Tuesday, July 26, 2016

So, Our Dog Died Yesterday

So, our dog died yesterday. Our faithful companion Khaki left us Monday morning. This started out as a short piece for me to collect my thoughts and emotions on the event, but before I knew it, I realized I was writing a eulogy for a dog! I've seen Facebook posts in the past from friends who've lost pets, and you can tell by the posts and the replies to those posts, that my grief is a sentiment that is felt by millions of animal lovers every day. So feel free to read this as a eulogy to your absent pet. I hope it makes you smile in fond remembrance of a furry friend that you still hold dear. 


There is nothing on this earth purer or more beautiful than the soul of a dog. 


I have my favorite breeds, of course, but even the ones I can't imagine ever choosing for myself have that special something that makes them a dog. I often remind myself that no matter how plain, how ridiculous looking or how yappy someone else's dog may be, deep inside that little beast is still the soul of a dog, so of course they are loved. We love our dogs. We can't help ourselves. We call them dumb animals, but that's not true. Well sometimes it is, but often, that just adds to their charm. Each one has a complex personality known only to those who have loved them for years and taken the time to appreciate all there is inside. And often, we've watched that personality evolve as they have grown up in our families, just as if they were our children. Except to their credit, dogs hold on to that childlike innocence throughout their entire lifetime. If only our real children were so generous, but I guess they compensate for that by giving us grandchildren. That innocence and purity of soul gives dogs a kind of superpower. You can often learn a lot about people by how they feel about dogs. And finally of course, dogs have their secret weapon. They offer us unconditional love. Where else do they sell that? I recall the meme, “I'm trying to be as good a person as my dog thinks I am.” 


So what has become of our darling boy Khaki? I don't believe in God, but I believe in heaven. I am not a Believer, but I believe Khaki has gone to heaven to join our other dog Bailey. Bailey was already part of our family when Khaki joined us 15 years ago, and she's been gone for some time now. I believe they are in heaven together now because that is what I choose to believe. It gives me comfort to believe that, so I have simply decided to believe it. I'll tell the girls at work he's in heaven. I'll tell the 4 year old and the 6 year old that occasionally visit that he is in heaven. I'll tell my wife who is a Believer and my son who is not, that Khaki is in heaven. I don't strictly Believe this explanation, but I do joyously embrace it as my image of heaven. Heaven, for me, is not a place in the sky where God lives. Heaven, for me is a place in my memory where all the people I have ever loved live. They live there with all the dogs I have ever loved. Oh, and I almost forgot Kittyman. Turns out there's one cat in heaven. Bailey and Khaki will just have to deal with it. 


When we knew Khaki's time was short on this earth, we called Erin in Boston. Khaki was more her dog than anyone else's. She was in middle school when we got him, and she was the one who chose him at the shelter. Erin decided to come home. That might surprise some of you. Others, not so much. As we drove home from the airport yesterday, Erin was picturing Khaki's heaven as she saw it. Bailey will rush to greet him and show him all the cool stuff in heaven. “There's fences to jump, and muddy water we can play in again, and the best news is you never have to get a bath afterwards. Oh, and all the gluten you can eat without the skin rash!” 


 Whenever Erin comes home to visit, we have a tradition in the McVay household. Erin coined a term for it. She calls it Margarita Fiesta. We typically spend an hour or so on the evening of her arrival sitting down over margaritas, guacamole and chips to catch up on each others' news. Inevitably, a chip would fall on the floor, to Khaki's delighted surprise. At first it was an accident, but as time went on, it became part of the tradition. We had our Margarita Fiesta last night, and last night we spent the time exchanging Khaki stories. How his ears made him look a lot like Yoda. How Erin would always call him Sweet Boy, while I would call him “Little Boy”, and Mary Pat would call him “Big Boy, and how for some reason, those last two names never evoked any sort of cognitive dissonance on our part. I thought of how bad his breath could be at times, but how wonderful his fur always smelled to me. How if ever Erin would wrestle or rough house on the floor with anyone whether dog or human, Khaki would come to her rescue but oddly enough always express his concern by nipping at her, and not her faux adversary. How Khaki was the family lifeguard. Be careful splashing too vigorously in the pool or Khaki would jump in and rush to your rescue in a frenzied dog paddle, claws first. Discerning swimmers quickly learned to straight arm their approaching rescuer and gently redirect him toward the pool steps. Trust me. No one was ever grateful for a rescue by the Khakster. And true to the Margarita Fiesta tradition, thanks to Erin's “clumsiness”, a chip hit the floor last night for the little boy. So Khaki, I hope you appreciate this. You didn't just get a eulogy, you got a wake too. 


Khaki was spared a final a trip to the vet. And if you've ever been in that situation, you know that this means that we were spared a final trip to the vet as well. We had planned one for yesterday after Erin's arrival, but circumstances intervened. I'm glad they did. When you have an older pet, at first you want to put off as long as possible that day when they are no longer there to greet you at the door. But paradoxically, after a while, you stop praying it will never happen and start praying that it will happen soon, while life is good, and before they begin to suffer. Khaki got lucky, and so did we. 


 In the end Khaki died as Erin and I were driving home from the airport. A bit sad for us, but a sadness outweighed by the circumstances of his death. Khaki died at home lying by the side of our bed where he often slept. Mary Pat was with him, petting him and telling him what a good boy he was. Khaki has been deaf as a post for several years now, but we think his eyesight remained pretty good. I'm convinced that even if he couldn't hear the words “Good Boy”, he'd heard and seen them spoken so often in the past that he could probably lip read them. Good Boy and a loving touch were the last things Khaki experienced in his life with us. I hope I am so lucky when my time comes. I'd said my goodbye the night before. I lay beside him for an hour or so just petting him. At one point I kissed the top of his head and smelled his fur. I touched the tip of my nose to his, and, ever so briefly, he licked the tip of my nose. I will choose to let those be my last memories of my little boy.