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.
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”