End of an Era

No, I am not taking about the Phillies, who last night lost their bid to go to a third straight World Series.

Not by a mile …

I am talking about Willie, our sweet black lab, who died last Sunday night after bringing us lots of sticks and tennis balls and … joy … for the last eleven years.

It feels so final, to write about it here; I have been balking at it all week,  Willie … died … last … Sunday … night.

He’d had a good morning, walking up and down the driveway with JBD for, what we didn’t realize, was his last time.  He lay in the sun.  As the day went on, though, he was fading.  In the end he died peacefully, with little struggle.

And he had a wonderful life packed with lots of hours of doing what he loved.  That’s all to the good.

His gone-ness, though, is so very, very final and sad.

All the places where you’d expect him to be are empty.  But that doesn’t stop me from thinking I glimpse him … or from turning my head toward the spot in the dining room where he usually lay after breakfast … just to say good morning to the boy.

Willie was an athlete – a fact that probably helped him recover from what our vet thinks may have been a heart attack about a year and a half ago … when we first thought we were going to lose him.

He had cancer in the blood vessels in his heart (the reason for that first heart attack) as well as a tumor around his spleen.  But he recovered well and had a year and a half of good quality living … helped along by an every-other-day dose (very low dose) of steroids.  And here I must pause to say, “Thank you, Fiona!” (And if you are ever looking for an extraordinary vet … let me know and I’ll put you in touch with her!)

After that, there was no more racing around after sticks … but plenty of walks in the woods and sunny afternoons spent rolling around on the lawn.  And lots of treats for being such a good boy!

In his prime Willie was an avid retriever.  It was instinctive … and relentless … his drive.  He didn’t know when to stop, and wouldn’t, until we did.  He raced up and down our hill endlessly, and swam at the Lake, or in the Merrimack, as long as we would throw objects for him to fetch.

One of my favorite images of him is of his tail, like a flag above the tall grass in the field, wagging happily as he searched for a lost tennis ball.  He’d stick with it ’til he found it … or we called him.

Willie was a sweet, shy boy.  He didn’t cotton to strangers … but gamely did his bit when RPE was in 4-H and doing the dog show circuit.  He’d do anything for RPE, and she for him!  The reward, after a day of “Fit and Show” was an early evening trek to the river.

A few things always especially amazed me about our Will.

How, for example, did he know to pause and wait, when he was hiking with Karen or one of us … and came to a split in the trail?

And how did he know, when swimming toward a ball in the Merrimack, to set his trajectory downstream from where it first spashed in … meeting it where the current carried it rather than heading toward where it had landed?

And how did he know that the carrots that he loved grew (quite magically) underground, right out in the garden … and could be harvested by a diligent dog whenever he chose?

His grave is out behind the house, right near the garden, and beside the path we take when we’re walking in the woods.  He’s there next to Jake and Woody … other beloved dogs who are, hopefully, welcoming Willie to their company.  (Woody, I am sure, is a friendly and gracious companion.  Jake?  Dunno!?)

Meanwhile … Ruby is a little lost.  No, make that a LOT lost.

And Sylus misses Willie in the uncomplicated way that only a slightly brain-damaged cat can!

I hope that Willie knew how much we loved him … and knows, somehow, how much we miss him.

Good boy, Willie … good boy …

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8 Responses to End of an Era

  1. And thank you to everyone for the words here … they are much appreciated.

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  2. Rod James says:

    Jordy – Sorry for your loss. We got a black lab for the kids back in ’95 from my brother in law. He has a farm in upstate PA. and always had a number of them from various generations, the product of breeding them now and then. Great dogs. Unfortunately ours only lasted 8 years – cancer. It was a very sad day in the James house for awhile, so I know what you’re going through.

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  3. Ski says:

    DeAndre and DeShaun say RIP, Willie. We’ll miss you.

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  4. boltgirl says:

    Oh, I’m so very sorry about your loss, and happy for the wonderful life you gave each other.

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  5. Such a good dog, in so many ways. I love the photo of him leaping off the dock; such joie de vivre. We should all take a cue from his love for pure play. He’s a shining example of living life to the fullest.

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  6. Alice says:

    Sweet Willie, sweet remembrances. Such a loss. And such a gift to so many of us.

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  7. Paula Rockwell says:

    Jordy,
    Thanks for your words about dear Willie’s life! It is so very hard to loose our pets, they love unconditionally and live in the moment so well. It has been 3 plus years since we lost Times and I still think I hear her toe nails clicking on the hard wood floor, then to realize she is not there, but perhaps is just saying hi. Again, thanks for your stories, they make me smile and remember is deep “whoof” of a greeting as he his ’round the corner of the house..

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  8. Karen says:

    What a wonderful tribute to a GREAT companion. Willie Big Boy. I will forever look for him, coming to greet me, when I drive up–walking his deedadee walk. On his good days, he just exuded his joy , that little wiggle–just anticipating the next adventure with his beloved family. And as he faded, a quiet peace. He did his job well. He loved……and was loved.

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