Well… I lost my best dog, Dexter, yesterday.
I’m not quite ready to talk about it although I have come to terms with it.
I will say that I’ve known this was coming. I have been preparing for his departure since I started seeing the signs… he went deaf, he began walking like a very old dog and his eyes grew that bluish haze of elder statesman. He remained sharp and his mind was active. But, I knew he was slowly dying.
I just didn’t realize it would happen so fast.
Luckily, I told him I loved him every single day of his dastardly doggie life.
He was the most charming bad dog – ever.
THE DAY HE CAME HOME
The day he came home over 13 years ago, Dex’s attitude was, “I’m the puppy, gotta love me…”.
And he was right.
Puppy Dex was an Australian Kelpie at my local no-kill shelter. He was adorable – conformed as if he was constructed from parts of 6 or 8 different dogs. He had straight up ears – except for when one flopped. His nose was long yet his head was square. He had a body like a mac truck with slender sinewy legs. At the rear, a very long, strong tail. As he grew up, he looked like a dingo cattle dog from hell with a twinkle in his eye and a computer for a brain.
Dexter was a very unusual dog… His devotion was beyond words, yet he left the premises every chance he got. He loved to travel. The grass was perpetually greener – there was always something to do and to learn on the outside. The boy could scale a 6′ chain link fence, run for a day and saunter back in as if to say, “What? I’m fine. Shhuh. I protect you, I can take care of myself.”
He was a cool cucumber with the face of an angel. Girls who met him, melted. He was the bad-boy charmer that you hope your daughter never brings home because you know he is no good but you won’t be able to help yourself from loving him…
That was Dex.
He loved me. I knew he loved me. But, he never, ever, not once, ever licked me.
That would have been beneath us both.
HUBBY writes a tribute for Dex
Hubby wanted to write a tribute to Dex… Here you go:
I woke up suddenly at 3am, a common occurrence, and ran through the typical reasons in my head. The recurring Iraq dream? One too many glasses of wine? Worries about my job? Worries about my girls? Ah, that’s right, I have to take Dexter in. I lay in the dark, thinking that this would be the first time since Iraq that I’d be looking at the Reaper right in the face, by myself.
It had been a bad day in the Harrison household. Dawn came in from feeding looking distraught and said Dexter was very sick. He didn’t seem to be able to eat or drink without vomiting, and seemed to be in a lot of pain. We headed off to the only vet in the area that is open on Sundays. They checked him out, took some x-rays, and shrugged their shoulders, saying, “We’ll have the radiologist look over the films and let you know.” We drove back home, and Dexter vomited in the car. Later, the vet called with the worst possible news: it looked like a bowel obstruction.
Dexter was not the kind of dog that you would call “good.” He was a Kelpie, an Australian breed used as cattle dogs and known for their intelligence and problem-solving skills. Those qualities in a dog can be positively aggravating. No fence could hold him if he wanted what was on the other side. Even when he was old and arthritic, his constant goal was to explore farther, go somewhere he hadn’t been before. He could be absolutely ruthless. Neighborhood dogs lived only at his mercy. He stalked and killed countless raccoons, turkeys, skunks, coyotes… You get the picture. When Dawn talked to the animal psychic about our new llama, the communicator mentioned that there was a BAD DOG stalking the llama, and it made her very nervous. “Ha!” I said to Dawn. “Even the pet psychic knows your dog is bad!”
One day, when we were living in Santa Cruz, I came home to find Dawn talking to a salesman that had a refrigerated truck. They were joking and laughing, and Dawn told me about the fantastic deal she had just gotten: $500 for a freezer full of meat! The guy eventually excused himself and drove off. Once he was gone, Dawn collapsed on my shoulder, crying and telling me how afraid she was that the guy was going to sue us, so she bought all that cheap, low quality meat to placate him. It turns out that he had come through the (closed) gates to our front door and had been bitten on the leg by some black dog that had silently stalked him, attacked, and ran off. Hmmm… I’ll give you one guess as to who that stealth biter might have been.
Dawn loved him like he was her child. He would disappear for days, and she would be beside herself. When he finally came limping back (or we got a call from someone miles away who had found him), she treated him as the returning prodigal son. She hated it when Dex would kill some poor animal, but never did anything to punish him for it. I have to admit, sometimes I felt a pang of jealousy when it seemed like she was more concerned about Dex than me or our daughters. Like the criminal who loves no one but his mother, he adored Dawn. Nothing could ever compare to Dawn and his love for her.
So it came as kind of a surprise when this distasteful job fell to me. When Dawn told me about the bad news from the vet, I offered, not really expecting her to take me up on it. I think she thought that he would somehow be okay, at least until later. Maybe after preparing herself for the worst the day before, she was holding on to anything that might have pointed to a better outcome. I told her I would take him to the vet, without really talking about what the result would be. I just went and did. What I did not realize until I was there in the exam room is just how difficult it would really be.
It wouldn’t be correct to call our relationship a love-hate one, more like a stepfather-stepson. I would get so aggravated with Dex sometimes — he was a horrible influence on my dog. Shiva, never the sharpest knife in the drawer, was all too willing to go along when Dex decided it was time to explore the next hill over. We had collars embroidered with our phone number for the two of them, and that was how we ended up meeting many of our neighbors. There was the time they ended up at a nearby vineyard (we joined the wine club), or when the people behind us up the hill found them (they are some of our best friends now), or the neighbor that we met when he and Dawn were simultaneously putting up “Lost Dog” flyers (or rather, she with a Lost Dog and he with a Found Dog). Dex was the first of Dawn’s animals to accept me, the newcomer, and he taught me a great deal about being an animal owner. When Dawn and I were still dating, and the mastiffs and the horses all hated me, Dex decided I was okay. I was still working through a lot of issues I had following my time at war and Dexter helped, introducing me to to the absolutely unconditional love that dogs have, guiding me to my own dog. Dex was aggravating, to be sure, but he was, like every dog, absolutely honest, honorable, and true.
After a couple of hours lying awake in bed, I went ahead and got up. Dawn and I both wandered around the house like poorly constructed robots, not wanting to be aware of what was going to happen. When Dex went outside, it was all too apparent. He drank too much water, vomited it up, and fell over. With a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, I hefted him into the back of the car and drove to the vet. In too much pain to stand anymore, he splayed out on the floor in the waiting room, but was too proud to whimper. After I carried him into the exam room and placed him on a blanket, he looked up at me. Not pleading (he would never, ever beg), but asking me: Can you do something about this?
It was then that I nearly lost it. I called Dawn at work and said, “I need to know I’m doing the right thing.” I knew the answer, but it was good to hear her say it. Shortly afterwards, the vet came in with a large syringe filled with pink liquid.
Then I actually did lose it. Wracked with sobs, I held him close and listened to his breath. He didn’t flinch when the needle went in. I whispered in his ear, “Good boy, Dex. Momma and I love you. You are a very. Very. Good. Boy.” Dexter, ever the stoic, let out a deep sigh, as if he had found relief at last. Then he was gone. I stayed with him for a few minutes after the vet left, not wanting to leave but knowing that it was time. I covered him with the blanket and turned off the light.
I will miss him very much.
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