Thursday, April 20, 2006

My dog died

This, in and of itself, was not remarkable, or unexpected, as the dog, a Lhaso Apso, was about 17 years old.

She only had about half her teeth left, couldn't hear or see anymore and mostly just walked around in circles, when she bothered to walk at all. She slept a lot.

Last summer, my wife woke me up about 4 in the a.m. and said, "Honey, Punky's dead."

I went out in the backyard, and there she was, lying in the middle of yard, still as night. There was a full moon. And as I stood there gazing at her in the moonlight, I saw her twitch. She was only sleeping, but it was a very, very deep sleep. She was at the age where if she was sleeping and you had to wake her up, it took more than a few nudges.

So ever since last summer, we've pretty much been wondering how long she'd last. That wait came to an end exactly a week ago.

Now, the remarkable thing about the death of "Punky," to me, is that my wife buried her. Before I woke up.

Yep, I didn't even have to gaze up on her stiff old body. My wife knew Punky's demise would upset me, and it did, so she spared me the last rites by taking care of the burial herself, around 4 in the morning, before the sun came up, and I before I woke up.

Like I told a friend the other day, "I'll bet I'm married to the only woman in the world who'd bury her husband's dog."

Now, I want you to know that I did not name the dog. I'd never name a dog "Punky."

That was her name when she arrived for a weekend visit, around 15 years ago, and it was strongly suggested at the time that I might enjoy keeping her, as I was a bachelor at the time, living alone in a dingy, smoke-filled apartment with lots of newspapers piled high in the corners. I protested at first, of course, but finally relented, and we were together from then on out.

Lhasos are smart dogs. Tibet is their homeland. They used to guard the monks at the doorsteps to the monasteries.

They don't require an awful lot of attention. They're content to sit at your feet when you're sitting at the computer, or sleep at the foot of your bed or just outside your bedroom door at night time. Good watch dogs. They'll bark when there's commotion outside.

I once saved Punky from almost certain death. We were visiting some friends who had two Sharpei dogs that were awfully aggressive canines. They were out in the backyard, with only a screen door between them and us. The screen door didn't hold and one of the devil dogs burst through and went right for Punky's jugular. He had ahold of her and it was all I could do to pull the beast off my little pet by grabbin' hold of the Sharpei's tail and givin' a heave-ho with all my might.

This annoyed the Sharpei enough that he turned around and bit me on the forearm. He didn't hang on to me. And I didn't even know he had bitten me til somebody said, "Hey, your arm's bleedin'." I've still got the Sharpei's fang mark on my right forearm. It's kinda like a tattoo in a way. There's a story there if anyone notices it and inquires. But it was worth it. Pulling on that devil dog's tail distracted him long enough so that Punky escaped a serious mauling, if not the last rodeo then and there.

Then, not long after that, she returned the favor, sort of.

I was real, real depressed once. So depressed I could hardly move. So depressed and down and out that I just felt like giving up. All I could was lay on the couch and stare at the ceiling. Per usual, Punky sauntered up and lay on the floor next to the couch. So I picked her up and put her up on my chest. Then I fell asleep.

I slept for a good 3 or 4 hours, even though it was broad daylight. And when I awoke, Punky was still right there on my chest, where I had put her. Hand't moved an inch. I figured she sensed there was something going on with me and decided the prudent move was to stay close. And it made me feel better to wake up and have her still there plopped on top of me, not quite as alone in the world as I had imagined myself 3 or 4 hours earlier.

So long, Punkster. You were a good dog. See ya on the other side.

14 comments:

Diane White said...

I am so sorry. I know you'll miss her.

Jim Thompson said...

I'm so sorry about Punky. It's never easy to lose such a friend.

Anne said...

I grew up with a Lhaso Apso. They are wonderful dogs.

I'm very sorry. =(

Anonymous said...

It's writing like this that makes ol' Steve O one of the best and brightest journalists on earth. Don't know if you know this, but they reincarnate. Not a total clone, but close enough. And one is out there right now lookin' for you ...

grannypie said...

well written...with emotion to move your reader. Our canine friends can be as comforting as our human friends. Frequently more so.

grannyPie

Bill said...

A fine tribute to a good dog. And I tip my hat to your wife.

JD Allen said...

Yeah, that's kind of why I quit on dogs. Lost two of them to old age, and I figured that was enough.

Hurts more than losing some relatives, really. Sick, but true.

Mouth of the Yellow River said...

Banjo, frankly I think it is essentially cruelty to animals worthy of SPCA and PETA scrutinization to let an animal get in the pitiful condition in respect to health that you describe. Just for such selfish reasons.

Similarly, cruelty to pen up a dog in a dense urban environment without sufficient living, running space and daily exercise in a clean environment.

Back in the old country on the farm just as a sheep, goat, bovine or horse, we with great respect ate the animal before it could reach that state.

A friend who grew up here on the Texas coast (Seabrook/Kemah when there was a little wooden drawbridge) in a culture that finds dog, cat and horses unpalatable told me the following story of his dad’s policy:

“Dad always insured we had a dog, but they were never allowed in the house, nor would he (or could he) spend money on vet costs. More often as not, on average of two or three years, the dog took sick with distemper or got some injury or something (one swallowed a fish hook one time).

Dad gathered the family around in formal respect as he performed euthanasia with a single pistol or rifle shot as we hung our heads, and momma cried. As a family we buried our beloved with a primitive white cross made from an old crate slates.

As soon as the euthanasia and burial ceremony was over and cheeks were still wet with tears, out from the shed, garage or box in the trunk of a car came bounding a new puppy, tail wagging and tongue licking.

Dad always had one waiting in the wings. Looking back I’m not sure that the older dogs were always that sick.”

Such is the cycle of life.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Sorry for your loss, Banjo.

Anonymous said...

My condolences, Banjo. I know how difficult it can be to lose a dog.

-D

mikemcguff said...

That's a touching story...sorry about the loss.

susan credeur said...

Sorry for you Banjo. Lost our 15 year old Lhasa 3 weeks ago today. She was kinda mean. She did not have a lot of personality, but she was the mother of our very beloved pet, Ed, and we greatly respected her. She sounds like Punky in her dotage, but oddly enough she had a new lease on life after Hurricane Rita. She actually survived the 24 hour trip to San Antone (losing about 1/3 her body weight-she never went more than 7 lbs or so). She was limp and comatose and they put her on ice and she just perked right up. She had never been sick a day in her life and had never, EVER missed a meal. I knew that morning she wasn't long for this world when she refused her bowl. We put her in a box in her room and she she barked a while and went to "sleep". We buried her that night out in the cannas where she liked to chill in the summer. I woke up the next morning and I swear I heard a little "ark-ark" in the distance. Yeah, we miss her-Ed slept in her room a couple of nights, then he seemed to be over missin' mama.
They do have a way of getting under your heart and just staying there.

Joe said...

Hey Banjo, sorry to hear about your pooch. Went home and gave my German Shepherd an extra good rough-housing when I went home yesterday. Thanks for reminding me what the beast means to me.
And don't worry about Mouth of the Yellow River. Some folks just love them a big ol' dose of judgmentalism and self-assumed superiority.

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