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In memory of an old friend

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POSTED: April 25, 2009 1:00 a.m.

I am a big fan of most dogs and always have been.

I say most because as a rule I tend not to care much for so-called lap dogs, and that includes many chihuahuas I have come across.

This is not meant to insult lap dogs or their owners, but merely to state a fact. They probably don’t care much for me, either, or wouldn’t if they met me. I can live with that.

To each his own.

Fortunately, there are exceptions to every rule. That was Peewee, a chihuahua unlike any other I have ever come across. And here, for what it is worth, is his story, and I only wish I could tell it better.

We got him in 1995 as a puppy through no doing of mine and the first thing you couldn’t help but notice was his head was bigger than his body.

He also didn’t seem to stand still very often -- which made him hard to pet and harder to catch. More on that later, because I think it important to say now that even back then he had the personality that made everyone he met fall in love with him. Even me. Not that Peewee was an angel.

He was all dog all the time, though what kind of dog he saw himself as was occasionally up for debate. If the UPS man came around, Peewee thought he was Rottweiler. He didn’t even look much like a chihuahua, come to think of it. He instead looked something like a football, albeit one with seal pup eyes, ears that never stayed still and speed to burn. I've never known a faster dog, nor one that had quite his personality -- think Jack Nicholson and you get the picture.

In Peewee's heyday he had a gang of canine companions, one a large, gentle shepherd mix named Lorie. Peewee had quite the crush on Lorie, and as a younger dog he loved to get loose and make the rounds with her and their compatriots -- and then come home at all hours of the day grinning like he owned the universe.

Peewee also was fascinated by a small herd of cows that once lived about 100 yards from our home, back before our rural neighborhood turned into suburbia and we had to restrict his movements for his own sake.

More than once I had to go rescue the cows from Peewee. I do not know what he would have done with a cow had he caught one, but that never stopped him from trying. But the cows are gone now and so is the rest of the rural atmosphere. It's been replaced by concrete driveways and heavier traffic. I believe we're poorer for it. Sadly, Lorie stopped dropping by years ago, and we're poorer for that, too.

Like all of us, Peewee grew older.

He would still throw me and my wife a curve ball from time to time -- for one thing, just when we thought he had gotten chasing bikes out of his system, he would light out after one for all he was worth -- but mostly he was content watching the increasingly busy world go by.

Then his health started becoming an issue. He had to have a tumor removed a few years ago and, when he was 12, Peewee had to get neutered. It didn't keep him from trying to take an occasional bite out of the UPS man or running a neighbor's golden retriever out of the yard.

And though we knew he always had a heart bigger than his body, we found out last year it really was too big for him.

His vet proscribed Lasix and another drug I can’t pronounce or spell to help him breathe better, and it worked.

Yet Peewee still slipped into advanced old age on us, though he still liked to walk the garbage to the curb with me, or check the mail -- or do his part to water the flowers while I cut grass. He had a fondness for marigolds.

But as he entered his 14th year his senses weren't what they once were when he could hear me open the fridge from the other side of the house and come running.

In recent months Peewee, who as a younger dog could hear a car pulling into the driveway and tell by the sound of the motor who was stopping by, spent more and more time snoring on his pillow. He was slower to hear, to see, to notice. Then he would wake up and wag his tail, as if apologizing for not being quicker on the draw.

We knew the end would come. We just didn't know it would happen so quickly.

It came April 6.

It was one of the hardest decisions my wife and I have ever had to make, putting him down. But at 14, Peewee's heart was failing and we learned he had a particularly fast growing cancer that hadn’t been detected earlier.

His vet, Dr. Jennifer Forney, and the folks at Effingham Animal Hospital were kind as they helped us through the final hours of his life, then we brought him home to rest in a sunny corner of his yard, where he can watch over us.

I’ll admit that it hasn’t been easy, saying goodbye. There are times my wife will think she sees or hears Peewee -- and not a day has gone by that I don’t miss his help in the yard, the sound of his snoring or his help in fixing a meal.

Those who have never been true friends with a dog won’t understand, but those who have know the score.

I think Sir Walter Scott said it best: "I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?"

Rest easy, little friend.

 

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