I have to just go ahead and post this…(this has sucked the life out of June/July)…
I wrote this the last day of May (but didn’t get round to posting it), after our best friend had been missing six weeks. As we were to learn later, May 31 was shortly after he would have actually died. The awful circumstances of his death were far worse than I had imagined….(explained end of post).
Eulogy to the most beautiful Dog
I’m beginning to accept that he is gone for good. Dead, somehow, somewhere. Not just lost, misplaced, but lost, gone.
Devastating doesn’t really cover it.
It’s a terrible loss; he’s missing, everywhere, everything I do, since I used to do everything with him.
I haven’t really yet felt any grief.
I get to keep thinking, “but he’s so beautiful and friendly, maybe he’s ingratiated himself into someone else’s life and he’s fine. Someday he’ll escape and come back, or not.” I want to believe that he’s fine, moving on to another phase of life that is hopefully comfortable for him.
So far his dog’s life was a hard, difficult life, thrice rescued/rejected as unmanageable, and we did a good job with him, slowly. He was such a mental case at first that the first several, miserable (why did you want a dog?) months were just managing and controlling him, to establish his place as a dog. At the end, it was getting interesting, once we were mutually attached and he was content and secure in his place, teachable and proud of learning. We had come to a really good place with him. He earned some trust by being obedient and predictable, and he was much much calmer.
The last few miserable weeks I’ve been working a public job and it seems like every person I see asks me about the dog (since the community knows he’s been missing). I have to fight the instinct to burst into tears, and have cultivated a steely efficiency to deal with sympathy.
He was gone like this once before, last fall, for two weeks. He left wearing a choke collar and leash and I had horrifying visions of him getting tangled up and unable to return. So, I searched for him for days. My neighbour “found” him 13 days later, emaciated, twitchy, and full of quills, but alive. He recovered fast. Knowing he survived for two weeks who knows where spawned a hope that lasted 3, 4 weeks… but six?
Unlike last time, I’m not feeling guilty this time. I didn’t do anything wrong this time. Last time there were extenuating circumstances- that he was under exercised that day, the choke collar he never should have been wearing, the fact that he had that collar on because we hadn’t invested enough time in him to make him manageable without it -the little escape artist. I was rigid with guilt.
Last time he made it back, giving me a second chance, and letting me realize he was important to me to take care of, whether or not I’d chosen him.
Huskies have an interesting nature, among the wildest of dogs, and one of only three talking dog breeds (+Malamute and Samoyed) with vocal range like the wolf all dogs came from. Huskies are a (challenging) combination of wilful (wildness) and desperate desire to please (dogness). Ours had a nature that was simultaneously simple yet dazzlingly clever – porcupines gooooood!, yet in a few minutes HW taught him to “shake off!” before getting in the truck (even I was dazzled).
Some dogs are serenely wise, looking like they gaze into ancient secrets on the horizon. This dog was not one of those. He was like a perma-puppy, easily lost in pure delight. He ran and played with floppy innocent rapture.
I remember: the two winter nights I spent sleeping on the floor rolled in a blanket, because he had flu-like symptoms. We would simultaneously start up from sleep like a shot, leaping up. Both of us would lunge for the door. I’d throw it open and he’d burst out racing a few feet into the woods, then come miserably slinking back in, weary and nauseous. He’d curl back up in his bed and sigh, settling his head or muzzle back on my hand so that we’d wake together again next time (time of the essence), and we’d fall back to sleep until the next urgency. Repeat (hourly). I know what it’s like to have diarrhea and the sick fever-shivers, so I would not put him out in his cold doghouse in that condition. It was a bad couple nights, but I regret nothing.
I remember: parking him firmly on the sidewalk and going into the bank. There was nowhere to tether him so I had to trust him, in the mall parking lot. Passersby melted at the sight of him sitting raptly watching me use the atm through the window.
I had just let him in and let myself love him. Before last year, I couldn’t let myself love him because I didn’t have it in me to fulfill his needs. Initially he was all HW’s dog, but after his last disappearance he became thoroughly mine.
I committed to never leaving him alone, which is a very tall order- to integrate a rambunctious big needy animal into everything you do. Lots of compromise, time and effort. I had to work with him to overcome his phobia of cars, so that I could take him everywhere with me. This started off terribly; I would have to pick him up and deposit him into the vehicle, and he’d whine, writhe and drool miserably. It progressed well though, and turned out very successful and wonderful for both of us, expanding his world and community. I trained him to run with the vehicle up our road for a little exercise when we were coming or leaving, and get back in at the end. I took him to work with me (he loved their cows, and digging treasures from the compost heap). We found all the dog-friendly stores in town and he enthusiastically made friends. He got more activity once we were able to drive anywhere, and he would fall into bed every night. He really, really loved bed. He would start to get testy with us when we stayed up too late, sighing and rolling his eyes at our making noise.
