It started last Sunday, in the middle of the night. Pippin woke me up with a coughing fit and some weird restless behavior, moving in a circle around and under the bed. He was not real steady on his feet. Because he was hard of hearing, I motioned to him to follow me down the hallway. The two of us had figured out a sign language to communicate. He trotted after me and I went to the front door to let him out.
I had a robe and slippers on, so I stepped outside with him, picked him up, and carried him down the front steps. He had grown to mistrust steps and we assumed it was part of old age, like the deafness. He was tilting his head to one side and I feared he had an ear infection. I put him down on the grass and he went over to the neighbors front lawn, listing to one side like a drunken sailor. He was moving in circles and finally he squatted to pee. This was starting to look familiar. He came back onto our lawn and starting circling again, in about a four foot radius. I had seen this before and I was shaken. We had seen this once before. He had canine ataxia.
Carjo called the vet in the morning. The soonest they could get him in was the next day, in the afternoon. He was much worse the next morning, he was barely interested in food and water which NEVER happened with him. The circling and tilting behaviors were excruciating to watch. And around 1:30 we loaded him in the car for one last trip.
Pippin lived for car rides. We hoped he would enjoy this one and he did. The vet was forty some miles away and a couple times I opened the windows for him, which got a snort from the little guy and his legendary “happy dance” in the backseat. And that’s what I want to remember the most.
I buried him in the backyard, just behind the garage. The cats that he knew first are all there: Jonah, Poca, Jasper, and Pip’s great friend Sneakers. It’s a spot that gets a lot of sun and overlooks an area of the yard he loved to wander in. His spirit will thrive there.
Pippin was a strange and wonderful boy. He came from bad circumstances, a rescue from a hoarding situation. His first year with us he slept fitfully, often marked his territory INSIDE the house, and freaked out when he was picked up or touched by surprise. He lacked enthusiasm for most things dogs enjoy, especially toys. Eating was an odd ritual, done only at midnight with no one watching. He never did learn to take a treat from anyone’s hand.
After a year, Pippin began to thrive. He embraced the joie de vivre that is the essence of being a dog. He slept soundly wherever he wanted, could be picked up without a fuss, and LIVED to go on rides, especially to the FARM. All it took was a touch of the car keys or a mention of the word TRIP to get boundless enthusiasm. He had a favorite toy. Pippin never had an enemy, never met a person he didn’t like. He became concerned about Carjo and monitored her closely, perhaps giving her a sense of calm. If you started howling, he broke into a song that would last for minutes. He loved his cats, even the chihuahuas Merry and then Lavender Brown. He even made friends with my mother-in-law, sleeping on her lap during those long viewings of the Weather Channel. Was he the best dog I ever had? I would say he was the best dog he could be.
So farewell our little love, our companion for almost eleven years. It was an exciting and exhilarating adventure that I wished would never end. Sleep well and soundly my love.