I've been fighting with this one for a few days. I realize I rarely blog here -- and honestly, in Internet Time personal blogs stopped being a thing a zillion years ago -- and when I do, it's usually sad.
Sorry about that. It's been a rough year.
On Saturday, December 14th, 2013, I lost a good friend.
About the time I was moving in with Gabi, we adopted a Chao/Lab/Retriever mix. He's been with us for, basically, our entire relationship. He was with us for our first big get-out-of-town trip. He was with us when we moved into our new home. He was the first dog I ever had, in fact.
When we first discussed adopting a dog, I was hoping for something small—a beagle, ideally. Naturally, when Gabi visited the pound, she fell in love with this 80-ish pound, scraggly, mangy creature. He was a mess.
So, we adopted him.
We struggled a bit over a name; we tried a few and he just didn't respond to them at all. Finally, I suggested -- as I'm a big fan of the Richard Stark character -- "Parker."
Gabi responded, "He's a professional thief and murderer. I'm not naming him 'Parker.'"
Behind her, the dog heard "Parker," perked up and started wagging his tail.
So, we named him Parker.
Parker did not have an easy life; he'd been neglected badly before we adopted him, and he'd spent enough time on the loose that he was verging on feral. He was covered with matted fur, and beneath that, dozens of nasty bite wounds. He had massive issues with food—not surprising given that he was half-starved when we found him.
He hated water. We have a pond on our property with a small floating deck, connected to the shore by a narrow wooden footbridge. His first exposure to the pond freaked him out; he saw us sitting on the deck and, whining piteously, belly-crawled out to us and began to drink pond water.
Manically. Growling at it all the while.
Obviously, he was attempting to empty the pond, because his Human People were too damned stupid to be afraid of the water as Dog intended.
He was allergic to his own skin, and summer heat made him miserable.
He hated raccoons.
He hated bicycles, motorcycles and ATVs with near-religious fervor.
He liked cats, though. Gabi's cat, Fierce, used to walk with us to get the mail at our old place, and if it rained, Fierce would simply walk beneath Parker, using him as a canine umbrella, which seemed to amuse Parker.
He was always happy to see us, and sad to see us leave.
For the last few days, I am repeatedly struck by a recent memory of him. I'm sitting on my deck on a sunny late summer day. It's not very hot, but it's warm, and there's a steady, cool, comfortable breeze blowing. I'm reading a Stark novel, coincidentally.
Parker (the dog, not the thief/murderer) faces into the wind, squinting slightly and smiling like only dogs can. He's always happiest on days like this, and I see clearly that he's the Calm Old Wise Dog now, not the Fidgety Ate The Couch Cushions Dog we first met. The moment is so quiet, and so fragile, and so still, and it cleaves my heart in two every time I think about it. Which is often, now.
Then he sits next to me, eyes still squinted, and he places his chin on my knee. He makes a contented "whuffing" noise, and, still smiling, he falls asleep standing up, chin on my leg, still facing into the gentle wind and the warm sunshine.
Goddamn, he was a great dog.
He was getting older—we figure he was between 10 and 11 years old, and as I said, his health was never the best. His reddish-gold muzzle had faded to silver grey, and he'd become a little gaunt.
I fed him his breakfast Friday morning before Gabi and I made our way to the comic store she owns—about 65 miles away.
I came home that night -- Gabi had stayed behind with friends as is often our habit -- around 9 pm, and when I went to feed Parker his dinner I discovered that he'd had a stroke.
He died not long after.
The next morning, I woke early. It's winter now, foggy and cold and dark. I found a spot for Parker near his favorite tree, said goodbye, and buried him facing him in the direction of his beloved wind. I'm just sorry I couldn't give him any sunshine to smile at.