The comfort of a dog

Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really. –Agnes Sligh Turnbull

With the exception of women, there is nothing on earth so agreeable or necessary to the comfort of man as the dog. –Edward Jesse, Anecdote of Dogs

Our beloved Gigi passed last night. I had to put her to sleep. “Put her down” is the more vulgar term for it; “euthanize” is the cold, clinical, medical term. However you call it it was the single most difficult decision I’ve made in a long time. She was sixteen years old, 112 in human years, a shell of what she had formerly been. According to the doctor, she may have been suffering from senility or some form of dementia. She’d been having seizures for about a year and a half, and every single one of them was a scary and disconcerting experience for my wife and I. The yelping alone, which the doctor attributed to the vocal cords constricting and not to any pain she was suffering, was enough to make you head for the bar cart and swig down a few shots of Maker’s Mark. Add to that, the normal vicissitudes of old age that attack all of us — the arthritis so bad she hated being picked up, the gastric problems that were our bane, the severe irritability, and attempted biting — and you get the picture.

We’d picked her up in 1992 from one of my father-in-law’s neighbors, about a month after Hurricane Andrew. My wife and I had decided our house needed a dog. Cats were out of the question because back then I didn’t like them. Hated them is more like it. Duke and Callie, our indoor and outdoor cats, respectively, have mellowed me out and made me change my mind a bit on that score. Gigi came in to our house a young, vivacious puppy. She was a mix of Border Terrier and who-knows-what. Smart as a whip, she learned to deposit her Democrat talking points in the yard almost immediately. She loved that yard; she smelled every nook and cranny of it, thousands of times, every single time making a new discovery. When my son started school, every morning like clockwork, when she saw me putting on my pants to take him to school, she’d start jumping around and demand to be let out of the house to ride in the car. Lord, how she loved those rides, her head sticking out the window, like every other dog you’ve seen, smelling the world and experiencing God knows what sort of canine ecstasy. It left her satiated for the rest of the day, happy and content, sleeping and dreaming her dog dreams. A couple of months after we got her, my wife and I had to refloor the Florida room which had been flooded by rain during Andrew. My books, hundreds of ’em, were in the hallway of our living room, stacked very carefully by category, and by size when necessary. She was barely four months old and teething when she decided she would have a snack on what today would have been the most valuable book I owned: an absolutely pristine, first edition of Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. I was very, very mad at her. I always joked that that proved I loved her more than my books, which is saying a lot.

Sixteen years later, years that have flown by, she’s gone. All the rides, all the meals, all the cleanings, all the hair trimmings (which she hated), all the baths (which she hated), are long past. That little puppy, so vibrant and full of life, became old and faded. Life is beautiful, but sad. It’s fulfilling and full of love, but so damned short. Sixteen years wasn’t enough with you, girl. Rest in peace, Gigi. You’ll be sorely missed.

Gigi (July 31, 1992-September 15, 2008)
Gigi (July 31, 1992-September 15, 2008)

Near this spot are deposited the remains of one who possessed Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the Virtues of Man, without his Vices. This Praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery if inscribed over human ashes, is but a just tribute to the Memory of Boatswain, a Dog. –George Gordon, Lord Byron, “Inscription on the Monument of a Newfoundland Dog”

16 thoughts on “The comfort of a dog”

  1. My french fry buddy; my hairy niece; my soul mate. I had so many names for her. I’m crying so much right now I can hardly write. She had such a beautiful soul behind those big brown eyes. I loved that dog so much. My dear brother, she was your special companion and in my heart, she was mine, too. The most special dog our family ever had. The best dog ever. We can only be consoled by knowing that she is no longer suffering. I will miss her so much. I love you, Gigi. A big kiss on your furry head from your french fry buddy and soul mate, Tata. xoxo
    One of my favorite quotes:
    “My little dog. A heartbeat at my feet.”
    Edith Wharton

  2. All my sympathy to you and the family George. We have two Scottish Terriers, sadly, one of whom is not far behind your beloved Gigi. Our canine companions truly are mans best friend. “No philosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses.” ~Herman Melville, Redburn. His First Voyage, 1849

