Lileks: It's tough saying goodbye to a man's best friend

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 1, 2014 - 7:28 PM

The label on the can promised real chunks of bison. Who could tell? You could ask the diner who devoured the viscous glop, but dogs aren’t known for their detailed review. Was that a hint of venison I detected, chief? I only mention that because I missed it the first time, but it all came up on the rug a while ago, and I thought, venison.

They say the loss of appetite is a clue they’re done. Not this one. But he couldn’t get to dinner. His withered shanks betrayed him when he rose to dine; even though the bowl was propped up, it taxed him to stand. His big ears still pointed up, but he heard nothing except my whistle. His eyes had clouded over, and he saw only shapes in the dusk.

But who needs eyes when you have a nose, right? There were summer Wednesdays when the sirens blew and he howled along with the great Wolf in the Sky, nostrils flared to catch the scent of the awesome Alpha who sang in the sky. Sometimes I’d howl along with, and he’d give me a peculiar look. This is a dog thing.

True. But together we can do much, no? And so we have.

It’s hard to feel anything but gratitude when your wolfish companion has lived by your side for nearly two decades. Nineteen years or nine, a decade or a half, it doesn’t make it easier when the light slides out. I’m lucky to have this space to memorialize a marvelous mutt, and ask you to do one thing: Let this stand for all the pets we lost this week, because a dog would have to pull seven orphans out of a burning building to get an obit in the paper.

For the cats who passed and left a little toy you find later under a bed, and have to sit down for a while until you get your feet back; for the fish for whom the parents crafted a simple decent funeral rite; for the hamsters who taught little kids about the swiftness of life, and prepared them for their own roles as parents of a newborn by running around in the noisy wheel at 2 a.m. They deserve a space in the paper, but if we had to run evidence of all the heartaches great and small there wouldn’t be a forest standing.

The first dogs were wise. Throw our lot in with these guys, and maybe there’ll be bison for supper. They were right. Buffalo was Jasper’s last meal, and he went out the way he’d lived every day. Not a scrap was left in the bowl.

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