Friday, December 23, 2011


Getting a puppy when you are 16 years old is short-sighted, all around poor planning. Unless the breed has a two year life-span, you as the owner will end up being away for the vast majority of the dog's life.

We were reeling, though--perhaps not in a place to think rationally. You see, we had just lost our 5-year-old Belgian Tervuren, Makai, on the operating table--it wasn't even the surgery, but a rare allergic reaction to the anesthetics. We'd taken him and our Pembroke Corgi, Dylan, in to be fixed. Only one dog came home that night.

Maybe we should have put off discussion of replacing Makai until the shock and grief had passed, but amidst the tears at the dinner table that evening, we made a preliminary decision to keep our eyes open for another Tervuren.

Several months later, we bought a puppy from a local kennel. We'd taken the process as slowly as you can take an impulsive decision, and visited the kennel several times before making our purchase, then several more times before taking the puppy home with us.

The first Lord of the Rings film having only just come out the preceding December, we named the puppy Frodo. "Frodo" seemed to fit him: his ears were large and pointy, and his thick coat of fur seemed to cover him like a hobbit's tunic. We'd chosen Frodo because he was the most mellow out of a rambunctious litter, descended from spacey, rambunctious (and in-bred) parents. This should have been our first clue that Frodo would grow up to be a spacey, overly energetic dog, but as I said, our blinders were up.

We tried obedience school, and though Frodo quickly picked up on "the basics"--coming at the sound of his name and sitting--it stopped there. Anything that required even an ounce of patience or composure were beyond his grasp. So, Frodo's education ended with "sit", but to his dying day he never forgot this command. We realized that we couldn't just let Frodo roam free around the property, lacking an education as he was, so he spent most of his life in a large enclosure.

Though he was not free to run through our fields, he enjoyed the space that he had. He would spend hours watching the horses in the paddock, running back and forth along the perimeter of the enclosure, tongue lolling in excitement. He'd aimlessly trot around while looking up at the trees, as he desperately tried to track the squirrels who leaped from branch to branch. He would wrestle with his Corgi roommate Dylan and bark at cats.

When I'd come home from college, I'd take Frodo for the occasional walk, and spend time simply sitting with him. He loved the attention, but it was never the driving force in his life--he had so many other things that he enjoyed. He was an affectionate creature, and fiercely loyal to the several people he knew best. I, in turn, deeply valued his love and affection whenever I would visit home.

With a severe case of what we always referred to as "Canine ADD", Frodo never lost his wonderment with life and the world around him. The smallest movement outside the pen would catch Frodo's attention and result in joyous bounding back and forth along the fence. He had plenty of space to run and stayed fit and physically active as he chased cats, squirrels and horses from the confines of his pen. His was a simple life, but a happy one.

We took Frodo to the vet on Wednesday--a large tumor had formed on his back left leg. The blood-tests revealed that he had a form of spindle-cell cancer, and that to remove the cancer, it would be necessary to amputate his leg. We made the decision that, given the complexity of the operation and the limitations that would result from amputation (not to mention, the care he would need in recovery that my busy parents wouldn't be able to afford), it would be most humane to have Frodo put to sleep. We arranged for the vet to come out two days later (this afternoon).

I spent half an hour before the vet came just sitting with Frodo and stroking his fur. While he was still lively and happy, I understood the hard reality that the cancer would soon spread and his condition would deteriorate. I was there with Frodo to the end, patting his head and speaking soothing words as the vet sedated him. I watched, blinking away tears as he breathed his last. I helped to bury him in the backyard, on the ridge overlooking our barns. It's selfish for me to be sad--I wasn't exactly there for most of Frodo's life, and I wouldn't have been around for the 5 or 6 years Frodo may have had left, had he not gotten sick. Still, I grieve the loss of a creature who so loved life, and for one of the last lingering pieces of my childhood. Frodo watched me grow up, from high school, to college, and beyond. I always considered him to be "my" dog, even though I spent most of my time away from him. Now that he's gone, a very tangible connection to my past has gone with him.

Someday, I would like to have a dog of my own--I can only hope that my next dog has the same joy and zeal for living that Frodo had.

To Frodo--I will never forget you, and miss you already.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry for your loss. I can only say that it's great that you were able to be with him in his last hours, despite how often you were away.