Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Remembering Duncan

On March 9, 2008, after a three-month long illness, Duncan, my beloved West Highland White Terrier, died.

During the course of his illness, he lost 10 pounds. His once thick white coat became thin, stained, and soiled from skin lesions and too many runny bowel movements. Duncan stopped eating, so I fed him DogSure, a liquid food supplement, using a plastic syringe. I knew his days were numbered--I just didn't think that particular day would be his last. It started off as such a fair morning. Tiny leaves were just beginning to bud on the Japanese maple in my backyard. The sun warmed the room through the sliding glass doors. Jasmine blooms smelled so sweet.

That fateful Sunday morning, we sat together in a big, over-sized leather chair and watched Paul James the Gardener Guy on TV--just like so many times before--me sipping coffee and rubbing Duncan's head, he taking it all in. Mean while, my other dog Casey was outback, chasing birds.

After watching Paul James, I went upstairs to get dressed so I could take Duncan and Casey out for a walk. When I came back down, Duncan was lying on the floor, gasping for air. I picked him up, and thought I should perform artificial respiration, call the vet, do something heroic, but instead, I just held him close to my breast. He looked up into my eyes and wept, the way only a dog owner knows a dog can weep. I whispered in his ear, "Everything's going to be all right." Within five minutes I felt only one heart beating. Duncan was dead.

Later, my son and I took Duncan's remains to the emergency vet for cremation. What torture, standing at the counter, paying the fee to a detached cashier who had no idea how miserable I felt, missing Duncan so much I could hardly stand up, answering the cashier's silly questions though tears, sobs, and snot. "Who is your vet?" "What did your dog die from?" "Do you have pet insurance?" "Can I see your driver's license?"

Then, the vet on duty brought out on leash a bouncy, bright-white Westie that looked just like Duncan in his prime. The vet handed the leash to a woman, and said, "Here you go. Your dog's fine now." The little Westie came over and licked my shoe, looked up into my eyes and smiled, the way only a dog owner knows a dog can smile. It was a enchanting and magical moment.

The late, great Duncan (March 19, 1998-March 9, 2008) scouting around the hills he loved above Castro Valley, California, U.S.A. Photo taken April 2006.

But this blog isn't exclusively about Duncan. It's about life after Duncan. It's a forum for exploring the profundity of the dog/human bond, expressing myself, presenting my other beloved Westie Casey (born January 31, 2001), and introducing my new dog to the pack (an all white Jack Russell Terrier named Scout, born March 1, 2008). It's time to walk off the field of grief and go Scout Around!

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