Monday, April 13, 2015

Leaving With An Appetite

"Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really." ~Agnes Sligh Turnbull.

We said good bye today to our little Papillon Radar. His twenty years - fourteen with us - can best be characterized as eventful. Few of our animals have given so much when we really needed it.

We were between dogs, in the sense that a traumatic week of losing two grown animals in five days had set us a bit on our heels. We took a break, tending to our cats and discussing breeds.

Radar was a cast off from a divorce situation. One of the splitting couple was a puppy fancier, who purchased a new one when the present pooch had become, well, a dog. The adult fended for itself, often unloved and neglected. When Pat went to visit, to see if this would be our next pup she made the only decision possible. He was matted, smelly, with crazy teeth. She growled "There is no way I'm leaving that poor thing with them."

He came to us at no charge... Sort of. He had the unimaginative name of "Bobo." Okay, if you also have named a pet Bobo, I apologize. But... A Papillon?! That is French for butterfly. Who names a butterfly dog Bobo? "C'est monsieur Bobo, n'est-ce pas?" So the name had to go.

And the teeth. Three hundred dollars later his choppers were back in some kind of order. We were in our MASH animal-naming phase, so the flappy ears made Radar all too easy. He would still answer to Bobo for a while, but soon gave a puzzled look as if to say "Haven't we moved past that?"

He was never very disciplined, in the trained dog sense. Classes didn't take, treats were wasted efforts. Recall? Ha! His favorite game was to run out the front door while members of the household ran after him. Common practice suggests that chasing dogs only encourages them to run faster. With Radar, everything encouraged him to run faster.

In 2004 we were between houses, living in a hotel in Glendale. Radar was the perfect dog - well-behaved when we were gone, respectful of the carpet when we were home. He enjoyed the six weeks as an only pet (the cats were in long term kennel care), prancing on his walks as though he'd been liberated from those other, snootie animals once and for all. He was not amused when the move into the new house reunited them.

He was my companion on our back deck through three novels. He enjoyed sleeping in the sun while I hammered away. He asked for only one thing - a soft pillow to rest his head.

He was less than amused when we added first one, then another Portie. They were large, noisy, obnoxious animals as far as he was concerned. He stood up for himself, always getting the short end of the fight. There would be blood and yelping, the cone of shame and a big vet bill. Only late in life did he learn that "It's not the size of the dog in the fight" was made up by a huge frickin' mutt.

His twilight years robbed him of his wayward personality. Deaf and blind, he could neither hear nor see anything worth barking at. Much to Pat's chagrin I named him "Pinball Wizard." He played a mean pinball, finding his way by instinct, smell and a gentle bump along the walls. As doggie dementia took over the bumps became bangs, and he lost track of who, and where, and why.

He never lost track of us. He had the maddening - and charming - habit of getting underfoot. He never wanted to be too far away from his humans, for fear that... 

This week everything about him had shut down except his appetite. Over the past month Pat tried a number of different foods (none of which appealed to him), finally settling on spaghetti-ohs, canned ravioli and baked beans. He would virtually (and sometimes literally) climb into his bowl to attack them. Even last night, his last hours at hand, he tried to lick the stainless off the steel.

We wish him well. In the years we really needed his energy, his devotion and his big heart he gave it unconditionally. He was exactly the right dog, at exactly the right time. He went quietly, calmly. Dreaming, no doubt, about spaghetti-ohs.

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