A Man’s Best Friend

You may have noticed over the past couple of days that I haven’t made too many comments on Monomakhos. That’s because we recently lost our precious little Boston Terrier and all of us here at Casa Monomakhos have been quite inconsolable.

Little Dowling was almost 10 years old. He was such a joy that his loss has left me personally unable to function on all thrusters. We’re starting to recover and even though he wasn’t a human being, I feel compelled to write something about him. If y’all will be so inclined to indulge me for a little bit, I’d much appreciate it.

Dowling, nee Mowgli, came into our lives about 10 years ago. I was having problems with a tenant and we came to a parting of ways. He told me that his new landlord wouldn’t accept pets, and he had this little puppy who had just been weaned and potty-trained. He asked me if I could take him. Having grown up with dogs all my life, I jumped at the chance but my wife and sons would be another nut to crack. I said to myself, “I’m gonna get on my knees and if he comes to me, I’ll take him.” He jumped into my arms and we’d been inseparable ever since.

My wife and sons had gone to visit the in-laws (I think it was Martin Luther King weekend) and I was stuck at home because of my job. Anyway, I knew about the time they’d pull up and so me and Mowgli sat on the stoop waiting for them. If you could have seen the look on their faces! Once they got out of the car the boys got excited. My wife Margaret was another story. She bent down and looked at him and said “you so ugly!” But I could tell that her heart was melting. She then said “Don’t get used to us, we’re gonna give you away.” She said the same thing the next day, then the next day. By then he’d won her over. Nobody really liked his name so I offered a compromise to my wife: “If we keep him, you can name him.” So she decided to name him after her elementary school, hence the extremely odd name of “Dowling.”

What can I say about Little Mr. Dowling and his adventures? He was the funniest, happiest little mutt I ever knew. If his previous owner hadn’t snipped his tale, he’d have been wagging it full-time. Because of my work schedule I couldn’t spend as much time as I wanted to so I took him with me pretty much everywhere I could get away with it. At first we kept him outside but in no time at all he had the run of the house. He’d sleep in his little bed under the buffet and snore like an old man. Guests really got a kick out of that. At night, I’d lay in my easy chair and put him on my belly and in no time we’d fall asleep. His adventures were legendary. During the days when we worked we’d leave him outside and this gave him time to act according to his primordial instincts. Any time he killed a rat he’d lay it at our back doorstep so we could see it and congratulate him. He was definitely a character. One of my favorite memories was watching him run to me at full speed. He had such a goofy grin.

I knew something was wrong the past couple of weeks as he wasn’t as peppy as he used to be. I chalked it up to age. His appetite was the same and loved going on walks with us. Just a little slower. I took him to the vet to kennel him for two nights because we were going to be out of town over the holidays. There was nothing untoward and I’m sure they would have said something.

The night before he died, we were watching the OSU-Stanford game and noticed that he wasn’t completely himself. As I went up to bed, he started to follow me but as he rounded the corner, he didn’t want to navigate the stairs which was a first, and he looked at me in a forlorn way. I said my good-nights from the top of the stairs as I always do and he turned and went to his bed. In the morning, I got up to let him out and noticed he was moving rather slowly. I poured his food but he didn’t even go to the plate — another first for him. He went to one of his favorite chairs in the living room and looked up at it, as if wanting to jump into it, but something seemed to stop him. I picked him up and put him in my lap but he wasn’t comfortable so I put him back down. I turned on the fireplace, which is where we’d often find him sleeping in the wintertime and went upstairs to change to for work. When I came down I notice that he was lying down as he had many times before but that his eyes were open. I bent over to pet him but noticed he wasn’t breathing. He was dead.

My older son had already gone to work so I woke up Mikey and gave him the news. By the time he got downstairs tears had already formed in his eyes. I then went to break the news to Margaret and she burst into tears. Anyway, we decided to bury him in the back yard where he seemed to have so much fun.

His daily life guided our family’s rituals. Since I was the earliest riser in my family, it was my job to let him out to go do his business and then feed and water him. If I didn’t have to drive too far, I’d put him on my lap while we watched the morning news, drinking my coffee. Whenever I got home, I’d sit in the mud room and take off my shoes and I invariably heard the tap-tap-tap of his little claws on the hardwood floor. It’s little things like that which I find myself missing so very much. So much so that sometimes I don’t want to go home just to avoid not hearing his little panting. Mornings aren’t so bad because even though I terribly miss our morning ritual, I’ve replaced it with another one –going to his grave in the back yard and talking doggie like I used to while I drink my coffee. Do I cry? Yeah, like a baby.

