A Dog's Life
~ Chaps, our dear dog, died yesterday.
So keen is our grief that it is hard to describe, and almost unbearably sad to write. A good friend and fellow entrepreneur, in speaking of the passing of a loved one, has always prayed: "May his memory be eternal." Those are wise and heartfelt words, and there is no doubt his memory will be such in the recall of my family and all who knew him. And also in my mind, and in my heart.
Chaps had great character. Unfailingly friendly, he barked little, but would always respond to the question: "Do you love me?" with a woofy yes. He was the Big Dog, the Hound "El Grande", and engendered his own superlatives: he was houndelicious and hounderrific (a hound terrific). When he was happy, he showed it not just by smiling and wagging his tail, but also by sneezing. And sneezing. he's the only dog I've ever known who sneezed when he was happy.
Chaps was born on Saint Valentine's Day, 2001. We first saw him as a puppy, carried on stage at the Humane Society's annual charity auction fundraiser, Tuxes and Tails. Along with a half dozen of his brothers and sisters, he was presented by impossibly buff, shirtless firefighters to a full room of adoring animal lovers. (The opportunity to be a celebrity judge for the annual firefighters calendar was another popular auction item that evening.) We were told he was a Rottweiler and Shepherd mix, but the shape of his head always suggested he had some Labrador in him too, and his curiously spotted tongue was much like that of a Chow.
He was a remarkably gentle and loving dog. Sometimes strangers, obviously unfamiliar with dogs, would see his Rottweiler coloring and, quite simply, panic. One woman, shrieking the whole time, even tried to climb a tree. Chaps, tail wagging, looked at her, and back at us, perplexed. All he ever wanted was to make friends.
he would share with his good friend Jag.
He loved a scratch around the ears; what dog doesn't? He also loved his back scratched, and the top of his nose. Most of all, he loved a good chest rub, and would strain his head skyward for as long as you would massage his big barrel of a chest.
He didn't bark much, but it sounded ferocious when he did. No burglar got past the bark to find out there was no bite. Get the family singing or carrying on, however, and he'd bark right along with the rest of us.
When the deer got into the rose bushes, she would call him and say: "Who's out there? Who? Go get 'em!" and he would be out the door like a torpedo, scattering the foolish herd.
Soon he even learned to spell, as saying "W-A-L-K" would tip him off that an outing was afoot. He was a great walker, and he and I had any number of pleasant outings ourselves.
Still, he lived for his walks, to sniff everything (he was a great sniffer), to greet everyone, to feel the wind in his fur, and to ensure that no rabbits remained unchased or squirrels without a good barking-to.
And he was.
We would sit and watch a movie, eating popcorn. One for me, one for you, one lofted towards Chaps, who usually caught it out of the air before it hit the ground. He was ready for the next one before he had swallowed the first.
She would gave him a dog cookie, holding it up (as she had learned from us) and saying "Who's the best dog?" at which he would bark in the affirmative and scarf it down.
If you asked him a question, he would tilt his head sideways as if to say: "What? Really? I'm all ears." He had the softest ears that never changed from when he was a puppy. They were like the finest velvet.
His decline was sudden and shockingly rapid.
Five days ago he went for his usual walk. Returning home after being out for dinner, we let him outside, and he couldn't get back up the stairs. The next day he couldn't take the stairs at all, and needed to be carried. The next day he couldn't walk, and couldn't get up, or lie down without yelping in great pain.
The first vet thought he had torn his ACL, but the second gave us the grim truth: bone cancer. All through his hips. Chaps was never a complainer, and carried on living his life how he wanted, doing what made life a joy for him, and brought joy to those around him. Only when the pain got to be too much did he reluctantly let us know he could go no further.
I was with him to the end, stroking his head and his impossibly soft ears, and telling him what all who knew him already knew:
"You're the best dog."
2/14/01 - 6/30/12