Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Got some sad news yesterday.

Been gettin' reacquainted with my old buddy Jim lately. He's a senior project manager for a company that installs communications equipment and radio towers around the country. He's and old, treasured friend, who's usually off, livin' in another part of the country for years at a time while his wife, a Nurse, keeps the home fires burnin' there in Ft. Worth. But he's between assignments these days, workin' on projects around the house and lookin' for things to do.

About a month or so ago he called me, proposing that I drive my old Toyota up to Ft. Worth so that he could replace the timing belt and a few other things. He's really smart when it comes to stuff like that. He'd already worked on his own Solara and Tundra, so I said OK. Even though I didn't really have the money for the parts, the work needed to be done, and he was gonna save me hundreds of dollars in labor costs. Plus, the idea of going up there and spending time with my old friend was a shot in the arm that I was really needing.

I met Jim when, after getting out of graduate school, I went back to my old canoeing coach and talked my way into going on a few floats. Jim was taking the class at that time, and when I showed up at the college to join the group, I ended up riding up to the river in his truck. We became friends at that time, and have been close ever since.

I got my job teaching on Navy ships soon after that. Whenever I was between gigs, we'd try to go camping, backpacking or canoeing. Over the years, as we both got busier in our professional or personal lives,
the number and frequency of those trips declined. We both had the money to do whatever we wanted. But there was no time.

Now and then, we'd find the time to make an run to Enchanted Rock. But our biggest and best trips were in 2003 and 2005. In '03, he and his wife Terry talked me into joining them on a rafting and hiking trip in the Grand Canyon. It was a huge blast. We ran half the river in '03, and then went back and finished the canyon in '05.

Over the last twelve years or so, whenever we'd go camping, Jim would usually bring his dog, Sydney. I remember when he got her. I
may be wrong, but I think she was a pound puppy. He trained her right, getting up at the crack of dawn and taking her out in the back yard every morning.

Before long she was
following his commands, staying in the yard and and guarding our camp sites now and then from inquisitive racoons. When he was home, he'd get up every morning and work on her training, taking her for a run to a local city park. She wanted to go wherever he went, jumping into his car and curling up in the passenger side floorboard.

I'll never forget one time at Enchanted Rock. We were walking back down to the camp site after climbing the rock. All of a sudden, Sydney bolted up and over some scrub and into the bush after a rabbit. She gave chase for a while, but soon ran back when Jim called.

She was a natural hunter. Jim used to giggle his ass off, tellin' me stories about her terrorizing the squirrels (Jim calls 'em "tree rats") in their back yard. He'd always laugh when he took her to the little park near their home for a run and she'd tree all
the squirrels in the park.

When I went up to Ft. Worth the other week to let Jim work on my car, I was surprised to see how old Sydney had gotten. I guess it'd just been a while since I'd been up there. Jim and Terry both told me she was gettin' close to the end. She was mostly deaf, but still wanted to follow Jim everywhere.

While he worked on my car, Sydney would sit in
the grass, or find some shady spot in a bush, or in the garage, always keeping him close by. When the time came for me to leave, she even jumped up and took a seat in the front passenger seat floorboard of my car, just like old times. She didn't want to miss anything.

A few weeks later, I went back up to Ft. Worth to join Jim on a three day road trip to Arkansas. We were gonna pick up an item he'd purchased on eBay, and just get away for a while. Sydney wanted to go on that trip too. It would have been good to have her.
The first night, camped out at Devil's Den State Park, the Racoons were up to their old tricks.

After dinner, as I sat at the picknick table under a gas lantern, reading and trying to cool off, I heard a faint noise on the other side of the table. Looking up, I saw a big bandit-eyed face staring back up at me. It had lifted itself up on it's hind legs to see if there was anything worth dragging off the table. Sydney would have been goin' nuts, chasin' that poor critter into the dark.

It's been a week or so since we got back from that trip. I've been busy, tryin' to get ready for the online classes that are gonna start soon, and tryin' to figure out what the University of Phoenix means by "facilitation". I was surfin' through Facebook yesterday when I read a post that had been put up by Terry's son Kevin, who lives and works in New Hampshire these days.

Well my mom just called and told me that my dog died today, it really sucks. I will miss u Sydney we had some great times together."

