He was not the dog we wanted—a playmate for our lonely pup—but we couldn’t turn him down. Scarred and skinny, so toothless that his tongue fell out of his mouth. The woman with the rescue shelter apologized for shaving his matted tail and rear. His fragility shattered our hearts. We took him home.
At first, he just slept and ate. In the backyard he peed like a girl-dog, squatting on the fallen leaves. He never presumed, but accepted every kindness with a gentleman’s courtesy. The pup instinctively regarded him as an elder. She’d wait to see if he’d leave anything in his bowl, but she never muscled him away. He began to follow us around the house and curl up at our feet. Eventually he—like the pup—joined us in bed. He wagged his rat tail like a metronome when we came home.
He got better until he got worse, until the snow where he shat showed blood. Spleen tumor, they told us. So sorry. Even in his dying he was appreciative. He let go of his life as graciously as he’d let go of his awful past. No hanging on.