I know we shouldn’t anthropomorphize animals but it’s hard not to love a good dog. And he was definitely that and more –a precious member of our family. Rest in peace Dear Companion.

About GShep

Comments

  1. Companionship, emotional support, and unconditional love….dogs are amazing. I am so sorry for your loss and heavy heart. He was your “bro”.

  2. It has always seemed to me that the relationship between a man and his dog is a bitter-sweet echo of life before the Fall. I hope that wishing you condolences doesn’t seem too pretentious, George.

    • Christ is born!

      Basil,

      Your first sentence is a beautiful comment; I’ll remember it always. It strikes me as very true. As for the second, no one who has loved a dog would misunderstand such friendly thoughts.

      George,

      Thank you for the post. I am happy that your family has such a treasure to remember. Once the tears dry, I recommend Kipling’s “The Power of the Dog” as well as his other poems about God’s great gift to man.

  3. Brian McDonald says

    But the poor dog, in life the firmest friend,
    The first to welcome, foremost to defend.
    –Lord Byron, epitaph to his dog, Boatswain

  4. I am so sorry for your loss, George. It’s hard to lose a beloved and faithful friend like that. Sending hugs to you from afar.

  5. Lola J. Lee Beno says

    I’m sorry for your loss.

  6. We have recently gotten two Labrador puppies…Panda and Bart and they have become such a joy and loving addition. I wish I was the man my two dogs think I am …truely they are a reminder of how life was before the Fall..
    I am so sorry for your loss…when I walk in the house from work there they are sitting and I swear they are smiling!

  7. Thank you all. I think you’re on to something. Life before the fall. It may be that the only relationship to any appreciable extent.

  8. George,

    I am reminded of when our samoyed, Bear, died a few years ago. He had been sick for quite a while and finally it was time. On a Friday, my wife and a friend took him to the vet to have him put down. The following day I was in the backyard cleaning up the last of his business. My wife came out and saw me leaning against the shovel with a tear or two in my eyes.

    “I thought you didn’t like Bear that much?”, she said.
    “I didn’t think I liked him that much either!” (sniff) I replied.

    Sorry for your loss.

    • Reader Nicholas says

      Dogs are the perfect icon of Christian love. Guileless and pure, always grateful for the chance to love. I think that is why we grieve over their death. A small reflection of Christ’s love has left us.

  9. Ivan Vasiliev says

    George,

    I learned to love dogs over the 10 years we had our cocker spaniel, Zvezda. It was NOT love at first sight. I came out on the bloody end of some fights we had. Over time, though, I came to love her very deeply for her extraordinary personality (I am using that word intentionally). After she died we brought a pug into our home–the silliest creature I have ever encountered, again with an extraordinary personality. We did not replace Zvezda, we simply brought in another member of the family.
    Dogs (and pets in general) are not human, but they are part of that whole creation which is groaning in travail until the day of revelation. They are certainly not mere automatons, as some would have it. They can be real friends and, as with any real friend, can and should be mourned when they pass away.
    On Theophany, when I listened to the prayers over the blessing of water in our parish, I couldn’t help but notice how the entire created order was drawn into the celebration of the Lord’s baptism. Dogs, of course, were not mentioned, but I suspect that like the moon, stars, and deeps, they and all the rest of the creation will one day raise their songs of praise, too. That may explain the tie between us and them that transcends words. Love tends to do that.

  10. My apologies in advance to any who may be are offended!

    An old man and his dog were walking down this dirt road with fences on both sides, they came to a gate
    in the fence and looked in, it was nice – grassy, woody areas, just what a ‘huntin’ dog and man would like, but, it had a sign saying ‘no trespassing’ so they walked on.

    They came to a beautiful gate with a person in white robes standing there. “Welcome to Heaven”
    he said. The old man was happy and started in with his dog following him.

    The gatekeeper stopped him. “Dogs aren’t allowed, I’m sorry but he can’t come with you.” “What
    kind of Heaven won’t allow dogs? If He can’t come in, then I will stay out with him. He’s been my faithful
    companion all his life, I can’t desert him now.”

