Sunday, March 8, 2009

Something's Missing

It's just so damn quiet in this house these past few days. Last Saturday, I awakened to the sound of ferocious barking. There must have been barbarians at the door, or squirrels on the telephone line that crosses my yard. My dog had a hair-raising bark that gave fair warning to any who stood on his property. I miss the noise. I particularly miss the nightly ear rubs and his quiet moans and sighs of contentment. Oh! This is so hard that at times, it takes my breath away. My routines with him are broken, and so is my heart. For a couple of hours at a time, I'm OK, then I see something that reminds me of him, like these photos on my camera, and the next thing I know, I'm blubbering like a baby.


When we got Duke, it was really a poodle I wanted. A standard sized, fluffy black poodle. I'm not one to dress up a dog, or shave its hair in odd ways. I love the look of standard poodles with their fur all grown out, and generally speaking, this is a smart breed and easy to train. My son, who was a shy 11 year old at the time, told me, "if you get a poodle, I won't love it." I believed him, and researched hard for something else. I didn't want to risk getting a dog he couldn't love-or break an 11 year old boy's heart. It wasn't long before we were all piled in a car driving west to go meet our newest family member. He was from a large litter of very active pups, all of them barking, scratching to get out of their barn, and taken as a group, a little overwhelming. My son, delighted by all of the racket, sat in the middle of this melee of puppies, and was completely bewitched by the pup who climbed onto his lap and promptly fell asleep. There was no bartering, and no begging; it was a done deal from that moment forth.


Training this dog was difficult. He was not one to tolerate a crate, and when jailed in this manner, the entire neighborhood could hear his complaints. As much as I researched this breed, for some reason, I must have missed the part about their genetic issues. I think he had most of them. I missed the part about the chewing too.  It was incredible to watch him chew toys and watch him use his paws like he had hands with opposable thumbs.  He could untie the thickest of dog ropes with his teeth.  He didn't chew the ropes until he had them untied.  This boy chewed anything and everything in his path, but had a special hankering for expensive shoes.  Not everyone's shoes, just mine.  One day, I remember yelling at him over one particular shoe he chewed, long after the deed was done, and just like that, he never chewed another pair. It was as though something clicked and he finally got the message.

In his prime, this dog reached nearly 150 pounds.  He was huge.  When he was about 8 months old, I went out of town, and when I came home, it was like I was seeing this giant with new eyes.  It seemed that overnight, his chest had become massive in size, and finally looked to be in proportion to those long, long legs.  Maybe I was just seeing him with fresh eyes after a trip, but truly, I think he grew to immense size while I was away.  With his great stature, this dog was almost regal in his behavior.  He would go for walks around the neighborhood as though he owned it, and one of the few dogs he ever barked at was the Great Dane who lived a half a mile away.  It was no coincidence that the dog he chose to bark at was the only one bigger than him.    With the exception of Mr. Farmer's Kerry Blue Terrier, Duke never barked at other dogs.  He hated that terrier, almost as much as he hated the farmer behind us.

While other dogs avoided her, Duke loved Rachel unconditionally. They had a symbiotic relationship-she had the food, and by default, so did he. If she had something in her hand that he wanted, he would just take it from her. He never snapped at it, he just pulled it away from her, then she'd pat him on the head and go and get them more to eat. I was unsuccessful breaking the habit of him taking advantage of the weak.  These two worked well together. Even though she was unpredictable with movement, he was never skittish around her and trusted her implicitly. He taught himself to tell me when the bus was at the end of the drive.  He'd yip, not really bark, and this heralded Rachel's return home from school and thus, snack time. I don't know how Rachel feels about his absence here, or that she even notices it, but I think she does. When she came home from school Wednesday, I told her Duke had died. She came up to me and held my face in her hands, and hugged me. I think she knows, and just like the rest of us, she misses him.


Two years after I got this dog, I lost my dad. I went through such a terrible depression during those months that followed his death, that if not for this dog, I don't think I'd have weathered that time well. It was for him that I even got up every day.   I had to see to his needs even though I didn't care about my own. When I was feeling really down, I'd go lie down in bed, and the next thing I knew, I was being snuggled by a great big dog. Eventually, he'd fall asleep, and push me out of bed with those long, stilt-like legs. When I got up, he'd instantly awaken as though kicking me out of the bed was his plan all along, and now we had to go do something for him. Even up to last Sunday, his favorite thing to do was play hide and seek. I'd hide, and he'd search me out. No matter how hard the hiding place, he'd find me-as long as it didn't involve stairs.

With all of these big life changes upon me, I don't know how I'll weather these storms without my buddy. I've lost 4 pounds since Wednesday and also, most of my joy. My sister and I had a long talk the other night. Neither one of us think my Duke could have tolerated a big move and all the upheaval associated with leaving here. Perhaps the timing of all of this was meant to be. It doesn't hurt any less, but does ring true for me.

