As some of you may know, my dog of 18 years, Nipper was not doing well. Blind, deaf, arthritic, disoriented, and in pain from major dental problems.
I got Nipper when she was abandoned by the family that lived upstairs from me in Amityville. I remember that day fairly well. She was still a puppy and was happy to have someplace warm to stay in January. Events like that bond critters to us.
Nipper and I were regulars in Greenlawn for a long time. She had a fan club of sorts. On the bench across the street from Bosco's Pizza we would have "Din Din al Fresco". She would get a tin of dog food, and I would get a sandwich of some kind. After a while the tin would be empty, and a nose would appear under my elbow. She would have an expression along the lines of "That's a mighty fine sandwich, don't you want to share?". I did.
We would take 'extended power walks' across the neighborhood.
We would take road trips.
Nipper had a unique way of eating hamburgers in the car.
She liked anything ending in food.
Kosher food, you get the idea.
The only thing she didn't like was a slice of fresh lemon.
Nipper has been to more radio sites than most dogs I know.
Time seems to happen faster for our animals than for us.
When you live with an animal after a while, you can't ignore or wish away the facts. Nipper was suffering the effects of age. Little by little, day by day, she was not getting any better. What was that Neil Young line "Rust never sleeps".
We knew the only decision left was one of desperate kindness. It was no longer a matter of "If", but of "when". When was this morning.
This morning at a little after 9am was the moment of truth.
I had a last duty to a dog who shared my life.
A dog who gave me a reason to go on living, when there clearly was none. A dog who was happy to see me first thing in the morning. A dog who was happy to cuddle with me at night. A dog who's every moment was treated as an adventure, with hidden excitement. A friend without judgments, or opinions.
A dog who was the informal mascot of a radio club community I still care deeply about. Who would mooch around the food table at 'field day', looking for handouts. The 'dog of honor' when I was married.
Today I lost a friend.
Nipper is at peace.
No more pain, no more confusion.
The doctor, a veterinary aid, Joanne and my self were in attendance.
Just before, Nipper got a treat of a whole Hershey bar.
A sweet taste, the sent of Joanne and I.
The warmth of being held and petted.
Like the doctor promised the whole thing was quiet, painless and very quick.
As I told my sister a while ago, we live in a mobile world.
If we are going to have shrines to our departed friends and family, the shrines should be portable.
My sister is going to make a container for Nippers ashes when we get them back. Something simple. Something functional. Something that can come with us as life unfolds. A container for what's left, but not the spirit.
Perhaps some summer day, I will take Nippers ashes with me for a walk. One more chance to be alone with our history.
As some of you know, I collect strange old lyrics.
With the advent of this internet, it's not so tough any more. If there ever was a musical salute to a dog, this is it. The "Nitty Gritty Dirt Band" edition of this song hit an internal weak spot when ever I think of Nipper.
Give the lyrics a read over. Listen for it on the radio.
You will get the emotion of the words too.
The best poetry is like that.
They say what I feel with an economy of words what I can't work for my self.
by Jerry Jeff Walker
from Uncle Charlie, Liberty Records, c1976
I knew a man Bojangles and he'd dance for you,
In worn out shoes,
With silver hair, a ragged shirt, and baggy pants
The old soft shoe.
He jumped so high, jumped so high
Then he'd lightly touch down.
I met him in a cell in New Orleans, I was down and out.
He looked to me to be the eyes of age as he spoke right out
He talked of life, talked of life, he laughed, slapped his leg a step
He said his name "Bojangles" then he danced a lick across the cell He grabbed his pants, a better stance, o he jumped so hi, & he clicked his heels He let go a laugh, let go a laugh, shook back his clothes all around
He danced for those at minstrel shows & county fairs, throughout the south He spoke with tears of 15 years how his dog and him traveled about. His dog up and died, up and died, after 20 years he still grieves.
He said I dance now at every chance in honky tonks for drinks and tips But most the time I spend behind these county bars cause I drinks a bit He shook his head, and as he shook his head I heard someone ask him please
I fully expect this memory to sting in 20 years time.
Nipper and I were a team.
I have another dog partner now with Myla.
We don't share the same things all that well.
Perhaps time will fix that.
Be well all.