    “Suit yourself, but I have to warn you, the Devil’s on this road and he’ll try to sweet talk you into his area, he’ll promise you anything, but, the dog can’t go there either. If you won’t leave the dog, you’ll spend Eternity on this road ”

    So the old man and dog went on. They came to a rundown fence with a gap in it, no gate, just a hole. Another old man was inside. “Scuse me Sir, my dog and I are getting mighty tired, mind if we come in and sit in the shade for awhile?”

    “Of course, there’s some cold water under that tree over there. Make yourselves comfortable ”

    “You’re sure my dog can come in? The man down the road said dogs weren’t allowed anywhere.”

    “Would you come in if you had to leave the dog?”

    “No sir, that’s why I didn’t go to Heaven, he said the dog couldn’t come in. We’ll be spending Eternity on this road, and a glass of cold water and some shade would be mighty fine right about now. But, I won’t come in if my buddy here can’t come too, and that’s final.”

    The man smiled a big smile and said “Welcome to Heaven.”

    “You mean this is Heaven? Dogs ARE allowed? How come that fellow down the road said they weren’t?” “That was the
    Devil and he gets all the people who are willing to give up a life long companion for a comfortable place to stay.
    They soon find out their mistake, but, then it’s too late. The dogs come here, the fickle people stay there.

    GOD wouldn’t allow dogs to be banned from Heaven. After all, HE created them to be man’s companions in life, why would he separate them in death?”

    Author Earl Hamner
    The Twilight Zone

  11. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    George:

    I am truly sorry for the loss of your dog. I know how you feel, and what you are going through. I lost my beloved little beagle Gigi back in 2000, and I still remember it as if it were yesterday. I also still getting her a resue froma pound in Clearwater, Florida. A good dog really becomes a part of one’s family. I am so glad you buried your dog in the back yard. Now your dog is with always with your family.

    Take care.

    Peter

  12. I am sorry for the loss of your dog, George. Perhaps you can have another dog, since you enjoyed your dog’s friendship so much.

    I can still remember what a woman co-worker who had a dog told me some 40 years ago: Some dogs have better manners than some people.

  13. Jim of Olym says

    Rest in peace, little Dowling!
    I have lost a number of dogs over the years, one to cancer, and several that I had euthanized since they were so miserable in their elder years. they are given us by God, I think, to be our companions due to their unselfish love and devotion. Some have speculated that they are in heaven waiting for us to arrive. I don’t know, but I hope so. I would so like to see PoohBear (! the heretic chow-shepherd mix),Bobby the apfenpinscher who could jump three times his height, and Alice the black lab who was love himself, Arius the German shepherd, along with our dear gentle giant mammoth donkey Abey, who died of a protozoan infection (all 16 hands of him). They were all so sweet and kind to us who tried to care for them the best we could. I still cry when I think of them. God be merciful to them and to us.

    Rdr. James
    Olympia, WA

  14. Catherine Sims says

    I’m so sorry for your loss! I know how hard it is to lose a beloved pet. May God comfort you and bring you a new dog, who could never replace Dowling, but will help to fill the dog-shaped hole in your lives.

  15. A cat to ignore us,
    And a dog to adore us.

    So sorry for your loss. We’ve had pets of every demononation from snake to birds, and everyone was a treasure. Right now ‘George’ is 14 years old, and still going strong , and almost as human as a cat can be. They are the children who never grow up, and we can talk to them as we don’t dare talk to another person 😉 Do realize anyone who has a heart grieves with you.
    Starosta R.

    • Jim of Olym says

      I was shopping at one of our local co-ops today and when I came out, here was this rather pudgy siamese cat that wound itself around my ankles, and when I bent down to pet it (as one is supposed to do!) it jumped up on my back and I couldn’t dislodge it. One might say that it was cold and the kitty was only trying to get warm, but I wonder…..

      and my 90 lb part hound/malamut/mutt/pound puppy thinks he’s a chihuahua at times. I’m thinking of changing his name from ‘Buster’ to ‘Tiny’.

  16. THX

  17. cynthia curran says

    A belated loss for you dog. Dowling is not a strange of a name. I had a dog as a kid that I called Pompey’s Julia. Now that name came from the 3rd wife of Pompey the Great and the daughter of Julius Caesar. Why such a strange name because I had an interest a lot in the late Roman Repubic.