Canine friends wag their way into our heartsSAM COOK COLUMN: We come to know our dogs like we know our families. We know what every hesitation in their gait means, or the flick of an ear, or the scrunch of a brow. Then one day they are gone, and we wonder how we will go on.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
The mountain biker approached on the single-track trail, and I stepped aside with my Lab to let him pass. But then we recognized each other, and he stopped to visit.
We had spent some time in the field together and made a memorable North Dakota pheasant hunting trip a few years ago. Now, on this August evening, he was telling me that his older dog, a pointing breed, had reached the end of the hunting trail.
The family had asked a veterinarian to come by a few days earlier, and the dog had been put to sleep at their home. The couple’s young boys had been there, he said. A lot of good questions were asked about life and death. Then, they buried the dog.
“It was good,” my friend said.
I’m sure my friend can recall vivid moments from his days in the field with his dog. If he’s like all the rest of us, the images are all there, washed with late-afternoon sunlight, driving snow or a sea of cattails.
We come to know these creatures like we know our families. We know what every hesitation in their gait means, or the flick of an ear, or the scrunch of a brow. We marvel at their ability to sift through scent and tell us what is happening.
Then one day they are gone, and we wonder how we will go on.
My friend rode off on his bike, and I looked down at my own 8-year-old Lab.
“Don’t you ever die,” I told her.
On that same evening, I learned that another acquaintance had lost his
4-year-old husky in a tragic way. He had been out for a walk on a trail almost two weeks ago when a buck came out of the woods.
“He was a big 8- or 10-point buck, in velvet,” the man said. “It happened 20 or 30 feet in front of my eyes.”
The buck immediately began stomping the dog, pounding and slashing it with its front hooves. The dog had not provoked the attack, the man said. I asked him how long the attack went on.
“About a quarter of a second,” he said.
Then the buck was gone, into the woods. The dog was left close to death. The man scooped him up, carried him to his vehicle and rushed him to a veterinary clinic where the dog soon died.
How does a person get over that? How do you not replay that video again and again in your mind? What are the odds of such a thing happening?
Loving a dog is like any other kind of love. You open yourself up to great joy, and you also become a lot more vulnerable. But the joy is such an elixir that a lot of us would not want to be without it.
I called a friend of mine a couple of days ago. We talked for a while. He was sitting in his chair, he said, and his black Lab was lying on the floor with its head between his feet.
“Every time I laugh,” my friend said, “he wags his tail.”
Is it any wonder we cannot imagine losing a friend like that?
Sam Cook is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or scook@ duluthnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ samcookoutdoors.