The story of Victor did not end on July 15, 2006. We planned a memorial service for a couple of months later, the next time my son and DIL were in town. I tasked everyone with remembering a favorite anecdote or fond memory and we’d light candles and give him a proper farewell. DIL is very crafty in addition to being a super-brain and she created a wind chime with driftwood and seashells and his tags and other jangly metal thingys.
We gathered by Vic’s favorite spot in the yard with his deflated soccer ball and his ever present bucket. My son read Last Words to a Dumb Friend by Thomas Hardy. There wasn’t a dry eye around this yard, I can tell you.
Pet was never mourned as you,
Purrer of the spotless hue,
Plumy tail, and wistful gaze
While you humoured our queer ways,
Or outshrilled your morning call
Up the stairs and through the hall –
Foot suspended in its fall –
While, expectant, you would stand
Arched, to meet the stroking hand;
Till your way you chose to wend
Yonder, to your tragic end.
Never another pet for me!
Let your place all vacant be;
Better blankness day by day
Than companion torn away.
Better bid his memory fade,
Better blot each mark he made,
Selfishly escape distress
By contrived forgetfulness,
Than preserve his prints to make
Every morn and eve an ache.
From the chair whereon he sat
Sweep his fur, nor wince thereat;
Rake his little pathways out
Mid the bushes roundabout;
Smooth away his talons’ mark
From the claw-worn pine-tree bark,
Where he climbed as dusk embrowned,
Waiting us who loitered round.
Strange it is this speechless thing,
Subject to our mastering,
Subject for his life and food
To our gift, and time, and mood;
Timid pensioner of us Powers,
His existence ruled by ours,
Should–by crossing at a breath
Into safe and shielded death,
By the merely taking hence
Of his insignificance –
Loom as largened to the sense,
Shape as part, above man’s will,
Of the Imperturbable.
As a prisoner, flight debarred,
Exercising in a yard,
Still retain I, troubled, shaken,
Mean estate, by him forsaken;
And this home, which scarcely took
Impress from his little look,
By his faring to the Dim
Grows all eloquent of him.
Housemate, I can think you still
Bounding to the window-sill,
Over which I vaguely see
Your small mound beneath the tree,
Showing in the autumn shade
That you moulder where you played.
I talked about how he easily accepted the cats we brought home; smart as a Border Collie is, he quickly learned how to befriend them–the cats were a little slower to warm up to him but soon everyone was on board. Whenever they would “play” attack his tail or swipe at him with a paw, he would look down at them with such a bewildered look in his eyes, as if to say, “Hey guys, I’m not allowed to hit back, no fair!” Of course, the cats knew they could get away with anything, even sleeping in the middle of his bed. He would patiently lie (lay?) down next to them on the cold tile floor until I came in and shooed them away. Vic loved to eat just about anything; grapes, carrots, watermelon–it was fun to test his palate. The one thing he could not abide was thunder or fireworks. The poor dear would tremble and hide under the computer desk and no amount of reassurance could erase the sheer terror in his eyes.
You can teach a BC pretty much anything. I taught him some herding commands just for fun, no sheep around here, but it’s a great way to exercise their brains and they love to work. We used to play hide and seek. My son would hide and we’d say to Victor, “Where’s J? Go find J!” and he’d take off running up and down the stairs, and he’d almost always be able to find him, no matter where he was.
Oh, I tell you, a dog like that is priceless.
DIL’s memories were the most recent. She didn’t start out loving dogs as our family most certainly does, but I believe she has worked hard to overcome whatever obstacles she had in her heart. I mean, who could not love an animal whose only joy in life was to be so happy to see you when you came home, wagging a tail like mad, if you had been gone five minutes or five hours or five months? Maybe it was a bit of fear, too, at the time she met Vic, he was quite old, had some dental and skin issues–he was a senior citizen after all– but I wasn’t going to allow her to miss out on the joy of a pet! We cooked up a deal, a negotiation. She’s a great one for deals, I’ve found out. A master (mistress?) of negotiation, she outlined the arrangement: IF she fed Victor from her mouth, (I know it’s gross but I used to do it all the time) then her reward would be a facial at the spa. Darned if she didn’t put a piece of bread in her mouth, get down on all fours, and let him ever-so-gently take the bread from her mouth. Immediately after that, she screamed bloody murder which scared the hell out of Victor and he ran off, but she had held up her part of the bargain, so yes, DIL got her facial.
Victor turned out to have sea legs–here’s a pic of his very first boat ride, up in the wheelhouse with the captain, loving every minute of it.
- We said our final goodbyes to our special little cat a few days ago. (mylifeisreallyinthegarden.wordpress.com)