That one thing, always being with him, seemed to instantly resolve most of his personality disorders, so he quickly became a different dog, relaxed and flexible. Now, there’s nowhere I can go where I’m not missing his presence, from the rearview mirror, to work, to the post office. I took him to doggy daycare for other-dog exposure and made strides introducing him to other dogs and socializing him. He was a star at it. Everywhere people admired and gushed over his striking looks, then his manners.
He was such a special dog. The idea that his voice, that terrific self-aware talking that he did, could be extinguished, breaks my heart. I dread that he may have suffered, or was killed, or that he went through anything slow, painful or lonely. He always had a phobia of being tangled, and in the early days would thrash irrationally if he got even a leash under his leg.
Besides losing him as a family member, it’s a loss to the farm- dogs provide numerous services, especially for us buried in the woods. The presence of them puts bears, coyotes, coons, and weasels on notice. It gives the rabbits regular exercise. He slept outside with the weiners until they were big enough to not be threatened by coyotes.
I miss his breathing and sighing at night, sometimes some soft sleep-woofing. We would always be aware of another soul in the house, all of us accounted for and safe, chickens locked up. Now he is not accounted for. His bed is disturbingly vacant. I miss his velvet ears and morning cuddliness. I haven’t seen you all night! Poking his head under my hands No please keep petting.
I never did find a perfect name for him. He came to us as Smokey, which I wasn’t a big fan of. I wanted to rename him after his magical survival last fall, as our relationship was transformed then, and I wanted something to reflect his specialness and my realization of what a gift he was (to remind me daily, constantly, and during long nights of the flu). I never came up with the perfect name, although we played with Snowy, which he readily responded to. We were going with syllabic similarity, for his ease of transition, not like it mattered. A dog that can learn a hundred words can readily adjust to a name change. He already knew that several words, including “him”, and “the dog”, applied to him. His eyebrows would lift at the sound of “dog” and the eyebrows would track our conversation like a tennis match until we moved to another topic. I never minded calling him “dog” because he was thoroughly, supremely Dog – all the good, wild, beautiful traits of dogness. They are a remarkable species, and he was a fine representative of his kind.
My last thought, the last time I saw him, was how much I loved him. It was a sunny, perfect day. He was run, fed, and full of a bone, apparently ready to lie down for a while. His dog smile was beaming as he ran to catch up to me, loping next to me in the woods. I was overcome with it, how much I loved him. Then he snuffled off into some thicker brush, lured by the scent of a rabbit, and I never saw him again.
I searched a little bit for Smokey, but not with the intensity I did on his last disappearance. I was confident this time he was a free agent. He left wearing a loose nylon harness he could easily slip out of – he did it regularly, I knew he could, and I felt comfortable knowing he could never be trapped by it (exactly how I wanted it after the choke collar incident). A dog can travel huge distances, making the potential area impractical to search. I imagined the trouble he could get into- hit on the road, shot for a coyote, trapped in a forgotten snare, but knew that he could be anywhere, far away, getting into those troubles, and I would not be able to find him. I walked locally, calling him, confident also that he could respond if he could hear me. I walked part of my nearest neighbour’s property, knowing he’s a hunter and suspecting there may be snares, although he had assured me that all his snares were taken up in March.
On June 5 this neighbour (a hunting camp, not a residence) called to say he’d found our dog. It had gotten “hung up on a branch” with his harness, and hadn’t been there very long, “maybe two weeks”. He told me where I could find him, on his property, just a few hundred meters from our property line. Smokey’s body was well into decomposition, but it was unquestionably him. The decay was central to his neck, and his head was completely separated from his body, resting in an anatomically impossible position, while vertebrae were visible in his torso . A small circle around him was cleared of vegetation or anything loose and the ground was packed down hard, with roots exposed and his hair ground into the dirt. I noticed that while the small trees around him were rubbed smooth, the stick that his harness was looped around had bark on it. Indeed, the bark was flaking off. The stick was dead, about an inch and quarter diameter. This was closely followed by the realization that the stick was only superficially poked into the ground, and (we matched up the broken piece) broken off of an adjacent tree. Besides already knowing that he could have easily slipped out of his harness, now we knew for sure there was no chance at all that he had died as a result of this stick and his harness.
The hearsay, other circumstantial evidence that he was intentionally killed is even more damning, but… it’s hearsay and circumstantial so I won’t get into it here.
On June 6 we collected his body and buried it with his favorite squirrel toy.
My grief and guilt – knowing that my beautiful dog was so close, that I had not quite walked to the right place, that he held on to life for weeks waiting for help, and that he died such a cruel, miserable death – is gigantic.
Should anyone want to do their own analysis, photos of the scene are in the post that has been password protected. The password is Smokey. The pictures are gruesome.