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.