Thursday, February 22, 2007

Goodbye, old friend

My loyal friend Duchess, a Rottweiler, was born in December of 1997. I bought her at a breeder's booth in Jacksonville in February of 1998. She was the "runt" of her litter, weighing a mere 7 lbs. at 13 weeks of age.

Her first five minutes in her new home were traumatic for her, as she proceeded to get her ass kicked by Buddy, the 12-year-old clawless cat. Later in Duchess' life, when she was big enough to literally eat Buddy, she still recalled her thrashing as a puppy and avoided Buddy like the plague. Of course, they eventually became friends.

Duchess loved playing fetch. Duchess loved car rides, and it didn't matter what kind of vehicle you wanted to take her in: car, van, SUV, Yugo, whatever. Duchess loved everyone, man, and child...defying the media-fed stereotypes of the Rottweiler as a devil dog. The mailman loved her. The neighborhood kids loved her. Hell, everyone did.

When my grandfather passed away in February 2000, a co-worker of mine (whom I had only known for about three months) reluctantly agreed to watch her and my other Rottie while I went out of state to the funeral. Bill told me that the dogs made great chick magnets, as he took them for a ride in his Pontiac Sunfire up to his taekwando dojo.

Duchess was obedient and knew several commands: sit, stay, down, come here, paw, speak, heel, and "crate" (she slept in a dog crate), as well as a couple of tricks like "Bang" (she'd drop like she was dead) and "high five" (she'd throw her paw up high to touch your palm). She loved chasing squirrels, and she once mauled a black racer in my backyard. On the rare occasion she got to experience snow, she bit at the snowflakes as they fell from they sky, mistaking them for dog treats, I assume.

Duchess was loyal and affectionate. When my life was turned upside-down a few years ago (those closest to me probably know what I'm talking about), it was nice to have her wanting to play fetch, wanting to lie down on me (all 120 lbs. of her), wanting to go for a walk with me. She made a great temporary distraction from things that were troubling me.

Duchess lived a full life, experiencing much love and happiness. I was blessed enough to have had her as my dog. But all good things must come to an end, and as a result of declining health that culminated with severe renal failure, Duchess' dignity needed to be preserved. I consulted with the vet to see what the options were, and they were few and unpromising. She was euthanized today, ending her suffering but beginning mine. However, I loved that dog too much to keep her alive for my selfish reasons.

I've heard it said that dogs are like kids. With all due respect to dog owners current and former, I respectfully disagree. Dogs are not like kids. Dogs may indeed be a part of the family (Lord knows Duchess was a part of mine), but they aren't like kids. See, barring any horrible tragedy, the vast majority of kids outlive their parents. Most parents will never have to experience the pain of losing a child, and most parents get to spend several decades with their kids before the parents die. We have but a few short years to spend with our canine companions. Dogs are like kids? In my view, I don't think so. Dogs are like family? Absolutely. I know one family that is feeling a big loss right now as a result of a dog's death.

Rest in peace, Duchess. I thank God for the wonderful memories you left me. Suffer no more, my friend.

Duchess: December 1997 - February 2007