I know it’s been several weeks since I’ve shown my face around here, I’m sorry for dropping off the web. This post has been extraordinarily hard to produce. If any of you have seen my most recent twitter updates you know that we had to put our dog, Dutch, down. It was a very difficult time for our family and friends, Dutch was and is a very beloved member of our circle… he’s irreplaceable.
I first met Dutch when I was thirteen, he was my brother Marc’s friends dog. When he was still a puppy he came to live with us, along with my brothers friend. I initially didn’t care for Dutch, I had recently lost my dog to an illness and was in no mood to deal with an out of control puppy. He humped everything, everyone… even small children. Thankfully that faze ended quickly. Not long after arriving my brothers friend left, leaving his dog behind. And that’s how we came to possess Dutch. He was our family dog for eight years before we moved on and out into our own homes, at which point my brother took Dutch to live with him, Terrence and I took him for a week here and there. My brother wasn’t home very often and felt bad leaving Dutch lonely all day, Terrence jumped at the opportunity to take Dutch permanently, and that’s how he once again became my dog.
He never met anyone that didn’t instantly love him, mine and my brothers friends, Terrence’s friends and family, even strangers on the street and from the internet, he was incredible that way. Sometimes when I’d mention to people that I had a pit bull they would instantly shudder, not understanding the breed itself and only going by their media soaked opinions. Sometimes they’d have to fortune of meeting Dutch and having their minds quickly altered, he had that affect on people.
Dutch loved the snow, he’d run and jump into mounds of it and enjoyed snowball fights. He loved when children were around and kissed their faces and let them tug on his ears and attempt to ride him as if he were a pony. We shared a fork, it made Terrence squirm with disgust but I adored sharing meals with my pup. In the mornings he would roll over to his back and play, sometimes I thought he had an itch he was desperately trying to satisfy, but it was probably just for fun. He fetched sticks and balls, once we even tried to teach him to carry the mail in his mouth. He learned to play dead at ten, even though everyone said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. He loved his sister Penny, although he was often jealous, he’d play tag with her and they’d chase each other around the apartment. She’d cry at the door or window when we took him on his walks, once he came through the door she would jump up onto him or kiss his face, as if he’d been gone for years. He played dress up with us without putting up a fight. He would curl up with us during movie nights and steal the popcorn.
People say pit bulls have a life expectancy of nine to ten years, Dutch far surpassed that. In February we learned that he had a life threatening tumor, he survived that too. In the end he simply lost use of his legs from arthritis. Climbing the stairs became a challenge for him, my mother suggested giving him a small vacation at her apartment. She has a yard and lives on the first floor. The day we were set to pick him up he had fallen, my mother called us in a panic, she wasn’t able to get him up. Terrence rushed over assuring me that it was okay and that he was going to get him up and bring him home. With no such luck we took him to the vet, she essentially told us that it was futile to keep him going and that he legs didn’t have much left. She asked us if we were ready to say goodbye. I looked at my dog, my best friend of fourteen years and said no, today was not his day. She lowered the table and he walked right off of it, as if he were playing a trick that had gone terribly wrong. I left Terrence with the vet to discuss his new medications. Dutch walked right out of that office and down the block and in circles, just to prove he could. The rest of the day he played with Penny and paced around my mothers apartment soliciting pats from all her guests. Sadly that night he lost his mobility again. After three long days of Terrence rubbing his legs and changing his warm compresses, carrying him in and out of the apartment so he could sit in the grass, sleeping with him on the floor and feeding him by hand, we decided it was time. We cried and we begged for him to get up, but he was done now. He refused to eat, he’d just lay there on the floor moaning. It killed us to make that choice, but I feel that he may have made it first. We called our closest friends and family and hung out on the floor with Dutch that last day, then like a procession we drove to the vet.
I sat with him in the back seat on the ride over, he looked me in the eyes the entire time. He was calm, more relaxed then he’d been in days, he knew… this time was his time and he and I were okay with that. I hugged him tight and held on to Terrence’s arm… and then he was gone. I held onto Dutch and inhaled him deep, then I walked out the door and could barely breathe. I went around the side of the building and let it all out, all the strength that I had for Terrence and my family, I let go, I grieved for my loss and for my dog, for my child, for my best friend. I screamed, not because it wasn’t fair… but because it wasn’t familiar, it wasn’t normal, it was completely empty… surreal.
Two days later it was his fourteenth birthday, we were set to have a party for him and we didn’t cancel it. We celebrated the life of our dearest friend with all of the people that loved him. We laughed and told stories, we cried and hugged each other, Terrence got drunk… he says that’s how the Irish grieve. I let him have that. Sometimes the cat still cries at the door, sometimes I think I hear him or see him from the corner of my eye.
People have suggested that we replace Dutch, that that will somehow erase the pain of our loss. Personally I feel that it’s insensitive to say so, but I understand that it’s not uncommon and its what a lot of people do. These people have obviously never had a dog as uniquely awesome as mine. So we’ll be doing this the old fashioned way, we’re going to cry when the mood hits us and as time goes by it’ll happen less often… until it stops.
*This video was originally intended for his birthday, after his passing it began to take another tone. It was tough, but I had to finish it.