Chances are, if you're reading this, then you know her. Oh, let's just clear the air: chances are you've been bitten by her. But wounds heal, chicks dig scars, and a dog is man's best friend. Here are a few things about my best friend:
I did not raise my dog from a pup. She and I met at the Tuscaloosa Humane Society while I was a student at the University of Alabama. I was living in a tiny joint and I decided to get a tiny dog for it. However, those plans changed when I was distracted by a black-and-white mutt in the holding pen, the only dog in the place not barking its fool head off. Our first exchange was as follows: Me, "What's your problem?" Her, [jumps on my chest]. For this reason, with all due respect to our Great Leader and his signing day "hunting dog" metaphors, I remain ever skeptical of both purebreds and their owners.
My dog will eat anything but mushrooms and her favorite beer is Warsteiner. The mushrooms I could never figure out. The Warsteiner's probably because Germans are pretty snooty about what gets thrown into their brown bottles. I'm not saying the dog would turn her nose up at an Old Milwaukee, but she'd go wild for the kraut stuff.
My dog is really fucking old. At least 19, perhaps 23. This information is only here to counter the inevitable "You gave your dog beer!?!" reaction that follows the information preceding. To answer your question, yes--you're goddamn right I did. As well as pizza, venison, oysters, french fries, liver, pancakes, ribs from Archibald's, steak, corn dogs, ice cream, chicken, peanut butter, turkey, ribs from Dreamland, chicken bones, and countless other things "dog people" say you should not give dogs to eat. When confronted by said "dog people," lo these past two decades, who have said "You really shouldn't feed your dog ________" I have always responded, kindly but firmly, "You mean my dog that's approaching twenty years old? That dog? The dog in front of you? Who lives on, proudly, comfortably--nay--enthusiastically for this so-called contraband? Thanks for your advice."
My dog met surf-rock legend Dick Dale. He played a show at the Chukker, and the doorman initially said she couldn't come inside. I told him, "It's cool. She's three years old; that's twenty-one in dog years." That seemed to be all the assurance he required.
My dog is curious. Here is a partial list of things my dog has unlocked/opened over the years, sometimes to her own detriment, more often to the items themselves: bag of pipe tobacco, passenger side door of an S-10 truck, a baby crib, family-size container of Tide with bleach, a second-floor window, a cd copy of Proud Mary and Other Hits by Ike & Tina Turner, a sliding patio door, an above-ground pool cover, a bag of charcoal briquettes (unlit), a Hibachi grill (lit), my left ear.
My dog is reference-able in a university library system. She's mentioned by name in the acknowledgments of my master's thesis. That's the section where my classmates put their thesis chairs' names. My thesis chair went on sabbatical for half the damn year; my dog was there every day.
My dog gets along with cats. She lived side-by-side with a cat for over half her life. Sure, they had their disagreements over sleeping spaces, food dishes, and the role of government, but nothing like the stereotype would have you believe.
My dog would not get along with you (most likely). This is nothing personal. Shortly after I adopted my dog, a vet told me that she'd been fixed earlier than most dogs. Generally, the reason for this is that the dog is high strung or aggressive and the owner is scared of what an animal like that would be like in heat. In retrospect, her high strung disposition is likely why she ended up in the pound in the first place. It's a minor miracle the dog got along with me, and a lucky break for her that she didn't end up fighting roosters in some day laborer's basement for side bets.
My dog has degenerative myelopathy. This is a progressive disease of the spinal cord, which about a year ago hindered her ability to walk. I initially believed she had hip dysplasia because, well, she's really fucking old. Then, around August, she needed a wheelchair to get around, and a few days ago, she hasn't even been able to use that.
On the upside, because this is a neurological condition, she isn't in any pain. However, she became immobile and the disease would soon move to her brain stem, meaning she would be given over to full-blown dementia (at best) or a series of aneurysms or strokes (at worst). Therefore, her life ended earlier this week so that she would not have to face that inevitable suffering.
That's a pretty downbeat ending, but although I'm sad that I won't have my dog around any longer, this shouldn't be a sad occasion. She outlasted and outlived many other dogs and quite a few people. For that reason, you are invited to raise a glass tonight for her virtual Irish wake (virtual because 1. who knows when you're reading this--these things are impossible to schedule--and 2. she wasn't Irish).
I don't believe in a heaven, at least not the kind with angels and harps and clouds and such nonsense, but I do believe we (and dogs) live on in the memories we create for others. Our legacy becomes our afterlife, whether that is friendship or art or football or chasing damnable squirrels.