Saying goodbye to friends is never easy.
There’ve been other dogs. Growing up around here, most every family I ever knew had at least one. They weren’t always inside dogs and they usually lived on table scraps. Trips to the vet were rare. If somebody’s pooch got run-over and there was a chance they’d make it, then maybe. Neighborhood dogs were an important part of our childhood.
My people alone had yellow mutts, black mutts, white mutts, and a Chesapeake named Dee-oh-gee with curly rust-colored hair and one of that breed’s peculiar smiles, except bucktoothed and crooked. There was a VIP, a Blackie, a Whitey, a Mac, a Max, a Neighbor, a Tippy, and a Steven.
But me and Tammy Sam? We’re done for now. We just said goodbye to two old dogs we lived with for the last decade and a half.
Tammy Sam and I adopted Buster back before our daughter Debra Winger Philpot was born. Relieved to be sprung from the rowdy pack of street dogs and orphans he was bunking with at the shelter, Buster turned out to be a mellow prince, a snuggly lover of women and favorite uncles. Strangers always asked if he was a Husky. He looked like a wolf but had the charisma of a lamb.
Buster was quickly followed by Bashful. Neighbors kept her tied to a tree with a short rope. The second time we asked for her, we came home with a dirty, sad, orange and black hounddog, a shanty-like doghouse, and a bone dry water bowl. Bashful had heartworms and ticks, and an ill-considered will to escape our clutches. Love, medicine, regular meals, and a dry place to sleep cured her of all that. For the majority of her life Bashful sat around and barked orders like the Queen of All She Surveys. You never met a dog with more personality or stronger will.
An old Kent Islander once told me that old, sick dogs are lucky to have friends who care enough to know when it’s time to say goodbye. That Islander said every beloved dog will be by your side forever, but when there’s nothing left of it’s body but wounds, it’s time to let that part go.
And after 15 years, that’s what happened. We all took one last trip to the vet together.
Yeah, I’ve counted a dozen dogs as family, and if time and circumstances allow, there might be one or two more initiated into our pack. But we’re done for now. Saying goodbye to friends takes a lot out of you. I think it was Will Rogers who said, ‘If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.’
Amen, Brother Will. Amen.