Every Sunday for the last two and a half years, I’ve shared pictures of my beloved dog, Murchie, posed with everything I read that week.
Last Sunday night, Murchie didn’t sleep. He couldn’t stay still, he didn’t want anything I offered him, and he was obviously confused. Over the last couple of years this had become a frequent nighttime routine on account of a bowel issue and something that looked an awful lot like doggie dementia.
All through January, he had two or three bad days for every one where he was his usual spunky self.
My parents and I took him to the vet at lunch on Monday. She gave him a checkup, listened to everything he’s been through recently, and told us that while she could perform some more tests she couldn’t guarantee any further treatment would help him. It’d been a while since his medicines eased his suffering in any appreciable way.
None of us wanted to say goodbye to him, but we didn’t want him to suffer anymore, either.
I’m grateful I got to hold him while the sedative took effect. I felt him relax in my arms, the way he used to before sleep became so difficult for him. I laid him on the exam table and stroked his head while the vet administered the final injection. It was awful, but he had loved ones with him the whole time and that made a terrible day a little easier to bear.
Those of you who know Murchie through his recent photos probably saw him as a quiet dog who loved a good blanket cave, appreciated cuddles from anyone who offered them, and slept as much as any cat. He was a cuddle-loving cat-dog from the first, but in his youth he was also a tiny firebrand. He only liked specific people and was inclined to ignore anyone who didn’t meet his standards. It was weeks before he’d voluntarily go near my father. My best friend scared him the first time they ever met, and he held that grudge straight through to last December, when he decided he could let her in the house with a disdainful sniff instead of all-out warfare. In the months before he swore off walks, he was universally stand-offish with the people who stopped us to ask if they could pet this adorable little fluffball.
“He’s shy,” I told them, but the truth is, Murchie was kind of an asshole.
We were well matched and I loved the hell out of him.
I’ve got a thousand stories and anecdotes I want to share with you. There was his reverse struggle with house training, where it took him ages to accept it was okay to pee outside instead of waiting until he was on his puppy pad indoors. Or the time I took him to Minnesota to visit his Auntie Kristina and he finally finally finally started drinking water in front of people. (Before that, I only knew he was drinking because he hadn’t died of dehydration.) One Easter, every single member of my family hand fed him ham, and he drained his bowl dry for the first time on account of all the salt in it.
He also peed up a storm for the next forty-eight hours.
He loved to chew toes when he was a puppy; a habit he thankfully abandoned in short order. For the first few weeks he lived with me, he woke up at two o’clock every morning when the night train rumbled past and scared him. He’d roust me early not because he wanted to start his day but so he could use me as a chair while he napped a little longer. He made it clear my lap should be at his disposal while I was on the computer, too, so I wrote many a university paper hunched awkwardly so I could reach the keyboard without bumping his head into the desk. He wedged himself into small spaces every chance he got, and loved being held but hated to have anything over his head, be it the roof of a kennel or the seat of a dining room chair.
He was the David Beckham of dogs, but I had to impose a soccer ban because he rolled his tennis balls under the furniture and screamed until someone got them out for him. Playtimes were few and far between even before that because he never wanted to fetch (or bat a ball around) for more than two minutes at a stretch. Anything longer that was pushing it.
He was three pounds for most of his life, and I judged hardcover books by whether or not they weighed more than him. He loved wearing clothes and threw a small fit whenever I removed one of his shirts. He refused to let anyone brush him and so always looked pretty damned scruffy. He had a dog bed for every room, courtesy of my parents. He practically lived outside in the summer, always keen to stand on the grass or retreat to his dedicated outdoor lounger. He once chased a skunk and got a muzzle full of stink for his trouble, but he never bothered the local rabbits or ducks.
Despite my best efforts, he never warmed to early Led Zeppelin and would abandon a snuggle session rather than listen to them with me. He loved it when I watched TV because it ensured him some lap time. It was tough to knit around him because he’d bat at the balls of yarn, just like a cat. Before his legs got bad, he also loved to perch atop the couch back, as cat-like as could be.
When I introduced him to Duffy, one of my occasional petsitting charges, Murchie out and out pretended he was alone in Duffy’s house. Duffy danced around him, convinced they should be BFFs, while Murchie sniffed things and looked at me as if to say, “I thought there’d be another dog but I don’t see squat.” I’m pretty sure he was jealous of this genial young upstart who smelled like his particular human.
I’ll never manage to say enough about him. He was the dog of my heart.
I miss him so, so much.