A little more than five years ago, the Mister came home beaming. “We found a dog today!”
I’m ashamed to admit that I was reluctant to be a dog owner again. Dogs break my heart. But four sets of eyes looked at me pleadingly, and the next thing I knew I was standing in the careworn lobby of Animal Control. We walked through the rows of kennels, and with each step I willed myself not to fall in love, to be kind but firm. This was a dog for the children. Finally, we stopped at the kennel of a staggeringly thin collie, and the attendant opened the door. The dog slowly walked out to the tiny yard, so that we could get acquainted. She seemed reserved. And kind of old. And, of course, she had all the usual problems of a dog that’s been living on the street. Again four sets of pleading eyes bore into me, and I agreed. We put our name on the list and went home to wait the required 10 days. She appeared to be a purebred collie, and I thought perhaps she might be claimed.Ten days later, we got the call. In a couple of days we could pick her up after the required vet visit. She was in sad shape and clearly would need a lot of attention and love. I--of the steely resolve to merely care for the dog but not fully love her--met briefly with the doctor who told me he wasn’t able to spay her as she was still producing milk. “Poor thing’s lost a litter of pups somewhere.” And, then, of course, all bets were off.
She was fed good food and gained 20 pounds in about a month. I brushed her daily. She was walked regularly. She learned to play Frisbee, and what a sight to see her bounding across the green lawn. Her manners were impeccable. And wherever we went, which was a lot of places, people said, “Oh, what a beautiful dog.”
I don’t know why, but she loved me best right from the start. One of her most endearing traits to me was that no matter where she was sitting or who was petting her, when I came into the room, she would watch to see where I sat, then come to be at my feet.
She began to decline last summer. Increasingly, she struggled to get up and down. Collies are a stoic breed, but the medicine no longer seemed to be enough. She lost her appetite. Several weeks ago, we noticed that her tail wasn’t wagging, and she barely took notice of our comings and goings, although she still made her way to my side each night.
She was terrified of thunderstorms, and in years past the Mister and I spent many summer nights calming her. Only a few days ago, thunder shook the house, and she didn’t even wake. A day or two later, the Mister made the call.
The Mister and Middle took Marian to the park this morning while it was still cool. She was able to walk a little way before flopping down beneath a tree. Our kind vet met them there and administered the injection. The Mister said she didn’t even flinch.
We buried her body on her favorite dog bed near the creek behind our house, which is where she loved to explore when she was still spry. I loved looking down from the deck and seeing her white ruff amid all the green of the leaves and brush. This fall, we’ll plant a dogwood tree there to remember her.
[She] possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.
--John Cam Hobhouse
My dear old dog, most constant of all friends.
--William Croswell Doane
For the soul of every living thing is in the hand of God.
Good dog, Marian. Stay.