Sunday, July 29, 2007


Just shy of nine years ago Carrie and some of our children went off to a breeder to interview a litter of Golden Retrievers. Some were too aggressive, some to meek, but one after being accidentally kicked by a two year old, came back tail wagging. Digby had found a home. He was your proto-typical Golden – sweet, loving, a family dog, and of course not the brightest. He was also your prototypical pure breed – every genetic condition that inbreeding can create – seizures, hips, ears: a veterinarian’s dream if one wanted to be crass.

I think of Digby as my first dog. We were not a pet family growing up. I once brought home a stray beagle in middle school, but we found him a new home in two or three day’s time. There were some cats, but maybe it was just the family curse: one with cancer after maybe a year and another with a silly habit of resting on top of car wheels. As an adult, Carrie and I tried. A dog from a shelter who liked to escape – best exercise I ever did have – which coupled with a daughter standing on the table indicated using that two week return policy.

Of course there was Fred and Charlie, a pair of bichon’s we adopted. (I am happy to say spell check in Word does not recognize the breed.) There were a few factual omissions of course. They were 4 ½, not 3 and the fact that the owner’s boyfriend would beat both her and the dogs may have been of some interest. They did not like men, something I still claim to be, so an uneasy truce existed. That is until one night I came home late from work, tax season and all, and as I prepared for bed smelled something: dog pee? Could not really locate it until I put my head on my pillow and realized I had found the spot. They were found a new home, one with no men.

So when we were next ready for a dog, we did it right and in Digby we were amply rewarded, Digby did have quirks – the only Golden who did not like water. He did go swimming once when he mistakenly took a three year olds spastic splashing in our pool to be a sign of drowning. For the first and last time, and without hesitation, he dove right in.

Digby has also proven to be a capable trainer, imparting his unique mellowness to other dogs, particularly his two “sisters”, a five year old Wheaton and a one year old Cock-a-Poo. They took his lead and are as sweet as can be.

I suspect you all know where this post is going. It is time to allow Digby his rest, an escape from physical maladies that keep worsening, one bumping into another. On Tuesday we will say goodbye.

This has caused me to think both of my reactions to Digby’s “going to the farm” as my daughter prefer we phrase it and also my previous brushes with death. I was never good with death – maybe city boy syndrome, the polar opposite of farms with life and death appearing every season. Maybe it was having three grandparents die before it was born and the fourth passing before I was three. It would be until high school that a close family member died, an Uncle, a man deserving of his own little post.

I am sad that Digby is being put to sleep – I will leave the “farm” imagery for my daughter – and have welled up more than once while speaking of it. Yet somehow I feel I should be sadder – nine years, my first real pet, that should not be sadness: it should be despondency bordering on depression. And maybe come Tuesday I will feel that overwhelming sense.

Maybe it is just the perspective that comes from having caught up with death after such a slow start. I have buried both my parents, a few years apart. My father’s death I have written of before, on an anniversary of his death, of being with him as he passed.

But issues of relative grief aside, issues of pets as opposed to humans, the simple fact remains: on Tuesday we will bid Digby farewell and he will be one dog whose memory will remain with us – family and friends - for ever.

May peace be with him.


Spider said...

Oh Nate - my heart goes out to you. My prayers and love are with you and Digby - just remember that he does and he will always love you... dogs are like that. I wish I had the right words to say here...

Anonymous said...

Nate if you're overwhelmed by grief tomorrow - and you may be - just remember where the word 'euthanasia' comes from. The Greek 'eu thanatos' meaning 'a good death.' What more can we do for our pets than grant them that. I wonder how many of us will have 'a good death.'
British Fan.

Spider said...

Nate - I have been thinking about you all day... my thoughts and love are with you.

sexy said...