  3. Dude, haviong lost two dogs in a five year span, I knwo the pain you and the family are dealing with right now. My heartfelt condolences.
    A Dog Has Died
    My dog has died.
    I buried him in the garden
    next to a rusted old machine.
    Some day I’ll join him right there,
    but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,
    his bad manners and his cold nose,
    and I, the materialist, who never believed
    in any promised heaven in the sky
    for any human being,
    I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
    Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
    where my dog waits for my arrival
    waving his fan-like tail in friendship.
    Ai, I’ll not speak of sadness here on earth,
    of having lost a companion
    who was never servile.
    His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
    withholding its authority,
    was the friendship of a star, aloof,
    with no more intimacy than was called for,
    with no exaggerations:
    he never climbed all over my clothes
    filling me full of his hair or his mange,
    he never rubbed up against my knee
    like other dogs obsessed with sex.
    No, my dog used to gaze at me,
    paying me the attention I need,
    the attention required
    to make a vain person like me understand
    that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
    but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
    he’d keep on gazing at me
    with a look that reserved for me alone
    all his sweet and shaggy life,
    always near me, never troubling me,
    and asking nothing.
    Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
    as we walked together on the shores of the sea
    in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
    where the wintering birds filled the sky
    and my hairy dog was jumping about
    full of the voltage of the sea’s movement:
    my wandering dog, sniffing away
    with his golden tail held high,
    face to face with the ocean’s spray.
    Joyful, joyful, joyful,
    as only dogs know how to be happy
    with only the autonomy
    of their shameless spirit.
    There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
    and we don’t now and never did lie to each other.
    So now he’s gone and I buried him,
    and that’s all there is to it.

  4. George, my deepest sympathizes over your lost. I’ve been there. I had two cats and a dog and their lost some years back was very painful. Animals have a way of getting into your soul. They give you unconditional love, the kind of love that you won’t find anywhere else. You become the most important person in their lives and they let you know. Their happiness upon greeting you when you come home can wash away the weariness of a day when you’ve had to deal with that much crueler species, the human being.
    By the way, you can get a “as new,” first edition copy of Catch-22 or practically any book that you want at ABEBOOKS.COM. You might even be able to find a copy that is signed by the author.

  5. George, I am very sorry for your loss. I know what it is like to lose a beloved member of the family. I currently have a beautiful cat who is my faithful companion, who knows when I need cheering up and waits for me at the front door when I get home from work and I cannot imagine my life without her. It would be wonderful if humans could be as faithful, loyal, and unselfish as our pets. Keep those wonderful memories of Gigi always in your heart.

  6. George…I am sorry for your lost. I can feel your sadness. We had to let our “Theo” go last Feb. after 16 years. Theo was also a Terrier Mix. He was unique, one of a kind and he gave us many many years of happiness as I am sure your Gigi did to you and family. You have wonderful memories hermano…hold on to them.
    God Bless.

  7. Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
    There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
    There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
    The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
    Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

  8. George:
    I am so sorry for your loss.
    I heard it said once that the reason God gave dogs such a relatively short life was that if we had them as companions any longer, we would not be able to bear the pain of their loss.
    There is no better friend than a dog. No matter how bad a day we had or how cranky we may be, they are always happy to see us. And even when we scold them unjustly, just because we are in a bad mood, all they need is an approving look from us to come back, tail wagging, to share their unconditional love.
    How many humans do you know that can do that?

  9. George:
    Sorry it took me so long to get here to read this. I am very sorry for your loss. I feel your pain. The loss of a dog who loves us without limits or conditions is a deep one. I still remember crying for my little Zorro until my eyes literally had swollen shut when I woke up. I never got to say good bye to him, be grateful for that.
    “The dog is the only animal that has seen his god.” Gigi’s god was you.

  10. George:
    My deepest condolences on your loss. I am not ashamed to tell you that I am in tears writing this after revisiting the Rainbow Bridge poem above. You see, I too have lost 2 of my companions since this past December – my 2 beautiful rat terriers. The dad, Bandit, died in December from a stroke in my presence. At least he died quickly and on his own terms. His son, Lucky – so named because he was the only survivor of a litter that was the product of a 30-lb male dog (Bandit) with a 9-lb toy fox terrier – died this May. Actually, I also had to put him down due to kidney failure. I spent thousands of dollars keeping him alive with dialysis to prolong his life by a few weeks – I would’ve spent 10 times that for a cure. I still have nightmares about putting him to sleep. I don’t think that moment will ever leave me. It happened so fast….
    God bless you George. And Gigi. And Bandit and Lucky. And all our fallen 4-legged heroes.

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