Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Tribute

This past Friday night, my girlfriend and I opened a bottle of Champagne and toasted the passing of a good friend.

We were drinking to the memory of my German shepherd, Sully. Sully passed away early Friday morning, and I dedicated the weekend to celebrating his life.

If you’re the type of person who can’t understand why someone would grieve for a dog, you can stop reading right now. But if you’ve ever loved a dog (or other pet) and made them a part of your family, I hope you’ll indulge me a little.

Sully was a big, furry mess of a dog. In his prime, he topped out at 110 pounds with a cinder block of a head. He was bigger-than-life in every respect: big in size, big in appetite and big on enthusiasm.

When he was younger, Sully was an impressive dog—agile, powerful, regal and, for some people, frightening. I never worried about my safety when Big Sully was around. He provided security for countless late-night wine drinking sessions. Even as an old man, he got plenty of respect.

He was also surly, incorrigible, bull-headed and had a host of other behavioral problems. Quite a few people got a warning nip when they didn’t show Sully the reverence he felt he deserved. He and I quarreled up to his final days, neither one of us willing to submit to the other’s dominance.

We spent more than a decade together. He saw me through marriage and divorce, the opening and closing of a business, and all the other highs and lows of my life. We grew up together, in many ways, as I was only in my early twenties when I brought him home as a puppy.

Like many big dogs, his health declined as he got older. Progressive Retinal Atrophy took his vision over the span of a couple years. His hips were giving out. Nagging health problems became more and more troublesome, and his once-large frame started to wither. Our walks became shorter (and slower, which he loved).

His mind was the next to go. He became increasingly disoriented and forgetful. The combination of vision loss and general confusion earned him the affectionate nickname, "Mr. Magoo."

He took all the physical changes in stride, and it never seemed to get him down. In his confused mind, everything was great. His great joys in life were food (especially crispy, grilled chicken skins), lying on the front porch and the endless stream of treats provided by my girlfriend.

His final days were sad (for us), but peaceful (for him). He never complained and his spirit never wavered. Even on his last night on the porch—when I had to carry him to his favorite spot—he held his head high and seemed as happy as ever.

In the early hours of the next morning, he slipped away. He died surrounded by the people and the dog (my other dog and his lifelong girlfriend) who loved him most. We should all be so lucky.

He’ll be greatly missed. There’s a big empty space on my porch and in my heart.


Paige said...

I understand, it will get easier, but you will always miss him. I miss my Butch, even after 18 years. He appears in my dreams somtimes & I can feel him jumping on the bed & curling up next my feet. He brings comfort when I seem to need it most.
I'm sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

Sully will be missed by all of us who live and frequent the porches on Park street. Nothing better than getting pushed aruound a bit by him when we were drinking, a little too much wine, at your house.

KW said...

I'm so sorry to hear that Sully has seen his last days on this earth. I sure loved him when he was a pup.

I'll drink somthing funky for him tonight.