»  mark    29 Aug 2019 @ 09:56    

Time flies, and not just when you’re having fun. 9 years ago, tired, needing a break from writing, I stopped posting to this site. I’ve considered resuming our adventure tales many times since then, but momentum is a tricky thing. It is good when it is working for you, but it can work against you just as well. And once an object (or a habit) is at rest, it takes a lot of energy to start it moving again.

So much time has past, I will not attempt to fill in the gaps, at least, not right now. But today, I wanted to stop and reflect, I needed to stop and reflect.

One of the blessings of moving to New England, was finding a place to rent that was both big enough for and accommodating of larger pets. True, we did have the beta fish Sirius Purple, that successfully crossed the country with us in a 32 oz. cup. But the kids (read: Maya) had been “hounding” us for years for a dog. Settled in our vintage 1790 New Hampshire Farmhouse, we knew the time had come. After scouring adoption placement ads for a few weeks, we decided that “Abel” was the dog for us.

I admit more than a little apprehension as we brought him home in early January 2014 from Rochester, Maine (just across the New Hampshire border) after he had traveled the previous day from Georgia. This was going to change our family, and I wasn’t altogether sure how. Looking back now, he has been a blessing in so many ways.

“Abel” just didn’t fit, and not because I have anything against Bible names. After some consideration, the family agreed to name him Albus, after the wise old headmaster of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School. Albus has always seemed a wise dog, even when we adopted him at the age of 5 or 6 (who knows?). He was friendly, active, and caring. From the first night, he climbed the super steep stairs to jump up on Maya’s bed. He would do that for many years. Through some very cold winters, in a bedroom that often had ice on the inside of the windows and got down to the 30’s, he provided as much warmth as he received.

Albus had many amazing qualities: he almost never barked (until he met Ronan), he was gentle and patient with small children, he loved meeting other dogs, and enjoyed romping with the kids both inside and out as they would hide and seek, kick a soccer ball around, or wrestle playfully. He never stole food from the table or countertops. We used to be amazed that we could leave a frozen piece of meet by the heater vents on the floor to thaw and he never took them.

He could get into mischief when left attended outside, and we did not have a fenced yard, so we had to depend on clipping him to a tie-out or keeping him on a leash. The times he escaped, he loved to explore strange things in the nearby swamp, or visit other homes in the neighborhood where he knew dogs lived. Most times, this was innocent enough, and other than requiring a bath on a few occasions (which he hated), all was well. One evening, he slipped out of a not-entirely-closed door and wandered over by the highway that ran adjacent to our home. In the dusky light, he was struck by an oncoming car. The driver stayed with him while our neighbor came to get us. We hurried to his aid and rushed him to a vet who fortunately hadn’t closed for the day. They ran some x-rays, but found nothing seriously broken. A few fractures would heal on their own and they cleaned up his paws that had suffered numerous scratches from the collision.

Within a day, Albus was feeling a bit better, but he did no want bandages on his feet, so he continually yanked on them so he could lick his wounds. This would be a struggle for the next few weeks as we had to try and keep the wounds covered so they would dry and heal, and he did whatever he could to pull off the socks and other protective coverings we put on them. Eventually he returned to health and we were able to remove the bandages.

When we moved to Maine the next summer, Albus was glad for the new scenery and enjoyed exploring the woods and paths in our neighborhood. He continued to climb the stairs to the second floor to sleep on Maya’s bed and also enjoyed resting by the warm fireplace in the winters. We knew he wouldn’t stay young forever, and in time, making the climb upstairs became too difficult and he preferred to just sleep downstairs.

After some time, we were blessed to find another dog to adopt, a much younger and lively pup. Ronan would test Albus with his jumpy in-your-face demeanor at times, but Albus let him know his place. Only once did they appear ready to rumble when we brought home a large bag of chicken bones. But they soon acclimated to each other, and although I don’t know if they were ever close friends, they learned to live in peace. In recent weeks, we have observed Ronan “grooming” Albus more than he ever had, licking his head, ears, and feet. At the time, I attributed that to just Ronan getting in Albus’s face again, but now I’m not certain. Albus was getting old and was having increasingly difficult time standing up and moving around. He stopped going on walks and slept most of the day. Near the end his legs were so wobbly, it was difficult for him to support his weight.

We knew the end might be near, but whether that was in weeks or months, who could tell? Yesterday, the day had come, and after spending much of the day writing letters, drawing pictures, and trying to surround Albus with as much love and beauty as we could gather, we said goodbye. I know that some people are attached to their pets, and I think I was unfairly judgmental of some who I perceived to regard their pets as children. Albus would never replace my own children, certainly, but I would be remiss to not consider him an important part of our family.

He was the family dog of my children’s early years, a faithful companion, and a joy to our home. I marveled on multiple occasions as he grew older that he never complained, never whined though I knew he was uncomfortable or even in pain. Albus showed me what it meant to age with dignity and grace, an example I hope to emulate as I grow older. We have traveled together, shared walks, adventures, and difficult times, too. I think the bond between people and their animals grows strong as they reflect the same love and care that a child needs. We care for them when they are hurt and sick, look after their needs for food, activity, and shelter. We lean on them when we are sad or in need of support. And somehow, they seem to understand.

Today, we will lay his body to rest in the backyard, a task I expect to be nearly as difficult as the events of the past 24 hours. But I wouldn’t trade this task for an easier way out. Just as Harry Potter gloried in the manual labor of creating a resting spot for Dobby, I too feel that this is one last chance to show my love for this exceptional animal that has meant so much to our family.

We will all miss Albus dearly, but I wouldn’t trade that decision we made 5.5 years ago to invite him into our home for the loss we feel now. I truly believe that we will see him again in another life, and perhaps unencumbered by the pain and stiffness of old legs, we will have another chance to romp and explore once more.


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