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Monday, December 2, 2013

The Nature of Goodbye

I have to say goodbye to an old friend tomorrow. 

Our dog, Oberon, a German Shepherd of proud bearing and dazzling intellect, has been suffering from a degenerative spinal column issue.  His back legs just don’t work anymore, and he’s lost control of when he poops. 

He was selected from a litter by dint of gnawing, oh so adorably, on Wifefish’s shoe lace.  “I’m picking the crazy one,” she said.  Yep. 

He and I had a rocky relationship at first.  His puppyhood was a sloppy affair, and the source of a few heated discussions between Wifefish and I.  It was a poopyhood, really.  The sentence “You don’t have poop in your bloodstream, so you don’t get an opinion” was once, perhaps foolishly, uttered by me, back in the days when his puppyness had not allowed him the understanding that his poo was not for dancing in, nor eating, nor for dancing in and eating and then scratching his daddy to hell and back with tiny puppy claws.

Still, he was adorable, and thus he survived.  Wifefish is patient, and thus I survived.

Once he learned not to scratch me, frolic in his own excrement, or bite the hand that feeds, he became a damn fine dog.  I maintain this despite his never learning not to use my nether regions as a springboard for leaving the couch.

I have a veritable plethora of fond memories of him.  My wife’s dog, he became mine as well.  The love of a dog is a wonderful thing, a pleasure to receive.

I remember his first trip with us, no bigger than a football.  I remember as he topped 70 lbs and still thought he was football sized, trying to ride in my lap in the car.  It doesn’t work so well, it turns out.

I remember how he would look at me, and then just do exactly what I expected of him.  My favorite example was when we brought Little Danger home, and Oberon whuffled and sniffed him, looked at Wifefish and I, and accepted him as part of the family.  He would place himself between Little Danger and any doorway, keeping him corralled and any possible threats to the baby on the wrong side of his teeth.

There’s so much more to say about him…about his time in our family, his fierce love and vicious cuddling.  I could write for days just about the way he would always take treats gently, so as not to put too much teeth on your hand as he gobbled up whatever edible awesomeness one might offer him. 

Last night, I pulled Little Danger aside for a serious talk.  I asked if he remembered saying goodbye to our cat Kelton, when he passed.  He nodded yes.  I told him “Time’s coming, this week, when we’re going to have to say goodbye to Oberon too.  He’s not going to come home, son.”
“Why not?”

“Well, we’re going to take him to the vet, and because his legs can’t be fixed, and his insides aren’t working, we’re going to let him go.  He’s going to be put to sleep so he doesn’t have to wait for the rest of his body to quit.  It hurts him.”

“I have idea”, he said.  “Maybe Oberon go sleep, and wake up, and not be old anymore.” 

“Son,” I said, through fresh tears (manly fresh fucking tears, mind you), “you’ve just seized upon the heart of the matter.  That’s the belief system of just about every worldly religion summed up right there.”

“Where he go?”  And thus, I got to describe Heaven, and the Summerland, and a brief overview of reincarnation before booping him on his nose and letting him know we’d discuss it in more detail as he got older, but I was just broad brushing it for now.

“OK,” he said.  And you know what?  It will be.  Yes, I’m going to miss the old man, and there’ll be a dog-shaped hole in Wifefish’s heart as well as my own for a while, but it’s truly time to say goodbye.  And yes, there will be more manly tears this week.  But I will shed them with no shame, knowing they are a tribute to a member of the family both furry and awesome.

Tonight, we're helping out a friend by testing her edits to Hamlet, which she's directing at a local theatre.  I think it fitting that Oberon gets to listen to Shakespeare on his last night with us, and I may take a moment to read from Midsummer as well, because I'm a goddamn sap and the goodbye is more for us than him.  He will know that his pack will be OK, and that his pain is over, and he will know that he is loved, in whatever canine way he comprehends it. 

Through the house give gathering light,
By the dead and drowsy fire:
Every elf and fairy sprite
Hop as light as bird from brier;
And this ditty, after me,
Sing, and dance it trippingly. 

Now, until the break of day,
Through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed will we,
Which by us shall blessed be;
And the issue there create
Ever shall be fortunate.
So shall all the couples three
Ever true in loving be;
And the blots of Nature's hand
Shall not in their issue stand;
Never mole, hare lip, nor scar,
Nor mark prodigious, such as are
Despised in nativity,
Shall upon their children be.
With this field-dew consecrate,
Every fairy take his gait;
And each several chamber bless,
Through this palace, with sweet peace;
And the owner of it blest
Ever shall in safety rest.
Trip away; make no stay;
Meet me all by break of day. 

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