For Pam’s first birthday married with me, I bought her a dog.
I grew up, as a kid, with a dog named Missy; we had her from about the time my memory starts until after I left the nest to go to college. She was my “kid”… we grew up together. Pam never had dogs growing up… I wanted to give her the same kinship I experienced when I grew up, so we adopted a Greyhound from the race tracks of Phoenix, Arizona.
He came to us, at 3 years old, named “Vic’s Guv“… his racing name. We quickly renamed him to Merlin. We looked up his racing record, and let’s just say he wasn’t exactly Carl Lewis. If I recall, he didn’t finish half his races – in some of them, it was noted that he’d tripped and collided with other dogs on the turn of the track. And I could sort of see it: he was a goofy, awkward oaf… he had a lopsided gait, like one of his legs was perhaps longer than the other? The Big Guy was afraid of walking on our wood floors and would almost refuse to. I would take him in the back yard to play catch: he’d be standing near me, I’d throw the ball into the fence line of the yard, and he’d go racing the other way like I was chucking it at him! I never really got him – it was probably obvious that he was abused at some point. He wouldn’t even bark to go outside for the first 5 years… sometimes we’d wake up with a gift on the floor.
Then we took him to someone’s house that had dogs, and…. he actually acted like a dog!!! Not like the fearful klutz like when it was just with us. So we decided to “pull him” out of his closet and get a companion dog for him. In walks Morgan (or Ashley Sue – her racing name). I told the greyhound people I wanted the spunkiest, most trouble-making dog they had. Morgan was everything a dog should be. And our idea worked: with Morgan around, Merlin has always acted a little more like a dog and less like cat.
He was still a little on the gay side, but Pam and I accepted that. And then we had kids. For the most part, they weren’t half bad with the kids. Morgan was the Saint of the two; where Merlin would kinda tolerate them in a grumpy, old man way. You see, normally, the Big Guy is timid and wouldn’t hurt a fly (in fact, I think he’s scared of flies). But there was an occasion or two where he did get ornery with something. But he really was a harmless dog; 99% of the time, I’d describe him as happy-go-lucky (hence the nickname “Guy Smiley”).
Even better, he was our weather forecaster, because if he was pacing around the house, you could be sure there was barely audible “booms” in the distant. I’ve never seen a living thing more scared of thunder.
When we moved to Italy, Pam and I didn’t think either of them would make it out. We honestly thought it’d be a one way trip for the both of them. Yet here we are… both of them are well past their life expectancy and still holding out strong.
So… I was woodworking tonight, trying to finish this damn table before I move to Britain, and I heard a knock on our door. It was some old Italian lady speaking to me in Italian. What the hell? I heard the word “Cane” (cah-neh) and knew she was saying something about dog. Oh shit! I had let Merlin out about 10 minutes ago, and the front gate must’ve open. I told her “grazie mille” (thanks a million) for finding him; it’s been about 7 times in the past that Pam and I have accidentally left the driveway gate open (or thought we had closed it and it hadn’t closed). She was pointing to the end of the driveway… shit hot; the last few times they wondered out, they were roaming around in the small playground adjacent to our house. I was thankful that she found him! Then I caught the word “vita”… in Spanish, “vida” means life.
And then I got to the end of our driveway… and there he was lying in the center of the road, panting, in a puddle of blood. The first blood spot was about 7 yards from where he lay. I think he was hit in the hip, because his leg was completely out of alignment – only his huge muscles had held it together. He remained still, and only his eyes darted to me… and he was panting. At a winter’s 7:30 pm outside, I could see the rhythmic steam coming out of his mouth. Oh God, what do I do? My first thought: I need to get my gun and put him out of his misery… but in Italy, firearms are completely illegal; my Old Man in Texas has all of my guns. I grabbed him by his feet and lifted him over to the berm of the road and gently set him down. He didn’t complain. At this point, he kept his gaze fixed straight ahead and continued to pant.
All I could do was be with him. So I scratched him, behind his ears, on his neck… he licked his lips a few times and within a minute or so, he stopped moving… and the steam from his mouth stopped.
I know he didn’t have much time left in him as far as years go, but I won’t lie when I say I’m a little ripped up. In fact, I don’t even have an appetite right now.
I remember all the childhood animals I had: 4 cats and 3 dogs. And it was my Old Man who had to take them to a Vet for their final hours. This is my first time doing it. It was not enjoyable, nor was it the way I had anticipated it would happen. In fact, I still feel sick to my stomach. I’m sure I’ll wake up tomorrow and it may finally fully impact me.
Merlin and Morgan were two peas in a pod. They are a part of our family. I can remember, just before I let him outside, Merlin was doing his best Guy Smiley impression and fishing for pets. Oh yeah, and a few years ago, he finally learned to bark to go outside.
My fear is that Morgan will fall soon, now that her partner in crime is gone. Merlin: I’m so sorry for not ensuring the gate was shut prior to letting you outside. Hopefully, we filled your 12-year life with something better than what it would have been at the track. I miss you already.
Every time I hear thunder, I will always expect to hear your lopsided gait prancing around to find us for comfort. I’m so sorry buddy. I’ll miss you, Guy Smiley – and I hope it was as painless as it could be.