Endgame

About six weeks ago I announced on FB that our Doberman, Diva, has cancer. The doctor’s prognosis was grim and led us to expect that she would go downhill quickly. Diva has surprised us. I hear her outside my window now, barking at the FedEx truck. If she has a form of fast spreading melanoma, she doesn’t know it. Her energy and personality are blessedly unchanged since the grim day of her diagnosis. Tomorrow that may change and for today we are grateful.


Another family, one very dear to me, is facing the necessity of putting down their sweet Lola, a boxer who squirms with love when you look in her direction. My words are for her and for them.


Lola - A beautiful Boxer

Art and I both come from families that had dogs: mutts and Dobies and Kerry Blues, Cairn Terriers and more. Along with a new V-8 yellow Camaro, I brought an Irish Setter as my marriage dowry. Suzannah. She and a manic fool named Travis gave us nine puppies. One of them was Patrick who, when he was six weeks old, bonded with Art’s handlebar moustache. Then came Pax, my first Doberman, Art’s third or fourth.


I will always believe that Pax saved my life once, standing between me and an ominous stranger. As he pressed against my legs, I felt his body vibrate with threat, a low, constant growl. The stranger backed off, leaving me with these words: “That’s a good dog you got there. You wanna keep that dog, lady.”


Matt and Rocky were sobbing with us when Pax permitted us to help him onto the vet’s exam table. His hips were almost gone but earlier, as we were trying to get him in the van, he saw the neighbor’s cat and lurched after it. What a guy!


Someone once said that when God saw how hard it was to be a human, God created dogs to keep us company. We are beyond-words fortunate to live intimately with dogs and have their trust, affection and protection. They keep us company in the kitchen; they watch over our children and go into war with us. They don’t care if we’re fat or feeble or bad-tempered. The battle-scarred and unwashed old man who camps by the creek off Morena Boulevard has a pit bull who adores him.


Like others who love dogs, I think it is our honor and duty when the time comes to ease them gently from this life into the next.


Many years ago when Suzannah was dying, my father-in-law told me that all our pets – dogs, cats, horses, hamsters and goldfish – wait for us outside the gates to heaven. That image, surely the definition of chaos, has always made me smile. For dogs I prefer a borderless field, lakes and creeks and overlooks, woods and caves and a sandy beach that goes on forever. They come when we call and lick our hands and run off until dinner when something savory instantly appears. It is a place where no dog wears a collar and leashes have not been invented.

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