Sunday, December 1, 2013

My Good Friend

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace.” 
 Milan Kundera

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” 
― Will Rogers

Yesterday we had to put our old dog Sasha to sleep.  It had been a rough six months or so.  Her left elbow was hurting her.  An x-ray showed lots of arthritis there.  She was moving slower and slower.  I built her a handicapped ramp so she could get up and down from the back porch on her own.  Things got hard for her last spring.  Then the vet gave us a combination of pain pills and anti-inflamitories that made her much more comfortable.  She was almost her old self again.  And she was definitely happy.

When I woke up early in the morning, when it was still dark and cold outside, she would be there wagging her tail and smiling and leaning into my petting and hugs.  She sort of groaned when I rubbed her ears.  She rolled over and liked to have her chest rubbed.  Her tongue would loll out of her mouth when she was on her back.

When I had insomnia, she would wander out to the living room where I read on the couch and just lay on the small rug nearby.  She just wanted to be in our presence.  Day or night.  And I liked to be in hers.  It was a comfort.  

Sasha was there to bear witness to the raising of our kids.  I think in some ways she helped to raise them.  She was a puppy when Devin and Colin were pups.  As they grew up, so did she.  When they moved to college the house was quiet when I woke up or when I got back from work.  But Sasha was there to wag and smile and greet and receive love and to give it back.

Owning a dog is a selfish act in many ways.  Dogs are love machines.  It's unconditional.  They hold no grudges.  There is no need for pretense when you are around dogs.  They are patient and wait for you to come back from a bad mood or a hard day.  They love taking you for a walk.  They listen when you complain, forgive you instantly when you make a mistake, they are grateful for everything.  While Sasha was in incessant shedder, she kept the kitchen floor clean of crumbs and the stray bit of dropped food.  There was never a time when I came home, that she wasn't sincerely glad to see me.  That is the way of dogs.

Heidi and I said that we would know when to let her go.  She was quite old for a lab - around 16 1/2.  We knew that it was just a matter of time now.  While she used to drag us around the neighborhood, her walks for the last year or so were just down to the corner and back.  It was getting harder for her to stand up when she was laying down.  During the last few days she was less and less responsive when her name was called or when people came in.  She was listless.  Then her back hip seemed to just give out.  She could barely walk.  And it was time.

I was with her when the doc gave her the shot.  I cried hard.  I held her as she took her last breath.  It was sort of a sigh.  The vet put his stethoscope to her chest, but I knew she was already gone.  I could feel her life leaving.  I have to say that part of me left with her.  

I brought her body home in a big nylon bag.  Devin and I buried her at the bottom of our hill.  She liked sniffing around down there when we had bonfires, searching for bits of food or burnt marshmallows pitched into the dark by the little ones.  I'm glad that Dev did it with me.  While he doesn't show his emotions as much as I do, I know that he will miss that big old yellow dog.  We all will.  I texted the boys and Heidi when it was over.  I was too sad to talk.  But when Colin called from campus, he cried too.  He said that he couldn't remember a time in his life when Sasha wasn't around.  

I wrote this song for Sasha when she was a young dog.  I didn't know when I wrote it how much I would come to love her.  We were sure lucky to her our paths cross for all of these years.  Sasha was a good old dog.

Big Yellow Dog
I've got me a big yellow dog, and my dog she's got me too
There are some days when I work so hard
And I come home feeling restless and blue
But my big yellow dog she's sittin' there
With that dog grin on her face
Her tails a waggin', she's comin' up to greet me
And I know I'm in the right place.

Now the time I spend with my big yellow dog
Might be considered wasteful to some
Sittin' on the porch, scratching her belly
Getting licked by her big old tongue
She's sniffin' all around trying to catch some smell
To try to make sense out of my day
And I'm sittin' here with a dozen things to do
And all she wants to do is play

I don't know if she'd rescue me from a burning building or not
But when I think of that pretty yellow dog
I know my love will never stop
I know my love will never stop

Now my big yellow dog, she doesn't need much
Just some bowls with some water and some food
And a dusty rug at the bottom of the steps
Where she guards us when she's in the mood
And a bath sometimes when she's been a bad girl
And she's rolled in some stinky old thing
But the love she gives back in return
Is worth more than anything

The time I spend with my big yellow dog
I don't grow any older it seems
I don't watch the news or answer emails
Or read any magazines
I don't pay the bills, I don't talk shop
I can't get much of nothin' done
But I can mow the grass and water the flowers
We like to hang out in the sun


Now I can't say I haven't smacked that girl
When she's done some bad girl things
But I feel bad when she feels bad
And it comes back to haunt me it seems
And when her time to go has passed
And she's buried at the bottom of the hill
I'll think of her and that big yellow face
And I know I'll love her still


Nic E said...

I'm in tears myself. What a beautiful post. I'm so sorry to hear about Sasha, but so happy that you spent many wonderful years together. Sleep sweetly, beautiful Sasha. x N

Blog of Ages said...

Lovely thoughts. Prompted me to hold our little old dog a little longer this morning. Thanks.

Chris Hass said...

Beautiful tribute. Sasha had a long live full of hugs,walks, and squirrels. All dogs should be so lucky.

Hey, did you take a photo while you were driving? Tim O'Keefe!

Ruth Anne O'Keefe said...

Sigh. You were so lucky to have Sasha in your family. And she was lucky to have you. That is one of my favorite songs. Thanks.