Thursday, August 19, 2010


Chelsea posted about their dog today, and I was writing a long comment back, and then remembered that I started this blog partly so I wouldn't hosey other peoples' parlors. So:

Matt asked me just the day before he died if I could handle our dog on my own. I So Much wish I had asked him why he was asking. Instead, I said - "of course I can. I take care of him myself all the time when you're out of town." I think, if any part of him knew what was coming, he wanted to know whether having our dog would help or be too hard. boris would follow matt anywhere, the sun rose and set on that man for him. but bo was by my side in the water that day, and in the woods, and constantly now. Thank goodness. Not only is he currently the only other surviving member of our family living here with me, but he is also the reason I talk myself out of letting go of the steering wheel, during those really bad moments.

We talked about getting a dog for months before we finally did. We wanted an older dog, to give him a "really good last few years." Matt knew immediately that boris was The One. We got to the shelter, he crouched down in front of the second kennel on the right, looked at the dog, looked up at me and said, "there aren't any other dogs in here. This is the one." Man, he had great skills at that. boris was, and is now, exactly perfect for us. We adopted boris at the end of July, 2008. I have now had him longer on my own than we had him together.

A few months after M died, I called boris by one of matt's nicknames for him, and he jumped up out of a sound sleep, frantically looking around. When he realized matt wasn't there, he started whimpering, and laid back down. Oh, that sucked. He used to run up to men on the beach who were built somewhat like matt, especially if they were wearing shorts and tevas. A few feet away, he would realize they were not who he was looking for, drop his head, and run back to me. He doesn't really do that anymore, doesn't go up to pickup trucks that look like Matt's and try to get in, doesn't respond to Matt's nicknames for him. He didn't even have that much of a reaction when my step-son came for a visit, after having been away for 10 months. Not sure which is harder - the looking for matt, or the not looking for him. 

Driving to the river that morning, Matt (who had never had a dog before) asked how most dogs die. I told him I had only ever had one dog live long enough to die a natural death, and he walked off into the woods. Matt reached back to pat boris and told him, "that's how you're going to get to go buddy, walk off into the woods whenever you're ready."  The last words Matt said to me, as he was standing in the shallow part of the river, were about boris. He'd run off a bit, and I called him. Matt turned around and said, "you don't have to worry about him here, babe, he's in heaven."


  1. It's kind of odd how so many of us have aging dogs. For me, perhaps not so odd as I've always had a couple of dogs and we have had quite a few since Don and I met. It's hard for all of us though - we've lost our spouses and now some of us have either lost or will probably lose our older dogs in the next year or so. Some people don't understand how much a dog can mean to someone - and for us in particular - our dogs and cats are often an important link to "life before". Our pets do remember. If I say "Dad's home!" Sabrina looks around to see where he might be. When I returned to our farm last summer, she would lie on the hill on our front lawn at around 5 p.m. each day and watch the front gates, waiting for Don to arrive home. When I travel, I occasionally stay at a certain chain of motels where each room usually looks exactly the same no matter where you go in North America. When I began traveling alone, I'd pick up the room key, unlock the sliding patio door, then get Sabrina out of the van. As soon as she entered the room, she would wag her tail and look around the room, up on the beds, in the bathroom, and then look puzzled and lie down. That's because Don would always open the door for us and then start doing something in the room. I'm sort of amazed at her memory, but then, after my last collie (Maggie) died, if I said, "Where's Maggie?" she would run around the outside of the house and go right to where we had buried Maggie. For the longest time, she would lie on top of that spot whenever she was outside for more than a few minutes.

    I'm glad that you've got Boris. He will take care of you just as much as you take care of him.

  2. As I have mentioned in a few of my posts, I have grown to really love our dog and cat. I say grown to love, as I have never really been much of a pet person. I think the kids were more than enough for me. Both of our pets arrived within a month of each other, and this was right after Michael was diagnosed with his brain tumor. I became so attached to them, and they to me. Friends would always comment about how odd it was to see me with these animals all over me. I was surprised by this myslef.

    Michael was less of a pet lover than I was. He grew to care about the pets, but more from a "you don't choose your family, but you have to love them" sort of way. One thing your rarely saw was him cuddled up with either pet. When he became bed bound his mother insisted that our cat always be on Michael's bed with him. The visiting nurses would always comment about how wonderful that the cat sat with Michael, and how it was proof about how much he loved the cat. One even said they must have been insperable. I just laughed to myself, knowing that if Michael could still talk, or waive his arms, that cat would be no where in sight.

    I too am happy that you have Boris with you.

  3. To put it simply, I don't think I would have got through the last two years with my sanity more or less intact without Moose. In the early days, he was the only thing that got me up in the morning. Feeding him reminded me that I needed to eat something too. Having a warm body to hug while I cried offered some modicum of comfort.
    Moose pretty much travels everywhere with me - although it has been a long time since I have been tempted to put my foot down and drive into a wall, I couldn't bear the thought that I might have an accident and he would be left alone. So I have a car that constantly smells of wet dog, but I guess it is a small price to pay.

  4. wet dog and dog hair car - got that. Matt had a pickup truck, and bo was supposed to stay in the backseat. Even so, the dog hair drove matt nuts. I have a tiny little car - used to be only sometimes furry, now so completely and constantly covered in sand, dirt, dog fur, and though I don't smell it, being used to it, I bet it smells like dog.

    Matt was not a pet person either. He loved animals, he just had a hard time with the ownership of another being. He really wanted everyone to be sovereign in their own right. Made for some very interesting moments...

    That is the one anxiety I have - that something will happen to me and boris will have to go live with, most likely, my parents, who will love him, but not play with him as I do. He needs to run around and be free, but if he doesn't trust you, or hasn't been suitably exhausted, he will take off. That's why he was surrendered to the shelter - he'd kept running off on his first family. USUALLY not so with us. He gets to be himself now, and it just freaks me out to think he would have to adjust to yet another loss in his life, and live with folks who love him, but long runs on the beach - not happening. Not in my control, certainly, but still. Sometimes I wonder if I survived that day specifically to take care of the dog - to let him live out a really good life.

    I highly doubt I would have survived at all without boris here. I mean, don't know what I would have done, specifically, but I didn't have to find out.

    Dan - that image of you knowing how much Michael did not love having the cat on him, while others oohed and aahed over it - cracks me up.