked out Seamus would be standing in the car window, staring at the door I'd gone into - never looking away, always waiting for me to come back, ecstatic when I reappeared.

I've never had a dog as devoted to me as that cheerful hulk was. He loved me with an intensity and purity that no other dog has. He would body block all the other dogs so that he could monopolize my attention, have me all to himself. He would stand by the bed and whine, in the dark and for an hour, until I told him to come on up. Then he'd lurch that great frame up onto the bed, stretch out against me and let out a deep sigh, happy to be close to the one he adored.
He was my special buddy and I marveled at his devotion. He wagged all over when I told him what a good boy he was.

(click on photo to enlarge)

He loved following scent trails down by the river -

Seamus was a star, even appearing on the radio with me with Sue Wiley. There was no one who didn't love his joyous face and didn't think him handsome, striking, imposing. He was the biggest puppy ever, thrilled to be alive and with us.
If there is any sense or order to this universe, I'll see him again when I cross over, along with Sergei and Vanya and Lucie. My pack on the other side of the bridge is growing, slowly and painfully. My heart is sore and now my comfort is the pack that remains, those great warm beasts, the puppy pile I can lie with and hug and caress, wishing that our happy giant was still here, still sharing his joy with us.

Requiescat in pace, my buddy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Super new essay by VDH

Victor Davis Hanson has one of the great minds of this age, IMO, and this new essay by him is yet further fine thinking.

He examines our current economic state and points out that we can't continue down this reckless path where we have no real wealth, only manipulated wealth and false impressions of well being that are falling apart around our ears. Read it here.