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.

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