Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ode to a Good Dog

This is a post for my dog Simon. He's the nicest dog I have ever met. Simon has changed a lot in the last 11 months I've been gone. When I left, he was a sweet old dog, who preferred lying around to walking. He got a lot older this year.

me and my dogs, 2006
We got Simon when I was away at school. I don't even remember when it was exactly, maybe 2006? My mother was working at Power 105 radio station, and one of her jobs was the "Pooch Patrol," where callers would contact her about lost and found animals. At the time, we already had sweet Zoe, our deaf, brown Dalmatian, and so when a call came about another Dal, her ears perked up. An older man on route 550 found him, and didn't have the space to keep this rather big dog, so he told Mom the dog would go to the pound sooner rather than later. Our shelter does the best it can, but there are a lot of country dogs out here, which means a lot of unwanted animals, so the animals don't stay for long, especially the older ones. So Mom picked him up and we resolved to hold onto him until his owner inevitably called the station. Clearly no one ever called, and Simple Simon wormed his way into our hearts.

the whole family, with our exchange student Aydar, Christmas '07
I can honestly say I have never met a nicer dog. In the ~6 years we had Simon, I only heard him bark twice; both times were when I had let him back in after doing his yard business, and I hadn't given him his deserved cookie yet. Both "woofs" were gentle sneeze-like reminders that I owed him! Simon would do anything for a pet, and he liked to rest his giant head on your knee when you were sitting down. His drool marks got pretty disgusting, but his big eyes just wanted some love. If you petted him and then stopped, he would put his head back under your hand. I can't tell you how many times I got annoyed with his constant need for attention, only to get drawn back in and scratch his ears (his faaaavorite spot to be scratched).

dad always knows the itchy spots
Simon loved Zoe, too. I think the relationship started out pretty inappropriate for an adopted sibling-dog (Simon wasn't fixed when we got him), and she was forever impatient with her brother. But he was unwavering in his love for Zoe and his desire to be around her. Even in his feeble walking state, if another male dog sniffed Zoe's backside, he went CRAZY. However, if he refused to quit sniffing her head at home, she would go crazy on him! He never minded though, just went back to lie down.

he's happy to be near her, she doesn't really notice
Zoe is the alpha dog at our house and sleeps on the beds; therefore, Simon was never allowed on beds. We almost never had to reinforce this rule, though, because he never could really jump that high. I remember one time, coming home from school and pushing open the door to my room only to see the big black and white dog curled up on my pillows. No idea how he managed to get up there, and all I had to do was make eye contact--he just stood up and hopped down, wagging his tail as he walked past me.

can't resist this face
Simon never moved too easily. He always seemed like an older dog. When I'd come home at night during breaks, I'd creep up the stairs quietly. As I neared the top, the persistent thump thump thump of Simon's tail on the couch as he waited for me to kiss him good night greeted me. If we came home during the day, he would wait at the top of the stairs instead of rushing down with Zoe, turning in excited circles and doggy bows. He liked to cram himself into our wing chairs, to the chagrin of my mother and her slipcovers. And he would lazily scratch at those ears in the evenings, waiting for one of us to notice so we would do it for him. He rarely perked up his ears, but he would follow you from room to room.

I have only 3 shots of him with perky ears out of at least 200
In the end, Simon was almost unrecognizable. He lost a lot of muscle mass, and he walked in a hunched-back position that gave off an air of pain. We would say, Simon's drunk, a light way of mentioning how he listed to one side. He took medication with all his meals (with no complaints, bless him), and he had to wear a diaper at night. Simon had been struggling a lot with his back legs--they would give out on him, and if that happened on a slippery floor, he couldn't stand back up on his own. He had very little control over his bowels, and we knew when it was nearing the end for him. I think he knew, too; he was happiest when we are all just in the kitchen with him, and he cried at night when we would close him in, to contain the inevitable mess in the morning. He seemed tired all the time, and he got scared whenever he fell down the two steps to the porch on his way outside.

sleepy boy on the kitchen floor
A while ago, when we were walking, I started thinking how I'm never going to be able to have another dog. How can I get another pet knowing you always have to say goodbye in 10-15 years? Having a family member that is an animal is such a weird relationship--part mother, part sibling, part friend, and you know in most cases you have to watch them fade away, too. I would say it's too hard, except for what these animals give us. Simon taught me many things, and reminded me of some in just the last week: patience in his slow gait, blind love despite the fact that he always pees on his feet and smells like it too, consistency in making sure he always had his medication, dinner, and got to the door on time.

he loved it outside
Through it all, his sweetness was unwavering. He liked it when I sang along to my computer, and he felt most comfortable when there was a lot of noise going on. I wish I could have explained to him how much I love him, and how much we all miss his big face on our knees.

Anyone who has ever loved a dog knows what I am trying to say with this post. Simon, my sweet face, I'm going to miss you. Thanks for being an amazing dog.

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