Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dude Days Are (Never) Over

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you are very familiar with the furry face pictured above. My dog Dude took up about 90% of my pictures because My God, look at that cute wittle face! Sadly that face is only in pictures now, because my precious little boy died on February 16th at the age of twelve, because one of the cruel realities of the universe is that pets don't live as long as their people. One of the few blessings in all this is that he died both suddenly and peacefully, with no pain, in his home with the family he loved, that loved him with all their hearts.

I was fifteen when we got Dude, Christmas Eve of 2000. LittleSis was twelve and BabySis was eight. If you have sisters, or daughters for that matter, you'll know that three girls of those ages under one roof are generally hellbent on each others' destruction at the exclusion of all else. But it was very fairly agreed that Dude could unite us, make us playful, fun, and kind to each other, because he wanted to play with all his sisters at once, dammit, and His Royal Furriness always got his way! (The baby of the family always does).

He was actually a giant pain in the ass.

From puppyhood on up, he never learned the difference between outside barking and inside barking. He could show off his "inside voice", sure, but only if he had absolute certainty that there was a treat in it for him. Otherwise, doorbells, conversations between people in two different rooms, construction work going on in the neighborhood, fireworks, the flutter of a butterfly's wings in China, all were met with a healthy (loud) dose of barking, courtesy of The Dude (His full first name. Not inspired by The Big Lebowski. Just want to make that clear.)

He also chewed shoes when he got pissed off at whomever owned whatever pair he was chomping on. He had a particular and uncanny habit of always choosing the left of any pair, because the vindictive little fur face wasn't content to just ruin a pair of shoes altogether when he could taunt us with a right shoe that was both perfectly serviceable yet utterly useless.

Finally, Dude was, and I say this with utter gravitas and no hint of hyperbole, the biggest chickenshit alive. Hiccups, sneezes, burps, thunder, other dogs, small woodland creatures (yes, even bunnies)? All terrifying to our little boy, and he would bolt from wherever they were with a speed that athletes shrink their testicles to achieve. Once, I got the hiccups while taking him on one of his beloved walks and he wrestled himself out of his collar to get away from the horror of it all.

Somehow, none of this takes away from the fact that he was the best dog in the world. There's nothing quite like coming home after a long, painful day of work to a flurry of jumping, puppy kisses, and barking that translates to ohwowi'msohappytoseeyouyou'remyfavoritepersoninthewholebigworldiloveyouyousmellexcitingletmesniffyoupetmelookmytail'swaggingaren'ticuteyou'rethebestpersoneverdidimentioniloveyou (The translation is accurate, I spoke fluent Dude).

Despite being all of thirty pounds when soaking wet, and, as previously mentioned, a total chickenshit, Dude possessed total assurance that the house was not safe until he'd done a thorough patrol and personally seen to it that everyone was safely tucked into their beds. When LittleSis moved out, he would stalk the upstairs hallway all night, every night, until he visited her apartment and understood that his human lived here now and all was once again right with the world. He would still be awake if BabySis or I went out until the early hours of the morning, and greet us with a thumping tail and sleepy kisses, bearing no grudge that we'd kept him up all night.

He instinctively knew when we were grieving or stressed. He sought out my parents, my sisters, and myself when we cried and curled up next to us, laying a silent head on our laps and gazing up at us with his loving brown eyes until we felt better. He even tolerated our cuddles when we needed some puppy time, a big sacrifice on his part. Dude usually took a very catlike attitude towards physical affection, only acceptable on his terms, although petting was always welcomed--sometimes encouraged by a sleek head burrowing under a stationary hand for a stroke between the ears.

He was completely in love with a live audience, prancing out in the middle of the room to chase his own tail whenever people had the temerity to be in his house without paying attention to him. He also pawed at our legs if we weren't giving him a baby talk speech about how cute he was and what a special, wonderful, perfect little boy he was. Luckily for us, the one regret none of us could ever possibly have is the idea that we took him for granted. No day was complete without playing with, petting, and gushing over our sweet, beloved, admittedly spoiled little boy.

Anyone who has never loved a pet might be completely unaware how incredibly human they can be, full of distinct personalities and quirks. Although Dude might be the only dog in history who wasn't a dog person, he was also one of the only dogs to capture the hearts of people who flat out do not like dogs, or even animals in general.  He made our family complete, and now we are missing my parents' son and our baby brother.

So here's to Dude. We had him for twelve years, we will love him for all our lifetimes.

The Dude
October 16, 2000-February 16, 2013
Perfect love, wrapped in fur