Duke's remains are ready to be picked up at the vet's office. I've been in touch with Debra (From Skilled Hands), and her husband is going to make an urn for Duke's ashes, and personalize it for me. Bless her little artist's heart, she's even offered to place his remains in the urn if I send them to her. I've never felt compelled to do this for a dog before, but I feel I owe it to him.  This way, he will have a prominent place in my next home, and this new chapter in my life.  


20 comments:

Miss 376 said...

Given time, you'll enjoy the memories you have of him. They will never go away

Gail said...

I have no words to ease your pain. You have lost a friend, a family member and a soul mate.
What an honorable tribute to Man's Best Friend and Your Best Friend.

You have been together and experienced this unconditional love with Duke. Nothing will ever take that away.

I cry for you...and Duke.

distracted by shiny objects said...

I know...

Renie Burghardt said...

Duke will always be there in your hearts and memory, Rudee.

Hugs,

Renie

Betty Flocken said...

Such a beautiful tribute to Duke. He looks a bit like a duke. He sounds like an amazing dog and I understand your love and loyalty to him. I'm glad you had him cremated and will keep a special place for him in your new house. He'll be waiting for you one day in the future Rudee. That's what I think anyway. You were a good person for your dog. He was lucky too and his life was happy with you and your family. I'm so sorry for your loss; It's really hard to go through this. I'm praying for you

laurie said...

oh god rudee i made it halfway through this and then started to cry. i know you miss him, and man he was a wonderful dog, wasn't he? give yourself time. it takes more than a few days to get your equilibrium back, and your joy back, but it will come.

we are all missing him now.

J'Ollie Primitives said...

It's difficult to let go of a friend.
My dad was cremated. Mom picked up his remains in his urn and put it on the passenger seat of her van. It fell off and rolled to the back. I was blissfully unaware that he was there until one day when we were out running errands ~ she was driving. "What's that thumping? Is there something wrong with the van?" I asked. "Oh, that's just your dad," she said matter-of-factly. He'd been riding around with her for four months in his urn. Rolling around on the floor and keeping her company. :)

debra said...

Well, Duke was certainly not a poodle.
He has a special place in your heart--
and mine, too. That place will be with you always. We're honored to make the urn for Duke.
xoxo

Rudee said...

You are all so wonderful. Really. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and for reaching out. And J'Ollie, my mother in law stayed in my china cabinet next to my Waterford crystal champagne flutes for more than a year. The family couldn't make a decision about what to do about her remains, so I put her next to the wine glasses. Thanks for making me laugh today.

Brenda said...

I have to agree with your sister. The move would have been very hard on him. The vet told me our dog had cataracts some years ago, and said as long as we don't move he would find his way okay. Duke was a great name for him. So sad for your loss. That is so nice of your friend to make an urn.

Amy said...

Oh Rudee, there's nothing I can add except I've been where you are, and I know how sad you are. You gave Duke such a great life. He was a lucky, lucky dog.

We keep Teddy's ashes on the fireplace mantel. It was just sort of a "until we figure out where to put him" move, but now he's part of the permanent landscape.

flydragon said...

I'm sorry I can't think of anything eloquent or inspiring to say, so I'm just letting you know that I'm here.

Winifred said...

What a beautiful dog. I'm glad you posted about Duke, even though you made me cry. It'll take a long time to get used to the house without him, if ever.

Rudee said...

I'm sorry Winifred. I didn't mean to make anyone cry. I just needed to get a few things off my chest. I adored this dog. Thanks for reading this.

Lisa L said...

I felt tearful too Rudee..especially reading about his love and compassion for your daughter. What is it about dogs? Its like they have a 6th sense. He was so patient. Your post also brought back memories of when we lost our Joe,(diabetes), then Riley (osteosarcoma)..Now we have Cody and Bean-Elisabeth..You think you'll never get past the grief, but, amazingly, you do. The memories don't go away, and that's the good part. I had to laugh out loud when I read about your mother in law's ashes being placed next to the wine glasses! Hey! That's where I want to be when I'm cremated...right next to the glasses which held my fave beverage in the world :) (note to self...tell the family where my ashes need to be placed :) I should probably put that on my Five Wishes document...nothing like thinking like a hospice nurse eh?

Silliyak said...

Just one more person touched by your loss. I'm so sorry.

Rudee said...

Lisa, do you use a five wishes document? That could be interesting. It would also be nice if we were consulted before death was imminent so we could work on those wishes.

Sillyak-thank you.

Lisa L said...

Hi Rudee - I love the Five Wishes as an advance directive...have you seen it? You can find it on line (I think)...if not, I'll send you a copy. Lis

Bette's Bags said...

So Sorry!

Kathleen Kimball-Baker said...

Oh my gosh, my heart just goes out to you bigtime. During the year the big sledgehammer in the sky came down and knocked me silly, my sweet Gracie (a 13-year-old Aussie mix) kept her wet nose under my hand and continued her Letterman-worthy hugging trick. I pleaded with her not to leave me yet, and she hung on for 2 more years. The grief just sucked the air out of my lungs some days. Best cure for me was another dog--and fast. And the one who found me could have been Gracie's daughter. She continues to be a healing dog. Good luck with your move. Great house. I LOVE your blog!