11 November 2008

He Wasn't A Race Car Driver, He Chased Squirrels

One of those things that, no matter who you are, makes you stop and think. A bit of sad news to report today, from the extended Irish Gumbo clan.

Jerry had to be put to sleep today.

Jerry was the dog belonging to my Big Bro and his wife. He was a German shepherd-something mix (part comedian? part goofball?) and he was a faithful companion to my brother for many years. He took great delight in frolicking around the yard, guarding the perimeter and making the family compound safe from the scourge of squirrels. He was also a big, big dog with a bark that matched the size. When Jerry barked, he was the definition of ‘subwoofer’. It could vibrate right into your chest. Jerry was a big dog, and also a friendly dog. He might bark at you on a first meeting, but the wagging tail and the friendly licks gave him away. You could almost use him as a sofa when he was lying down, or at least a good headrest. Or maybe a large, mobile ottoman with four paws and a muzzle.

As you might expect, age and weight began to take a toll on Jerry. His eyesight began to fail and being so large his hips began to wear out. He still liked to run and chase the squirrels, just not as fast or as accurately as in his youth. In one spectacular example, he saw what he thought to be a squirrel, took off as fast as he could, and crashed headlong into a concrete birdbath in the backyard. The impact knocked the birdbath over and probably left Jerry wondering when it was those squirrels started to pack such a wallop.

Like water over stones, time wore down Jerry. The eyes growing dim and the bones growing frail, in recent days it became almost impossible for Jerry to walk. Even when he could, it was obvious he would not be able to for much longer. The unthinkable became the inevitable, and Big Bro had to make the decision to end Jerry’s pain. The veterinarian came out to the house this morning, and it was done. My father sent me an e-mail this morning to let me know. It caught me a little off guard. I knew it was going to happen, just did not expect it to be then. I sat back in my chair, looked out the window, and to my surprise I found some tears in my eyes.

Anytime a companion dies, no matter the species or the reason, the partner always feels diminished. Necessity does not lessen the sting. Jerry was not my dog. I was never in his delightful presence for long; Big Bro and I live far apart so time and distance did not allow it. But Jerry was a good friend and companion to my brother, and I felt the sting by proxy. Big Bro had to make the best of an awful situation; he had to say goodbye to Jerry today. Tonight, let’s raise a glass or wag a tail for him. By now, he’s probably in a place where steaks grow on trees and the squirrels are fast, but not that fast.

Goodbye, Jerry. Catch that squirrel.

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