Missy wasn't much of a dog. She was ungainly when running. It wasn't so much a run as a lopsided chugging. She also wasn't much of a looker. She had these tufts of hair coming out of her paws that made her look like some kind of canine leprechaun and her coat was a sprinkling of gray on black mixed with brown. Her tail and butt had a wispy mane that had to be cut every so often that made her look downright ridiculous. Her character also had some flaws. Her idea of adventure was a long nap. If asked to do something outside the routine she would handle the stress by relieving herself. Riding in the truck was a major emotional pull from her normalcy that evoked shivers and nervous salivating. She was a veritable spigot. I always used a towel for her to ride on, not to catch the hair but to sop all the drool. 12 years ago or so, did I mention she was a mutt of unknown origin or species, she wormed her way into our lives. And I mean literally. But I digress. Nancy and I (mostly me) had wanted a dog. With two small kids and a big house I wanted one for pleasure and company. Nancy wanted one for security and protection. We tried a couple dogs but generally our search was unsuccessful. One got off the leash and was run over (no one seemed really disturbed by it). One was so wild and dumb we took it back after a week or so. OK, we tried, did our best, and decided to forget the whole thing.
That is until Mackenzie wanted one. My previous attempts pretty much did me in: too much work, and trouble. Guess I got that out of my system so I decided: no more mutts. Kenze was around 11 or 12 and started working on her mother. Smart girl. Nancy could never say no to the kids, so one day, Kenzie got her Mother to go with her to the pound. I didn't know it yet, but we would soon be getting a new member of the family. It was Saturday if I remember correctly. I gave them both pleading reminders that I would NOT be the sole feeder/walker/poop cleaner of anything they brought home. I think I also gave them a final desperate “command” NOT to do what they were Hell-bent on doing. As they were pulling out of the driveway I was on the front steps, and according to family lore, weeping in defeat.
When the car pulled up after rescuing this prize, out bounded this year old scrawny Aussie Shepherd mutt with worms, irritable bowels and a seemingly skittish fright of large male humans. OK, so it didn't like me, that's OK because I didn't want you either. After we got the ground rules laid out with the ladies, such as who will feed it(Mackenzie said “I will.”), pick up after it (Mackenzie said “I will.”), bath it (Mackenzie said “I will.) and take it to the vets (Nancy said “I will”), I decided that my role in this will be minimal. That was akin to Captain Smith saying, “...what can that little iceberg do to this unsinkable ship?” Oh, and she had worms...bad.
This pathetic excuse for a dog was named “Missy” and it wasn't long before I was spending an awful lot of time with this mutt. I thought the name was too prissy. I envisioned this dog as a mighty hunter, a fierce defender of the family, a majestic reminder of the truly great dogs of history like Lassie, Rin-Tin-Tin and Old Yeller. She was de-wormed and began to display a good appetite, a trait that she sustained all of her life. It soon became apparent that we didn't own a hunter, defender or majestic Lassie. What we had was a very very nice dog who barked, or rather yodeled, at something and then came running to me for protection. Her motto was, “When In Doubt...Pee”. She didn't like car rides, adventure, or the mailman. Oh yes, she barked at the doorbell, strangers and the moon, but for the most part she was a peace-loving mutt who preferred food, naps and walks.
She was never put in dog-obedience because she didn't need it. Rarely straying from her yard she was self-taught and self-trained to stay close to home. Occasionally neighbors would tempt her with fish or other scrumptious canine cuisine, and off we would go trying to find her but for the most part she did her business and then sat on the front porch waiting to be let in.
The years passed and if I was on the main floor she was my shadow. I could only escape her if I went upstairs (she was too scared to navigate the steps, I guess), or down to the basement. She honed her particular behaviors (begging, yodeling, shedding) to an art. She was on a diet for years and also developed a heart problem that necessitated the reduction of strenuous exercise. We played tag, she fetched sticks, we played hide-and-seek, and seemed always to spoon with me when I watched TV on the floor.
People ask where the time goes. I know where it goes. Each day we get up and begin navigating the the course of the day to get the maximum pleasure while obeying all the rules of job, family and life's necessary obligations. If we are lucky we go to bed at night having won the fight with as few scars as possible. One day after another, fighting the small battles and usually navigating around the icebergs that float in our way. There is no big plan, no master scheme...just small everyday things that either give pleasure, or give pain. Missy was one of the small things that came into our lives and gave me pleasure. Her big brown soulful eyes, her herding me away from the others so she wouldn't have to share, her constant companionship and loyalty that made her pretty darn majestic after all.
“...As you got older you moved around more slowly. Then,
one day, old age finally took its toll. I knelt down and patted
you lying there, trying to make you young again. You just
looked up at me as if to say you were old and tired and after
all these years of not asking for anything, you had to ask me
one last favor.
With tears in my eyes I drove you one last time to the vet. One
last time you were lying next to me.
As the vet led you away, you stopped for an instant, turned
your head and looked at me as if to say, “Thank you for
taking care of me.”
I thought, “No. Thank you for taking care of me.”
Old Ann Landers Article
One last word of farewell, Dear Master. Whenever you visit
my grave, say to yourself with regret but also happiness in
your heart at the remembrance of my long happy life with you.
“Here lies one who loved us and whom we loved.” No matter
how deep my sleep, I shall hear you, and not all the power
of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail.
A friend stopped by the other day and he was feeling very
blue. “I had to put old Tuff down.” he explained. “It broke
my heart to do it. I'll never forget the way he looked at me.
But it was time and I think he knew it.”
“Tuff was a good dog,” I agreed. “He lived a long time
“Fifteen years,” he replied. “Found him when he was a pup.
We had a lot of good times together. I'm sure gonna miss that
It was a soulful tale, told from the heart and made me want
to cry; 'bout a man and his dog, an' best friends and parting,
about having to say “good-bye”.
He wrapped old Tuff in a blanket, he said, and buried him
under a tree; on a hill overlooking a sunlit meadow, where
the wildflowers bloom in the spring.
Place became hallowed, a good dog lies here, 'though his
spirit still romps and plays; green be the grass above thee,
friend of my better days.
After a while he fell silent. And so we sat quietly. Lost in
dreams of times gone by, of dogs and long summer days.
Good bye, Missy, old friend, and thanks for everything.