I was shocked to read those words, but not really surprised. I picked up the phone and gave Jim a call. They were driving back from their property out on the west side of town, where they'd just buried old Sydney. Jim was shocked to hear that I knew, and then we both laughed about Facebook, and the times we're livin' in.

He said Sydney's decline had accelerated over this last weekend when she'd apparently had a stroke. She'd lost the use of one
leg, and had stopped eating. She was still game though. Still wanted to follow him everywhere, but the writing was on the wall.

So Jim and Terry found themselves in the sad position that all loving pet owners eventually have to face. They took her to the vet and put a humane end to her suffering. And you know, I bet she jumped into the floorboard for that trip too.

So, rest in peace Sydney. You were an awesome companion. We'll all miss you, and treasure the memories you left with us.

God bless!


Shrinky said...

Sounds like the dear girl certainly fully enjoyed her time on this earth, but it sure sucks dogs don't share the same life-span as we do. My Jake is no longer the pup he used to be, but I can't even contemplate the day he might not be around.

Mushy said...

It's so very sad to lose a pet...I know first hand, and it ain't easy. I still don't want another dog since Baylee died...just don't think God gave them enough time on earth. So little time that an owner would have to go through the pain several times during their lifetime...should be about the same...don't you think?

PRH....... said...

Always sucks...I've had dogs and then dogs, the closet ones, such as my current Airedale Reagan, are always the hardest to lose. Old Reagan has outlived everyone of the dozen or more Airedales that have called our home their home for the past 35 years, she turned 13 last month, can't hear, but still gets me up every morning at 4:30 for her biscuit. She pretends to wake me to go to the bathroom, but after 15 seconds she is scratching to get back in, looking for the handout. She probably doesn't have long in this world, but then again, I've been saying that for over 2 years. And she still eats and at least looks at the squirrels and neighborhood cats when I let her out...although she no longer chases them. :)

FHB said...

I guess I think about it this way. These friends of ours... Their love for us is to absolute, the light they shine in our lives is so bright, it's like they burn themselves out too quickly.

Or maybe they come through our lives at one time or another, so we can learn what love is, and what loss is.

I've had several critter companions in my life. Little Missy kept me entertained in the house in England when I was too scared of the bullies to go outside. By the time she died we were livin' in Missouri, and I was so happy to be out in the woods, runnin' around.

Her son, Wrinkles, from her last litter, was my companion then. When she died, I cried my eyes out for days, but Wrinkles and I went back to runnin' in the woods in no time.

When wrinkles died, and I was in college, it broke my heart again. It was ten years after he passed before the family could take the notion of getting another dog. When Rascal died, my heart was broken yet again.

But you know, the heart heals in time, and maybe grows stronger from the breaking. Anyway, we'll see them all again. And if I had a decent yard now, I'd have two or three runnin' around here, chasin' these cats.

Like I said, the love they give us is so pure, so unconditional, why deprive yourself of it? It's one of the best things we humans can experience in our lives.

So Mushy, jump back in the water my brother. In no time at all you'll be so glad you did.

Kenneth said...

As you know, my sister and her boyfriend bring every stray animal they find home and our yards are packed with dogs and cats in various stages of recovery (we even have a bird house for the baby birds that fall out of the trees, and we did find the owner of the last dog I sent you a picture of - it belonged to a local sheriff's deputy whose kids had lost it on a trip to town.) When one of our companions dies, we cry and mourn, and bury them in a cemetery we have created on our property, and although it feels as if a part of me dies with them, the other creatures quickly expand to fill whatever emptiness there might otherwise be. For example, for years the catahoula bulldog Buddy came to my house every morning at 5 AM when his 'parents' went to work, and spent the day with me until they got home at night. Since that ended when he died in March, although I interact with all of the other animals throughout the day, something has been missing and I've been out of balance. As I write this I'm watching the answer to that destroy my living room. The two kittens my sister rescued and stashed in my house a couple of weeks ago have healed and come to life, and hard for me to believe, but have filled the blank space that the loss of that dog left. And when I get ready to lie down for the night, they will be on my bed, as innocent as if they hadn't just shredded the curtains. From feral to friends in just a few days and I'm even wondering if it couldn't have been a turtle, or anything needing a safe place to be and plenty of food and water.

FHB said...

We can't help bein' soft hearted. Maybe the high tolerance level goes with it. Puttin' up with torn curtains, and occasional piles of steaming crud/har balls. i could say something about how I sustain my current relationship, but I won't.