"Why do you weep? Did you think I was immortal?"
- Louis XIV, King of France
|Spending his last days in the garden|
Less than three months into the year, two things have already transpired which I assumed were never, ever going to happen. First, the larger than life Joe Paterno passed away, which seemed like an impossibility as he continued to coach (and win) as an octogenarian. Earlier today, our oldest dog, Flash, passed away after a short but fatal bout with cancer. I realize Flash is over 15 years old, a long enough life for any dog, but until a sharp turn for the worse two weeks ago, it seemed that he'd just go on forever. Two months ago, on one of those sunny January days that felt more like April, we took Flash for a four mile walk along the Schuykill River in Valley Forge Park. We were more tired from the walk than he was. Shortly before that, Flash worked on an engineering project in our kitchen - using the drawers as steps to get onto the counter. Sadly, his calculations were a bit off, and he ended up pulling out one of the drawers too far, sending it and our silverware crashing to the kitchen floor. I knew one day he'd slow down, and perhaps have back or hip problems and need help getting around. But I never expected him to go so quickly, and from something like cancer. This was a dog destined to go out in a blaze of glory; caught in the crossfire of a Mob shootout, stabbed in an alley fighting over the hand of a beautiful woman, fending off a grizzly bear attack, saving someone's life in a burning building. A noble, respectable death. Cancer never seemed like a worthy enough opponent. I've long compared this dog to Rasputin, the Russian mystic legendary for his ability to escape assassination and continue living. In the same vein , Flash managed to square off against all sorts of trouble that would bring down a more average dog, and yet came away from every adventure smelling like a rose. Much to the dismay of my wallet, which had to pay for the emergency trips to the veterinarian.
The idea of owning a dog came about as many ideas in my life have come about. Marci comes up with a big and completely crazy idea, I say no, Marci wears me down, I eventually say yes, and we execute on said idea. Flash's arrival was no different. Senior year of college, Marci decided we should get a dog. We were one summer and one semester away from graduating college, and we already knew marriage was coming once we entered the real world. We both loved animals, although I never owned a dog before. First we tried to rescue a dog from the SPCA, but were denied due to the fact we were college students. Next, we tried to buy a dog from someone who had taken an add out in the paper. That approach didn't work, as we took a trip into the boonies to meet some sketchy characters selling a Jack Russell, only to have them decide they loved their dog more than they loved $100. Very odd.
On Wednesday, May 7, 1997 we magically ended up at Bubbles Pet Shop in Altoona, PA, although how we found this place or got there I have no recollection. This was before Google maps or GPS, after all. We figured we were going to be in an apartment post-graduation, and decided a smaller dog with short hair would thrive best in that environment. So, of all the dogs in the pet shop, we found three dachshund/terrier mixes from the same litter, two boys and a girl, looking cute and eager to go home. We ended up choosing the male who seemed less high-strung, paid $136.74 (no doubt on a credit card), picked up some toys, dishes, a collar, and a leash, and walked out the door with a fuzzy red bundle of joy. I often think about what happened to his brother and sister, and wonder if they had lives well lived. Two years ago we saw a 13 year old female doxie/terrier mix who looked like Flash's twin at Doxie Rescue of Bucks County. It took every ounce of self-control we had to not rescue her on the spot, because we were convinced they were related.
Flash's formal name, should anyone care to learn, is Jumpin' Jack Flash Generose, named after the 1968 Rolling Stones song. The name seemed to fit his personality, as he was a bundle of energy. I still remember the first night he stayed in my room. We built a little crate area for him, piled it high with toys and blankets, and then listened to him cry half the night until we let him come sleep in the bed, where he quickly curled up into a tiny ball and fell sound asleep. Flash always seemed the most relaxed in what we called the "mom fort" or "dad fort" - the space behind our knees when we were lounging on the couch. He would curl up in a ball, put his snout on your knee to keep tabs on things, and eventually drift off to sleep and start snoring, completely at peace with the world.
He's finally at peace again, after two challenging weeks. He went from being the dog who once managed to get his paws on and devour an apple pie, to being a dog in too much discomfort to eat even the smallest bit of food. He went from being the dog who would bound outside and run laps through the yard, to being the dog who had a hard time getting up from his bed, and wasn't strong enough to walk through the yard without laying down to rest. Right up until the very end he remained a faithful, lovable, stubborn, loyal, independent, handsome dog. He will always hold a special place in my heart. He was my first dog and a great friend and I loved him dearly.
Rest in peace, Flash. You will be sorely missed.
I've alternated laughing at the memories of Flash's adventures to tearing up while writing this. It seems pointless to stop and review a beer, but I will. Flash was always determined - you don't manage to chew threw a plastic container to get holiday cookies, and then work to hide the ones you're too full to eat without ample determination. I wish I had his determination, in fact. So, in that spirit, and because I can really use a drink, here you go.
Tonight's beer is the Velvet Rooster, a Belgian tripel from Tallgrass Brewing Company. In the glass, it pours a hazy effervescent apricot. The aroma brings the scent of a peppery yeast and the flavor brings notes of grain, yeast, pepper, and sweet fruit. It's a decent choice, and well worth the effort. Also, this beer comes in an awesome can, which is always a plus.
This was a good way to start softening the edges of today, but let's face it - I'm moving to bourbon. There's a bottle of Blanton's with my name on it, and Flash's memory to celebrate.
Thing to Think About Today:
Well, if we're eulogizing Flash, let's go ahead and put in some appropriate music. If the Stones were responsible for this dog's name, then they're taking us home tonight. This song always made me think of sad farewells, and today I had to say a particularly sad farewell.
"Until the next time we say goodbye,
I'll be thinking of you."
Jumpin' Jack Flash
3/12/97 - 3/30/12