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Memories of old dogs and children last a long, long time

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By Linda Ireland

 Last Friday, I said goodbye to one of the best friends I’ve ever had.

It’s difficult to part with someone who is – as Gus McCrae put it in “Lonesome Dove” – “cheerful in all weathers.”

My little brown dog Monroe, who was just shy of his 18th birthday, got sick a couple of weeks ago. My husband Bud and I nursed him as best we could. He did not rebound – although he did get his appetite back.

The last few months have been difficult for Monnie.

His advanced age started showing. Once so stocky and muscular, he became frail –  sometimes barely able to pick up his feet. Sometimes his back legs buckled under him. 

His eyes were dim and his hearing was selective. He tired quickly.

But his mind and his heart were still there. He was still protective, still loyal and he still expected to have a scrambled egg for breakfast.

But one morning, I found him in a condition I had promised myself I would not allow him to get in. He had been sick and was too weak or confused to move. He had to lay there – in a mess – for a couple of hours. I cleaned him up – and knew it was time.

Monroe was a quiet, intelligent, soulful dog. My friend deserved a little dignity in his old age. We all do.

I held him in my arms while Bud drove us to the animal clinic. Monroe used to love going for rides. Not so much in the last couple of years because it usually meant a visit to the vet.

He kept watching me with those big brown eyes during that last ride – knowing something was up, but as always, trusting me to do the right thing. 

My head says I did the right thing – my heart has taken a beating.

Monroe was a living reminder of so many loved ones. I knew he carried the memory of my parents and my son. He didn’t forget anyone.

He grew up with my children. He idolized my daughter Amanda; and brawled with my son Daniel.

When Monroe was a tiny pup, we took him to Bud’s Lake. While the kids were in the water, a boy sneaked over and tried to “borrow” their water toys. Monroe was under a lawn chair, watching his every move. He bounded out, barking like a big dog, and chased that child back in the water. 

You did not mess with “the dog’s” family.

He was part of nearly every adventure the kids went on. They both wanted him in their senior photos. He posed willingly – with a big doggy grin.

We worried that he would be jealous – and perhaps feel threatened – by the grandchildren. He growled at Chase and made him cry. He growled at Claire and she told him to “shush.” They reached an understanding.

After that, he would follow them around, watching for dropped crumbs and tolerating baby hugs. As more grandbabies arrived, he welcomed them.

That old hound – as I sometimes called him – was part of our family. 

The house is so empty now. And eating scrambled eggs by myself just isn’t the same.

Sometimes a dog is just a dog – and sometimes it’s something more.

Losing him broke my heart.