House Thing

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November 18, 1992 to January 6, 2007

Thing was a gift to me from my step-mother, but it would be more accurate to say that he gave himself freely. He spent fourteen years, fifty days in the little shell that is no longer part of our lives; of those, he devoted himself to me, and later, my wife and children as they joined us, for fourteen years and three days of that time.

His name was an English translation of Domovoi, the somewhat animistic slavic god of the house, and such was the place he occupied until my wife entered the picture. He accepted his demotion without noticing, except that there were now four hands to accomplish the rituals of worship, petting and filling the food bowl.

The thing that stands out in my memories of Thing was always his energy. Newton's laws were modified for him; A Thing at rest did not tend to remain at rest. That and his utter devotion to his human, and as that human developed other attachments, he added them without hesitation to his pack. I was single at the time, and going through a bad period. I was depressed. This little dog snapped me out of the depression, gave me things to look forward to every day, and got me believing, once again, that maybe I had something to offer those around me. Why else would this wonderful little creature worship the space I occupied?

I credit him with the fact of my marriage to the world's only perfect woman; had he not taught me again how wonderful the world is, I would not have been the person she married.

He always was my dog, almost exclusively. He'd cuddle up to my wife and ask her for attention if she was home alone, but as soon as I got there, he was Daddy's Dog. I called him my wizard's familiar, an appellation with more truth than even I foresaw. A wizard, legend had it, was vulnerable to damage done his familiar, and now that he's gone, there's a Thing shaped hole that I don't think will ever go away. It's not the first such hole, but it is the newest and rawest. I don't presume to tell the universe how it should be run, but if there's anything to this concept of the immortal soul, he will be among those waiting when it's my turn. Faith is that which you believe without any evidence, and I have faith that his is one of the souls mine shall meet again.

In his earlier years, he was a crazed ball-dog. He'd chase a ball as long as I'd throw it for him. When I stopped, he'd chew on it. Dachshunds have very strong jaws; indeed they are half the ancestry of Dobermans (along with Rottweilers). It took me years to find a ball he wouldn't destroy in zero seconds flat. In recent years, he slowed down to where he'd only go after it a few times before he'd hunker down and start with the gnawing. Squeek! Squeek! Squeek! Squeek! You always knew when Thing had his ball. He gave concerts that lasted for hours.

He was a gorgeous little dog, perfectly proportioned. I could always tell how much people knew about dogs from which of mine they noticed first. Mellon caught your eye because of her unusual coloration. Thing would have been a champion show dog if I'd had the time and inclination. He was very happy being just Daddy's Dog, and I enjoyed the time spent playing with him too much to want to waste any of it on unnecessary training. Go outside or on the paper, come when I call you, stop what you are doing when I give the command. That was about all the training I needed him to have. The rest of the time we had was too precious to spend teaching him stuff to impress other people I didn't know.

He was also bright. It took him about three seconds to figure out that if he climbed the stairs behind the couch, he could walk down onto it, and that was only one of his many exploits. He tied much bigger dogs up with their own leash twice that I saw.

The last couple of years, he had become much more sedentary. He lost a lot of his teeth despite my best efforts, and eventually, most of his appetite with them. He also developed a bad heart murmur, to the point where the vet was concerned about sedating him to clean his teeth.

He had always been something of a Tongue Monster, but when the heart murmur prevented him from chasing his ball for us as much as he wanted to, he got to the point where he'd lick as long as you allowed him to. I was concerned that it might be a mineral deficiency, but the vet said not to worry about it. On the other hand, he became, if anything, a more dedicated petting sponge, and he was always willing to chase the ball as much as he could. Little dog, big heart described him perfectly.

A few months ago, the vet saw indication of kidney failure in some blood tests. We put him on a high-protein, low bulk diet to see if we could turn it around or at least keep it at bay, and he perked up a little, but even so his appetite wasn't reliable and he kept losing more weight. A month ago I still had hope that we weren't just fighting a delaying action, but by Christmas I knew he wasn't going to be with us much longer. He wasn't in pain, but he wasn't the active joyful little dog he had always been. Just as devoted, just as appreciative of attention, but the special spark of joyful light in his eyes began to flicker. A few days later, his appetite decreased further and he started bringing his food back up. Yesterday, he brought up everything he tried to eat, and even had trouble keeping water down, and I knew it was time to perform the duty I had agreed to in my heart the day I brought him home. I couldn't make him better; I could only make his misery stop. I spent the night on the couch with him, perhaps selfishly absorbing the last time I could with him. He seemed to appreciate it, cuddling right in, and it seemed to help a little. This morning I called the vet. I held him and cuddled him and petted him and praised him while he left this world. Hopelessly inadequate, but all I could do.

Goodbye, little one. I can only hope that we shall meet again.


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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on January 6, 2007 1:34 PM.

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