For a week which started out with so much hope and optimism, it sure had a crappy ending. Friday was the first nice day we’ve had in weeks, and probably the last we’ll see for a while. It was a great afternoon to be outdoors. I just wish I didn’t have to spend it digging a grave.
Norm died unexpectedly Thursday night. As he was a found dog, his age was uncertain. He had been with me for about 12 years, and he was an adult when he found me. So he must have been at least fourteen, which is approaching a ripe old age in dog years, especially for a dog of his size. But despite his chronological age, he still seemed full of life and youth. He had started to show some weakness in his hind end, probably arthritis, as he was no longer able to jump into the back of my car. But aside from that, he didn’t seem like an old dog, certainly not one near death.
Thursday afternoon, when I got home from work, he greeted me eagerly as usual. A little later, he was eating with a healthy appetite. Around 9:00 PM, he was struggling to get up. I thought his arthritis was bothering him more than usual, and helped him to his feet. An hour or so later, he was walking in a strange manner, holding his front legs out stiffly. Around 11:00, as I getting ready to go to bed, he got up, staggered around, and lay back down. At 4:00 AM, he was dead.
For the first time in almost 20 years, my household is dogless. It’s a strange feeling, and not a happy one. With shelters overflowing with dogs abandoned as a result of financial problems, I should be able to find another. Unfortunately, the shelters all seem to be run by PETA types who would rather euthanize dogs than let me have them. Apparently keeping a dog in a cage is better than letting it run free on a farm. So I’ll probably remain dogless until I can find one that’s not in the clutches of the PETA-philes at a shelter.
Dogs are like children, or maybe I should say dog owners are like parents. Everybody thinks their own dogs/kids are special. But Norm really was. He had won the hearts of everyone in my family, and everybody else that met him. He loved people, and he showed it by wagging that kangaroo-like tail, usually thumping it on something. Due to his size, probability dictated that there was almost always something within thumping distance of his tail.
Before my father’s accident, he frequently cut firewood here. He could be on the back of the farm, a mile from the house, and within minutes after starting his chain saw, Norm would appear. Norm also enjoyed helping people work with cattle, probably due to some Australian blood. However, his idea of help was usually nipping the rumps of calves that people were trying to doctor, which really didn’t do much to help the cause. So whenever he showed up to help work cattle, he usually had to be tied up until the work was finished. He accepted that gracefully, and never struggled or complained, or tried to escape despite being tied with a flimsy piece of twine that he could have chewed through in seconds if he wanted to. Instead, he lay there contentedly, happy to be around people and to know he had tried to help, occasionally thumping his tail to provide encouragement to the humans.
A couple of years ago, I was out in the pasture talking to the horses, and Norm was with me. A yellow pickup truck went past slowly, and Norm looked at me expectantly. I said “We don’t know that truck,” but he knew better. Like a flash, he ducked under the fence to the driveway and out to the road, chasing the truck and catching it as it turned into the farm entrance about 1/4 mile away. Stupid me, I didn’t know my sister had a new truck, but Norm did, and knew she probably needed help with cattle.
Not long ago, my parents were discussing Norm and all his endearing traits. They told me I’ll never find another dog like him. I’m sure they’re right. I’ll eventually find another dog, and I’ll probably grow to love him/her as much as Norm, but it won’t be quite the same. Norm was sort of like a family treasure, adored and considered special by all. The next one will probably just be my dog, and everybody else will like him too, but not as much as their own. Because no other dog is as special as your own, except for a rare few like Norm that appeal to everybody.
Farewell, Norm. For all the joy you brought me, an afternoon spent digging a hole was a trivial price. I just wish the payment could have been deferred a little longer.