I have to write this blog post now because very soon I won’t be able to. My old dog, Arizona, is old. Seventeen years, six months old – best estimate. I would say that he is approaching his end days, and the closer it gets, the harder this will be to write.
We met Arizona one day at the local shelter. CARE does really great work here, and we were there meeting another dog who we knew immediately was not a going to be a member of our family. He was a charming little guy, but the chemistry was wrong. While we were hanging out with this one little friend (who did find a home the next day) Arizona was brought in. He was found wandering the parking lot of what was known locally as the “Toys R Us” strip mall. He had a rope around his neck and no collar.
He looked at us over the counter. Yellow eyes. Up ears. Purple nose. We looked back.
The couple who brought him in found him in our city, but they didn’t live in our city (here to shop at the aforementioned retailer) so the rules were that they could NOT surrender him. Everyone looked at everyone. No one said anything. And Sam and I agreed that we would sign him in. Goodbye amazing dog! Be happy!
Well, more rules said that any animal found needs to be kept for seven days for the owner to come forward, so even if we were so inclined, we wouldn’t have been able to take him home right that moment. But he got sort of stuck in our heads (and heart too I think). But life was busy and we forgot about the week waiting thing until it was TWO weeks past the day that we signed his lordship in. Sam wondered aloud about what might have happened to that dog. I said, “Call.” He did.
Well, it’s a curious thing. He had been adopted out, but he was back – too rambunctious for the older dog in the household. “I think I’ll go out and look at him,” said Sam, stopping by the pet store for a giant water bowl and 6ft leather lead. And home he came. He had been given the name Arizona at the shelter. Dennis the dog trainer said that even if we hated the name we should keep it because the dog was answering to it. “You are conservatively this dog’s fourth home. He thinks you are the Motel 6 of the dog world. Keep something consistent.”
Vital stats: he was maybe a year old when he came to live with us. Rangy and muscular, he was a fully realized if not fully filled out canine. The vet said: German Shepherd, Siberian Husky, and most assuredly wolf. What a good buddy he has been. Over the years he has filled the role of:
- escape artist
- running back
- foot warmer
- anaconda (meatloaf and cheeses swallowed whole)
- best buddy
- mentor to our crazy Siberian
- recidivist at animal control
Things he loves:
- his bed
- chasing stuff, mostly bunnies and the neighbor’s cat who all can outrun him.
- watching TV with the girls
- did I mention, food?
- did I mention cheese, specifically?
Things he loathes:
- car rides
- routine change
- lightning and thunder
- July 4th
- the suitcases
It seems clear that we are near the end. He is losing weight and I see more anxiety than joy in his days. But he has been a significant part of our lives, and the dog shaped hole that his absence will leave in our hearts is going to be hard to fill. We will soon forget the neurotic barking and the shedding of whole clumps of hair (husky undercoats blow out twice a year, like snow) and only remember the joyful, regal dog of the last decade and a half. We have only a short time left with him, so we will fill it with love, scritches, and treats.
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Oh, so hard. But thank you for writing this. My own Shepherd-wolfie is ten, and slowing down, but your post gives me hope that we will have more good years with him.
You’ve done a good thing, taking him in and letting him have a long, stable and happy life.
And yes, the undercoat… *grin*
He’s got fortitude, my big wolfie. He has brought us as much as we have given him, I am sure. Our Siberian will be bereft when he goes. Thanks for your lovely words. I am sure that your Shepherd-wolfie will be with you a long while more.
(And that undercoat – it’s like drifts of hair.)
They’re phenomenal companions, in my experience (many of my friends at one point had hybrids, which is how we ended up with one). Completely devoted, very smart, eager to please as long as you can maintain your position at the top of the pack. And snuggly.
Since getting Grendel, though, we no longer have anything as trivial as dustbunnies. We’ve moved up to dustbuffalo.
Please pass on many scritches to Arizona from me.
We call them DustRhinos.
Scritches shared! Return some to your beastie from us.
I too have an aging puppy..my 15 year old corgi came to us at 2 years old and even though we are self alleged cat people, we fell in love immediately. The past year has seen her develop all sorts of health issues so we know it’s only a matter of time. My heart is with you, and thank you for your lovely post.
We were TOTALLY cat people. And then we met this guy. And then we met our other dog, Sky (the truly insane). Love to you and your corgi. Small of stature – big of heart and courage.
I can’t go to a meeting at this moment because I am crying too hard after reading this. Making the decision to let them go is so hard, but they have been such good friends/family you don’t want them hurting no matter how much their leaving hurts you.
He is a great up eared dog! Arizona, I salute you!
Oh, baby – you should have stopped when you saw the title of the post! I agree about this decision. We need to have a family discussion tonight about it. Love to you and all the pets that we have come to love together.
Arizona returns your salute with a 21 bark volley!
Being allergic to dogs (and cats) i’ve never had them as pets. But i have birds and i’ve lost pets that have been like my own children. i still mourn my dearest parrot Nemo, who died eight years ago. It’s never easy, but it sounds like Arizona found a home full of love, and that will endure.
My amazingly mature daughter said this morning that although she can not remember any part of her life that Arizona has not been a part of, she prefers to think of the life he has had and not the life that he will miss. “I will always have my memories,” she told me. Love, always, endures. Thanks –
Just catching up after a few days away. Losing a member of the family is always so hard and sad.
We keep having pets for all the fun and fur, loving and (yes) exasperation, snuggles and warmth. Losing them is hard to bear, but the truth is they give us so much that we’re willing to bear the sadness at the end of their lives, the knowledge that we may have to make that choice for them and the trust in ourselves (and their trust in us) that we can do it at the right time and let them go with grace and dignity.
And it never gets easy. My heart is with you.
Thank you, your words made me cry, though not in a bad way. We do have to make this choice for him, and he trusts us to make the right choice at the right time. He is such a regal boy, and if I hear that sound in his bark, I’ll know. Thank you for sharing our love and our heaviness of heart. He’s my good buddy, and he deserves a peaceful, painless last weeks/days.
[so with thanks to Mr. Milne and Christopher Robin, I paraphrase]…But wherever we go, and whatever happens to us on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a girl and her Dog will always be playing.
Thanks again for your words.
Crying over pets – we are well acquainted with that around here. But the crying never stops us from doing the right thing. The caring and kind thing. Love to you and the wolfie.
I’m so sorry to hear Arizona is doing poorly. I feel very privileged yo have been able to meet him. I have never seen a dog of his age look so well for his age or even live so long, especially a large dog like him. My heart goes out to you and your whole family. Hugs and love to all.
It is amazing that he is doing so well. A little creaky, a little cranky, but he’s hanging in there. The balance of his days is still positive over-all, but I see that he has a short time, comparatively, left with us. It does make me sad, but looking back at the years of pictures, I know that he has had a long, full, dog-positive life.
I’m glad that you got to meet him, and it was so nice to sit on our back porch together that evening. Hope that we will see each other soon. I’ll pass along hug or two and keep a couple for myself.