ON A PERSONAL NOTE/By Maramis
It’s been a long time since I had what I could call my own dog. And I’m not even sure I ever did. However, we always had a family dog when I was growing up, and for some reason, one I especially loved was our Black cocker spaniel, Yankee Duke, that I decided to paint. He never actually posed for me, but I managed to paint his portrait anyway.
Don’t ask me why I felt so inspired to do that since I wasn’t a natural-born artist and that was the first painting I ever did.
Nonetheless, I was rather proud of it and gave it to my mother for a gift. She hung it in the bathroom. Heaven only knows whatever happened to that oil painting, but I never lost any sleep over it. It may still exist out there somewhere. Anyway, since that time, when I was about 10, it was back-to-back dogs all the way up to yesterday.
We always had dogs for our children when they were growing up, and since they were family pets, I didn’t consider them my dogs. Chances are, the children all considered them theirs.
When my oldest son was about 13, we had a Black Labrador that my son felt especially attached to, and he also had a bike. He used to ride his bike to go get the mail a bit down the way. We lived in the Adirondack Mountains, on a long, winding country road in a very small town — I’d be surprised if there were even 500 people there then. There’s barely 700 today.
Well, he always went alone, and there was very little traffic. I was never terribly concerned about his safety because he was extremely careful and loved to ride down to the little and only post office in town, just about a quarter of a mile from our house. Then one day he asked if he could take Mac along with him (Mac was his nickname for our dog, MacGregor) and I said yes. And as you have already surmised, that was the day I wished I said no. A wild, fast-driving out-of-towner, who didn’t know about Mac possibly being on the road, zoomed on by around the curve in the road and hit him. He died instantly. My son still thinks of him and misses him after all these years. I do too.
Well, back to the present regarding the dogs in my life. While all my children always loved dogs, my daughter became something of a non-stop dog mother. She may well have had about 17, 18, or even more dogs that I know of, and even had eight at one time. She collected them like she was a dog magnet: one was left to her in a will; one was left behind when the person she bought her house from just left him tied to the front door post; another dog was given to her by someone in a grocery store whose dog just had puppies, another one was given to her because the divorcing couple couldn’t decide who should get custody, and so on. Then the grocery store puppy became a mommy dog less than a year later, and on and on it went.
Well fast forward to when I moved out here into my own apartment behind my daughter’s house. At that time, she had that mommy dog and three of her puppies still living with her. They were corgis, and mommy was the smallest of them all. Apparently a corgi’s lifespan might only be about 11 years, and while my daughter is absolutely the best dog mother you would ever want to meet, when their turn came around, each of those wonderful dogs, with totally different personalities from each other, grew older and suffered from the kind of problems that that breed of dog usually has, and passed away, one dog at a time, until only LaLa, the one that seemed to like me the best, was left.
One day she just collapsed on the floor, with no warning. We took her to the vet and he just said she’ll probably not make it through the night. My daughter had learned something new since her other dogs had died and tried it on LaLa for the first time. It was a Chinese kind of treatment, using minerals. The next day, she was up on her feet and seeming almost totally back to her old self.
While the vet could not believe that could be then, he was even more surprised yesterday when we had to take LaLa in for her final sleep, and he checked the records and saw that she had turned 17 earlier this year.
Absolutely nobody could ever take better care of a dog than my daughter. LaLa wasn’t the first dog that she brought back from the brink of death. Even though LaLa’s older (by only minutes) brother, Bomber, died of Corgi complications, he also lived way beyond what the vet predicted for him — six years longer!
Caring for dogs is a serious responsibility and a lot of work. But when you really love a dog, you don’t mind. Every dog is like your child and whatever it takes, you do, with so much love and caring that the dog feels every bit of that love. And when it’s time for them to go, they take that last bit of love with them, as LaLa did yesterday, as she lay her head down in my daughter’s lap, and with that last heaving sigh, peacefully moved on to where all good doggies go.
Better a thousand tears over a dog at the end than to miss out on all the love they brought to your heart in even one day while they were with you.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.