Editor’s note: Chewy, that rascal of a dog, left this world Sept. 2, 2014. Our final goodbye was on a Saturday previous to that date, which was also Labor Day weekend. Although I did not know it then. The final parting of my loyal companion and friend whose trust was earned over time was not ideal nor compassionate. And it could have been. He deserved more. Death is part of life, something anyone who has lived with horses and dogs and companion animals will know. The end is part of the cycle. With the tools a caring professional brings to a suffering animal and his owner, the letting go can be the beginning of a journey of healing. Without that gift and a goodbye with integrity and love, a painful and raw wound results. Choices add up and really do matter.
Note: Part of the following was written before that severing.
One Remarkable Dog
A faithful companion, he came into my life like a tornado when he was already 9. This Boston terrier discovers more on every walk than any human could (well, almost anyone).
“Black walnut – the words themselves have the ring of quality like sterling silver, hand-carved, virgin wool, bone china, genuine leather, pure gold . . . and a few other terms used to distinguish what is rarest and best in our catalog of material treasures.
“Only a persistent few people ever progress to the cracking of that very tough nut, and many even scuttle the project at that stage. As rare as the nut meat itself is the heroic individual who finally emerges with it.”
A tough nut to crack? When we first met, that sure could describe Chewy. “That dog is crazy” is often what people would say after meeting him for the first time. He bounded along the top of couches and barked incessantly. Attacked the gas pump fueling nozzle with ferocious vengeance behind the glass of the Jeep, slobbering and slathering spittle as he raged on and on. If he could reach the hose he would grab on and shake it like a snake, racka-racka-rack. I only made the mistake once, fearing he would puncture the steel-reinforced tube. In time, that reaction moderated – but never went completely away. He just learned to trust me and learn that I would not ever tease him or provoke the madness someone did along the way before he and I joined lives.
But persistence and determination can reveal much for those with the patience to listen to the nonverbal ways animals communicate. There is such depth and loudness to behavior for those with insight and observational aptitude. Maybe that is a gift.
As some horses and dogs are tough to understand, to reveal the inner being, a person has to really listen, and I mean with your heart wide open. Routine helps, but true trust must be earned. There are no shortcuts. An animal others have mishandled never forgets teasing or cruelty whether intentional or not. Forward, always forward will work wonders.
Chewy loved to swim, play, go for a walk. He surprised me early on when we visited Fort Trumbull in New London. From a sitting position, he leapt what seemed to be four feet in the air to land on a deeply recessed window ledge at the fort. He was delighted by my reaction. No one else was around to share the sight, nor was it possible to capture the action on a video. Once I learned this ability though, Chewy would happily “hup” to leap to high places to sit or pose for the camera. A natural model, the camera loved him. Here he is on Moo Dog Knits.
The dog could gallop like a pony. Once when a sliding door was missing its screen, he discovered the opportunity and took off for a tour of the woods. Acres and acres of trees and valleys connecting to power lines and trails. All I saw was a black-and-white streak way off down the hill. Lord, I thought, this dog is gone. There was no catching him and his intent was full forward with no response to whistles and calls. Ten minutes later, he returned and was lapping up water in the kitchen. Loudly. The water went all over the floor. I didn’t care, he was back and all in one piece. He put up with my hugging him and crying happy tears, then wanted a nap.
The white of his left eye had a slight shadow of a cast to it. The story was that a snake had bitten him there when he was a youngster. Was the tale true? There is no way of ever knowing. And his tongue would hang out of the left side of his mouth. His tongue had a healed gash in it that predated our time together. The nub that was his tail was fused and could not wag, but Chewy certainly could loudly tell a person he was happy. And did.
Chewy was especially gentle with children, babies, people with mileage on them. He loved to entertain by performing tricks – not only sit, lay down, paw, and bang bang (lie prone only long enough to gain a treat), but also sing – to the delight of my late mother. She would start the song and he glance back and forth at anyone watching. First he would first croak and murr, then croon a strange and tuneful accompaniment with her. Only she could get him to actually “sing” and not burst into a barking session. When her life was gone, he would humor me if asked to sing, but his heart wasn’t in it anymore.
Chewy had a wealth of hidden talents that took patience to reveal. This athletic Boston terrier had a heart of solid gold under layers of his quirks and naughty ways. Intelligent and hyper-aware he entertained as he lived life at 110 percent.
He was not one for lovey-dovey hugs and kisses, though he would tolerate them and loudly snortle in response. Many times, he’d jump down and saunter off to burrow under covering on another bed or the couch. And meant nothing personal by the action, it was part of life on his terms and I respected that.
On that last visit I ever got with him, he was sedated but worked himself over to me across the table and gave a full hug with his head and body. Only when looking back do I hear his goodbye.