It's been three days now. I've mourned my friend--and will continue to do so--but it's time to shake it off and get back in operation. There will be some changes but the blog will continue. I definitely want to thank everyone who sent kind words, either publicly or privately, or called with condolences. It meant a lot, and it's nice to think that while he was mine, Lagniappe was also the internet's dog.
Admittedly, the house seems pretty empty now. I had Lagniappe when I moved in and he's always been a part of this house so I feel his absence now. No one greets me at the door when I walk in, and when I wake up in the middle of the night, I don't hear him stirring too. I still get those automatic reminders in the back of my mind to feed the dog, or let the dog out. But there's no dog here any more. And I haven't quite gotten around to boxing up all of his stuff yet, although I'm noticing how much stuff in the form of toys, bowls, brushes and other dog things that he had. He was definitely rich in possessions.
He was, of course, buried with his beloved hedgehog. I also gave him a tennis ball to share with my other departed dogs, and left him his collar so that there will never be any doubt that he's still my dog. I kept his tags.
Some of the toys will be taken to the local shelter for other less-fortunate dogs to play with. A couple toys will be held back for the next dog that will undoubtedly come around one of these days. There will be another dog. There's always another dog. Lagniappe was another dog once, fresh on the loss of my last Shepherd, Oliver.
In fact when he first got here, I resented him for not being Oliver--he looked the same, but had a different personality, different expectations, and different needs. He also came with a whole slew of baggage--he'd been neglected by the kennel that he'd been returned to to the point where he didn't like anyone, including me. It wasn't a good start by any measure but we worked through the issues and eventually meshed into a great team. An unbeatable team.
Now as I look around the Lair, I see his footprint everywhere. There's still a ton of loose black dog hair around, a deck that will need repainting where his claws tore it up, nose prints on most of the windows and doors, and the damage done to the sliding glass patio door that opens onto the deck. This last one was always a source or frustration; every time that I went to let him in over the years, he would stand on his side of the door like a coiled spring, ready to jump. I'd tell him no, but every time, as soon as I'd reach for the inside handle, he'd jump up against the other side of the door and hit it hard with both paws. Every. Single. Time. For more than five years. Now the door has a slight but noticeable bend in it's frame, and it binds in the track just a bit when I slide it. It didn't do that when we moved in, but five years of a Shepherd pounding on it for no reason at all has had an impact. And I could never get him to stop, no matter what I tried. eventually I just gave up and learned to expect it. I miss it now. I've been opening the door for three days now and no one has slammed into the other side, not even once.
So I'll fix these things now. And I won't mind, because he was my friend. I'd accept ten times the mess and damage just for a little more time with him. But I know that's not possible. It was his time to go and while I'm sad now, and while this past week-end was painful, the pain can't compare to the memories of the great times that we shared together over the past eight years. We hiked, camped, and traveled from Maine to Florida and back. We swam together, played ball together, and took long rides and even a few flights together. And even the quiet times I spent reading on the deck or in the gun room or napping on the couch were enriched by his near-constant presence beside me. He was well-mannered and polite, always sitting and waiting to be invited up on my bed and never begging for my food, popcorn excepted since my mother got him addicted to the stuff the first time I let her dog-sit him. It was only at the end when I relaxed the rules that he began begging for (and getting) some of whatever I was eating--but for most of his life, he never begged food or asked much of me save for a neck scratch or a few tosses of his toy. In return, he was my companion and the protector of my possessions, and I always knew that no one was ever getting into my house and getting back out again whole as long as he was there.
So while I'm missing him, I'm also smiling as I think of all of the good times. We bonded together like few friends ever do, and there hasn't been a day during the past eight years that he hasn't enriched somehow. Yeah, that's a fair trade for a few sad days at the end. And to be honest, I'm sad for me, but glad for him. His quality of life was diminishing every day, until all he had left was me doing the best that I could to keep him comfortable and content. I watched a dog who used to climb ladders and could scale a five-foot fence with ease falter to the point where he couldn't get up two small steps without help. But I gave him that help gladly, and we stretched it out as long as we could. The vet said that he didn't feel any pain in his hind legs so I never minded accommodating him as long as he was still able to move around. However, we finally reached the point when it was time for him to go. And there were tears, but there are a lot more good memories: summer days in the sun, winter evenings by the fire, rides in the car, impromptu wrestling matches on the floor, and countless hours spent together just doing things that guys and their dogs do.
We had a good run, Lagniappe. I couldn't have asked for a better pal. You were a good dog, and you were a great friend. Go to God, fella. I'll be along one day and we'll see each other again then.