This dog. This dog. I have loved others- the fenced and groomed ball chasers of my childhood, the poorly considered and badly behaved pound pup of my early twenties that destroyed my first apartment, the battered old beast that only reluctantly accepted me as the new best friend of his person. But this dog.
Rufus saw me into adulthood, both of us tripping over our newly adult legs together. Then I had babies and he laid at my feet through both rounds of postpartum depression. He watched over my crawling, then toddling, then ear pulling, then running and reading babes as if they were his own, not once even smelling the food in their grubby hands. He never made the same mistake twice. He was so careful not to offend that he wouldn't even eat in front of people, going hungry in company just in case they'd rather have his full dish. Even on the morning of his last grey-haired, arthritic day he kept his guard post in front of the house, doing his best to stay between his beloved people and any other living thing.
There were other times I prepared to say goodbye. When he was a huge, gangly six month old, a passing truck tolled him up, shattering his pelvis. He lay for three days in our living room, breathing shallow ragged breaths, barely lifting his head as we came and went. Finally on the fourth day as we steeled ourselves for the hardest decision, he tried to stand and whined as if for help. We carried him outside, where he relieved himself, careful even in his pain to follow the rules. His injuries grew into nothing more than a slight listing favor for the bad leg.
Another time he challenged a passing ambulance and came up to the house on three legs, the fourth dangling in the most cruel, stomach-churning way. Again he lay in our living room, now four faces creased with concern and wet with tears considering his condition. We pretended we could afford the vet bill and went ahead with the X-rays and surgeries and weeks of tending and nursing. Like before he went on, now with another leg to favor, as intent on tending his people as ever.
Finally, countless injuries conspiring with spiraling heart worms, hearing and even voice failing, our boy had one last accident. This time there was no debate, no days of watching and waiting. We knew. And with care and intention, we finally let him loose. Days have passed since, but I can still hear his bark booming in the night and feel his calm vigilance in the air. I am so grateful to have had his friendship and support all these years, and so relieved that he is no longer confined to a body riddled with the compounded pains of a life spent guarding his flock. You are so beloved and sorely missed. Goodbye Rufus.