Monday, March 7, 2011

Requiem for a Mastiff

Today a champion died.

March 7, 2011

Most of you never heard of him, or if you did, you knew him only as my pet, Dick.

In his prime, Dick weighed in at 252 pounds of muscle and good nature. Today, old at ten years of age, he could no longer pull himself to his feet. His great strength was finally spent. His breathing was labored. He refused to eat.

Too weak to rise, he’d lain on his bed since 10 the night before to 1:30 in the afternoon. He had a cast-iron bladder. Unwilling to soil our house, he felt great distress and gathered the last of his powers to get up. He managed to totter out to the yard for one final pee, only to fall down into the pool of his own urine. He was deeply embarrassed.

I could not get him up. For two hours, I brushed the ants and flies off him while he rested, brought him fresh water and raw eggs to build up his strength and waited until he was ready to try and walk again. Finally, with my encouragement and to please me, he struggled to stand. Once he was up, I slipped a bundled and knotted old sheet under his abdomen as a sling and helped him back into the house. He collapsed three times on the way.

He had an appointment with death at 4:40 that afternoon.

I had made that decision the day before. I should have made it several days before, but could not. You see, Dick has been with me from the second he was born, and an integral part of my life since. My congenial companion through all my travels (he loved a cross-continent road trip) and the muse, content to lie beside my chair through all my writing adventures.

My husband left work early, and between the two of us, we managed to help Dick, half suspended in a sling, to walk the twenty feet from the house to the van. A trip requiring fifteen minutes. It almost finished the grand old dog. And both of us by the time we lifted and hauled him into the van.

At the vets’ office, the doctor and his burly assistant came out into the parking lot to help us. We managed to slide a stretcher under the exhausted creature. The three men had a hard time to carry him. 

Once he was lowered onto the floor, Dick raised his upper body, searching for me. I slipped his blanket under his head and sat beside him, stroking him, comforting him as best I could. He was so ready to go.

The doctor gave him a powerful sedative. Within five minutes Dick felt nothing. The doctor asked me if I was ready. I was. He injected the fatal shot into Dick’s veins. His labored breathing ended in a long sigh, and he was gone, slipping quietly into death.

If this sounds like the most maudlin thing you’ve ever read from me, bear with me. This is a loss as grievous as any I’ve ever suffered, I admit it. 

Let me pull myself together and wipe away the tears; it’s not the loss I want to share, but the life.

Dick was a sterling example of this amazing breed of dog – the mastiff. 

I want to share some of my mastiff memories with you here. Requiem for a Mastiff (for the rest of this article and a collection of photographs of Dick, his ancestors and descendants, use this link.)

Sincerely yours,


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