Title:  Tale Waggers - The Things You Miss  Photo:  Arthur sleeping on the bookshelf 


The living room is dark as I enter,
but I walk straight through to the light switch - unafraid.

There are no dog droppings in my path.

Then it hits me like a train - Arthur is gone.


When we lost Earnest, I missed his beauty, his grace, his charm. When Tristan left, I longed for his sweet nature and his happy easygoing ways. But when Arthur said goodbye, I began to find sorrow where I least expected it....

Funny...the things you miss.

As his holding tanks got old, Arthur often lost his ability to wait for outdoor potty breaks, especially if Emma woke him up to tell him about some potential threat or possible visitor. Once on his feet, Arthur had about 5 minutes to get outside - or else. I stepped in a lot of "or else". Now it makes me sad to stride freely into my house.

Poor allergic Artie, always sneezing in people's faces or rubbing off goobers on whatever was handy. There's been no dog snot on my glasses since he left us, no slime trails on the couch, no "eye buggers" to scrape off my suit before a meeting.

Last month an opened bag of dog food sat within easy reach for weeks - untouched. Arthur would have ripped it open in seconds, spilling 20 pounds of kibble on the floor and gobbling with glee until he was discovered. Seeing that bag left in the open and undisturbed filled me with a sense of loss I could never have imagined.

We leave the bathroom door open now. Emma and Duncan do not drink from the toilet. They will not pry open the vanity cabinet to get into the trash. Sometimes I wonder what sort of uninspired and unmotivated dogs I have raised. Nearly 15 years of yanking Arthur out of trouble established a certain standard in our home - our defensive strategies pitted against the wiles of one 25-pound dog with the strength of will an entire team of huskies could not match.

Even in the yard, his presence is missed. Grass now grows high around the legs of the lawn furniture. For years, Arthur's careful attention to detail and dutiful "watering" killed the grass around any markable object. Now I mow as close as I can and think fondly of the days when no tall plant material was safe. In his final year, it became difficult to lift his leg properly but he found he could still manage to claim the barbecue grill if he rested the raised leg on one of the wheels. Duncan has never lifted his leg to mark anything - probably never will. Now I pine for yellowed greenery.

I miss his lack of social grace. He didn't like other animals and he made no secret of his disdain. For over a decade he plotted the demise of the cats in the vet's office. He tried speed - at one point breaking free and "treeing" a cat on the vet's computer monitor. He tried stealth - his mouth opening in slow motion as an unsuspecting cat sauntered by. The sight of another 4 legged creature immediately tossed Arthur up snarling and barking on his hind legs - leash tightened behind him. We crossed the street, we diverted his attention - we had numerous tiny tricks to avoid embarrassing confrontations. Now Duncan and Emma charge into the vet's office and give all the nice kitties little "howdy" licks on the head. Dogs on the street are met with tails wagging and greetings all around. I feel blessed - and yet there is something uncomfortable about this peace.

I miss his silly "I want to come in" bark - WOO WOO, a thoughtful pause, and then WOO WOO again after a few minutes. I miss his impatient snort when we pretended not to know what he wanted ("do you think he wants a treat, I don't know...
he might want one...") I long to be pestered from 5:00 on, with frantic dashes to and from the food bowl - "it's time!, it's TIME!!!!! LOOK, I run to the dish, I run to you. I do it 50 times - aren't you humans TRAINABLE???? Here, let me show you again."

I miss the strange places he used to choose for his naps. As a pup, he perched on the windowsill like a cat until he finally became too large and kept tumbling off. Later, he would crush the cushions on the back of the sofa into a fine flat bed and snooze on top. He'd intertwine his body with the dining room chair legs in the most unnatural positions and fall into a deep sleep - making it nearly impossible for the chair's occupant to leave. The empty bottom shelf of a bookcase, the top of the dining room table - all made fine napping spots, and all are empty now.

I miss hearing his body crash against the bathroom door as he threw himself down with a huge sigh to stand guard. I miss the comical heavy breathing of his nose stuck under the door - sniffing for danger. Each time I open the bathroom door, I stare at the flat spot he wore in the carpet after almost 15 years of guard duty. Sure, in his later years he often fell asleep while he waited, but I'd give anything to have to step over him again.

Arthur was a dog's dog. He was wily, he was obstinate - sometimes he was a torment. For nearly 15 years he was a force to be reckoned with - a challenge to be met. He was also devoted, patient and gentle. He took everything in stride - he was unflappable. He was a clever dog who loved his people and guarded his home and pack with every ounce of energy he could muster. He was easy to love - impossible to forget.


Copyright 1998 Elizabeth Cusulas

Tale Waggers - Stories for Dog People
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