You know Willie, whose official registered-with-the-AKC name was Redmond Chocolate Thunder, as one-half of the famous Two Idiots comedy team. He was as good a dog as I've ever known. I was fond of him from the day we brought him home, but he and I really bonded after two or three years when he established a routine that paid off for both me and him. He'd wake up The Wife very early -- leaving me be -- to let him outside and serve his breakfast. Then he'd come upstairs and jump back onto the bed with me and sleep until I got up. Shrewd, eh? This, I thought, is my kind of dog.
All pets die eventually, but sexy boudoir photographs last forever.
His penchant for eating anything -- A. Nee. Theen. Guh. -- was widely known, gossiped about and shuddered over. Now, at least, The Wife and I can blow our noses and freely toss our used tissues in the wastebasket without worrying that he'll be in there later, rooting them out and eating them. He so loved the scent and, apparently, taste of tissue paper that we occasionally came home from an outing to find that he'd pulled a nice, long trail of toilet paper from the bathroom to whatever room he'd made into his ad-hoc dining room. We learned quickly to shut the bathroom doors when we left the house, but sometimes we'd forget. And come home to this:
In September 2009 Willie was slowing down, slightly -- a couple of gray hairs in the facial fur, and he took two steps at a time on the stairs instead of three -- but he still was being mistaken for a puppy on our walks in the neighborhood and around the lake. One day The Wife woke me up with news that he'd collapsed and couldn't move. I took him in and we found that he had a rare cancer that usually only shows up in Burmese mountain dogs. We had his spleen removed, but the cancer was fast and unrelenting, we were told, and he had two to three months to live. But he kept on keeping on -- his legs got a little arthritic, but I'd lift him onto the bed if he didn't feel like jumping. A couple of weeks ago, though -- fourteen months after he was given three months to live -- he stopped eating (and if you've been paying attention, that's a huge red flag). An ultrasound revealed that most of his innards were ravaged by cancer -- the vet was kind of impressed that he was surviving at all with so much of it all over his organs -- and while a steroid brought back his appetite and chippered him up for a while, it was only a while. A week later was Monday, and Monday was a really crappy day.
Don't just stand there pointing a camera, Ansel Adams -- get me some mustard!
Zeus is still here, of course -- about a year younger than Willie, and a mutt so theoretically not as much risk of weird diseases. And while I love this guy too, he's no Willie. Whatever Zeus's previous owners did before The Wife and I got him from a rescue shelter did a number on him. It was weeks before he'd let us pet him, and to this day he'll only come when called about half the time. He's never fully embraced things like getting hugged or petted for long periods of time, or the general rolling-around-playing that Willie excelled at. We've always felt that Zeus loved Willie and liked us. Zeus followed Willie everywhere, and felt so secure and emboldened enough with his older brother that occasionally this notorious coward would growl at other dogs on our walks. Go on, come after me -- but before you do, get a real good look at this choco-Lab wildman to my right and ask yourself if you feel lucky.
Now I feel better about things than I did in the days leading up to Willie's last trip to the vet, but I miss the SOB (I can say that, he literally was one) a whole lot. There's a beautiful song by The Band called "Rockin' Chair" about two elderly sailors who are headed home to spend the last of their days. I used to sing it to the dog when no one was around (he never once complained about my singing voice!) because the singer is one of the old geezers and he's singing to his friend Willie. It put me in the mind of a very, very elderly me sitting on a front porch, "with my very best friend, they call him Ragtime Willie." Silly, impossible, implausible, sure -- made me smile, though. And he sure loved the ear-scratching that came with it.
Pass me that bottle, bro.
So it's the first Christmas in quite a while that I won't have to constantly worry that the tree is going to get knocked over because Willie is rooting around underneath it, or ornaments will be swatted across the room by his ever-wagging tail. It cheers me up a great deal to think that the next animal we bring into this house will be NJ's.
Oct. 31, 1997 - Dec. 6, 2010: RIP