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November 07, 2010

I have lost a friend, and I miss him terribly

I am a forty-eight year old man at the time of this writing.  Since I've been forty-four, I've been owned by a dog. And now, today, he's gone.  He died while I held him, in front of my house, after he'd been hit hard by a blue minivan whose driver didn't even stop to say he or she was sorry about what happened. And it happened so quickly, almost instantly.

He was like so many others of his kind, impulsive and instinctive.  Which is what did him in and ended his too short life.  We had managed to train him to stay when folks came to the door. But he couldn't resist some things like squirrels, birds and other dogs.  He bolted like lightning out the front door to meet a neighbor's dog across the street. The minivan's driver was going too fast for a residential street but in reality probably wouldn't have been able to avoid him had he even been going the thirty mile per hour limit.  The van smashed into him, throwing him thirty feet.  I was in the basement, listening to an investor conference call replay over the internet.

I suddenly heard a tremendous amount of screaming, and thought that he had bitten one of the kids, really badly.  He liked to nip the kids, and tug on their pants, testing his place in the pack.  I raced up the stairs, but didn't see any kids.  My peripheral vision saw a crowd outside, and my wife in the street standing over my friend's motionless body.  I ran out the front door screaming his name.  He was on his way out, I knew it as I saw him on the cold street.  His left eye was open, but he was motionless.  My wife left his side to go comfort the screaming children.  There were at least eight of them that saw the van kill him, including my son Alec.  

I bent over him, crying, sobbing, my mind racing, thinking what can I do?  I thought he was completely gone, but his heart was still beating, rapidly.  The blood was flowing onto the street from his head, but he was motionless.  I knew he was going.  I told him I loved him over and over, agonized whether to rush him to the emergency vet, but I knew he wasn't going to make it.

This was the event that i had feared.  He loved to chase squirrels, birds, and frolic with other dogs.  He'd often paw and bark at the storm door in the front.  We had to make sure that we had the extra lock on it so he didn't pop the door open.  We were all just too late this time.

I held him and comforted him until his heart stopped beating.  It was wrenching, to try not to do anything but just be there for him while his life ebbed away so quickly.  After the life left him, I asked the neighbors to stand over him while I got the sheet he loved to lie on from the foot of our bed.  I returned and wrapped him in it, as gently as I could, picked him up and brought him into our backyard.

I laid him down and returned to the front yard, where all the neighbors and visitors had gathered. I thanked each for their compassion and help.  Going inside the house, i joined my wife and children, where we held each other and grieved our terrible loss.  After we had cried ourselves out, it was time to decide where he should rest.  

My daughter picked the place under the swingset where he liked to dig and rest on the cool dirt in the summer.  I took the mattock and a shovel, and started to dig through my tears.  Through the roots and the clay, down to the sand.  My back and arms were pained and sore.  When I was down deep enough, I called everyone out. I brought him over from where I first laid him down.  He was cold, heavy now.  I placed him down as gently as I could at the bottom. We buried him with his rawhide bone and a smelly sock from each child.  He loved to steal stinky socks, underwear, and towels, and we sent him off with a few of his favorites.  Everyone took turns laying some dirt onto him, and Emily and me finished the fill.

We left him in his resting place and returned to our quiet, empty house.  I had taken off his collar and given it to my Alec for him to hold.  Each time his nametag jingled against his rabies tag, it broke my heart again.  We will miss him, terribly.  His sweet affection, his vocalizing when he wanted to go out or be fed, and just the pure love that a family dog is. Nacho, my heart aches with losing you.



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