Let me tell you about my Brigid, who entered immortality yesterday at about 9 PM, PDT, lying on a dark green chaise next to our pool in Beverly Hills. I know I wrote about her recently as if she were already about to die. But she rallied and lived longer.
About two weeks ago though, she weakened dramatically. She could barely walk — except when she really wanted to. She lost control of her bowels, which was a considerable problem for a dog who slept next to her mother (my wife) and (rarely) her husband (me). She could not go up and down steps except that when she really wanted to see me in my upstairs bedroom, she would drag her crippled, hunched over German Shorthaired Pointer body up the stairs painfully, walk crab like down the long hall on the second floor, and lean heavily against my door until I fetched her and put her up on the bed (sometimes a bit of a problem, see above).
She touched me so much when she went to so much painful trouble to see me that I was overwhelmed.
But then she always overwhelmed me with her devotion. For more than ten years, from when we first took her in as a rescue, she slept next to me night after night, usually on her back with her four paws up in the air.
She kept me company when I made my solitary trips to Malibu. We have a wood fireplace there and she loved lying on the ancient couch before the fireplace fast asleep to the sound of the crackling, burning logs. Then she would rouse herself and come into my room and watch the stars in outer space and the airplanes coming into LAX as the waves crashed nearby.
In the desert, she lay on the spotted chaise in front of the gas fireplace all curled up and fast sleep, again, until the middle of the night when she would get up and lie next to me, upside down, again.
Brigid was my constant companion. No matter what kind of day it was-bad stock market day, bad behavior by humans day, slander by TV personalities day — my Brigid was devoted and available.
I traveled too much and was away from her too much, and she missed me and I missed her. My wife reported that Brigid was often sad when I traveled. She would always stand waiting at the door as I came with my heavy, Willy Loman type suitcases, and her step would become far bolder and stronger as I settled in.
We (wifey and I) took her for walks around the neighborhood along with our other dogs, especially Susie, who entered immortality a few years ago (Dalmatian mix). Brigid pulled and sniffed and was happy.
Time passed. Her brown fur turned gray and then white in places. Brigid’s gait became unsteady. She could not climb stairs. When she tried to descend stairs, she often slid painfully down them, but always pulled herself together, gathered her pride, and walked on about the house, the unquestioned Alpha Dog of the Garden of the Finzi Steins.
More time passed. She became weaker. The two other German Shorthaired Pointers began to challenge Brigid’s dominance if I were not at home. Her bowel habits became extremely questionable. Starting about a year ago, her bowel habits became uncomfortably predictable at night. Only my wife, a COMPLETE SAINT, who also has no sense of smell, could tolerate so much foul smell so my wife wound up sleeping next to Brigid most nights. I slept down the hall. I am not a saint and when I did sleep with Brigid, I did not like being awakened the way she did it.
More time passed. Brigid had to be carried up and down the stairs every time, even when there were only a few stairs. Then she could not walk on wooden floors and then not on tile. Her poor back legs would give out and she would fall in a heap, still with a dignified look on her face.
When Alex fed her anywhere near the other dogs, they would attack her viciously. My wife got in the middle and got bitten badly at least twice.
We debated putting her down over and over. But then I would take her out to the beach house by myself, with no other dogs, no other humans, and she would rally, even walking up and down stairs by herself. I would think she was having a lasting recovery.
But at home in Beverly Hills, she was frail and the object of vicious attack. If you think dogs are always sweet, look at the under dogs as the Alpha Dog fades. (A good lesson about what will happen to the USA if we allow our military to be shrunk.)
Still, I wanted her alive. Only Brigid on this planet never did anything mean or underhanded to me. Only she gave me love and devotion no matter what. And then there was that clambering up the stairs so painfully to see me, her worthless father.
So. I loved her but she could not stand up most of the time. She was fouling herself endlessly. We finally decided yesterday that it was time for her to go. I think I probably made a mistake. Just as the traveling vet/euthanist arrived, Brigid voluntarily got off her chaise and had a proper bowel movement on the grass by the lumber pile. Maybe that was a sign to keep her alive and I ignored it. I had long wanted to keep her alive until she actually died naturally but my saint wife said she was suffering and had to be released.
As I watched the woman vet prepare for her lethal ministrations, I thought of dear Herb Kalmbach, RN’s lawyer and friend. When my beloved first dog, Mary The Weimaraner, passed in 1982, Herb and his wife came up from Orange County and took us out to La Scala and gave us a book about Weimaraners to cheer us up. Can you imagine that wonderful man had been crucified in the press and prosecuted for trivia during the Watergate era? That man is a saint, too.
Anyway, I held Brigid’s head as the vet gave her a sedative and then I kissed her and held her and then the vet gave her another shot, and she was still. That was the end of Brigid as we knew her.
But I never had a better friend. I never had a finer being in my life, except for my wife. The house is extremely empty and so am I. And do you know who sent me the kindest note about it? Karl Rove. Yes, Karl Rove, who has more human kindness in his toe than his critics do in their whole bodies. Memories of Herb Kalmbach. Memories of loyalty, that greatest and rarest quality in humans.