Monday, October 29, 2012

Our Old Man: Duke

I am not ready to come back to blogging yet. I am taking an extended and purposeful break. I will come back soon but in the meantime,  I do have one thing that I want to share now. If you know me personally or are a friend on Facebook, you already know.

On Thursday night, after being sick for only a few days. Duke passed away at home. He was 16 years old. We adopted him from Nick's cousins when he was 12, so we have only known him as an old man. That he was sick, that he was old, that he went on his own- none of these things make any of this easier.

If you knew him, you liked him. Visitor's always liked him best right away. There is something about Toby's immediate barking that turns people off, at least for a little bit. Duke just sat back, waited for you to come to him. He was friendly and sweet and gentle and would sleep at your feet after knowing you for just a few minutes. He rarely barked, he liked everyone, and his favorite activities were finding the best spots to sleep, basking in the sun, and eating good food. He knew how to enjoy life. Maybe it was something that came with age, but he got it.

At my bachelorette party, he sought refuge under this umbrella.

Christmas party, most comfortable spot was this single piece of tissue paper.

His last few weeks, he was spending more and more time outside. I would let him outside at 9 or 10 in the morning and at 2 or 3, I would go outside to check on him. The days were getting colder and it was weird that he had not asked to come in. Every time, I found him on the grass, paws stretched in front of him and head lifted to the sun. If I went back out an hour later, new spot, same position. 

He was fairly independent but there were exceptions. He always expected cuddles after a bath and in the last few years, scratched the couch until you pulled him up. His favorite way to cuddle on the couch was to have me squish him behind me, as though he was the big spoon. One time at my birthday party, people were leaning on him thinking he was a pillow. He did not mind but imagine their surprise!

After a bath.

Squeezing in for cuddles.
He was funny in really odd ways. On walks he had no regard for where he went the bathroom. On more than one occasion, he stopped and went in the middle of the street. The waiting cars had no choice but to watch as I quickly cleaned up before moving along..

One time at a friend's barbecue, we were keeping a close eye on Toby (he is known for causing trouble) while Duke roamed the yard. Toward the end of the evening, our hostess shouted in Duke's direction. I looked over to find him rolling in her mint plant. He smelled so good when I pulled him off but I do not know if she ever put those fur covered leaves in the intended mojitos. He smelled like tooth paste for days.

Duke and I did the Walk for Animals maybe 3 years ago. Even then, he was so slow. Like driving with hazard lights on, we kept having to tell people to just go around us. Still he loved it and we walked over 5 miles.
Duke proudly sporting his bandanna after the walk for animals.
 When we first adopted him, he used to hump buckets and planters. He was neutered but could not resist a good pot or empty bucket. It was odd and kinda gross, but really funny.

Watching the Puppy Bowl was one of the few things that really riled him up!
Because he was old and always mellow he got away with a lot. When he heard the dishwasher open, he always came to the kitchen hoping to find some food. It could only have been a few weeks ago that I turned my back, he got his front paws in the dishwasher and was licking dirty spoons. I think it was the same week, I left a kitchen trash bag outside the door to carry out. I went out an hour or so later to find the paper bag torn to shreds and Duke passed out beside a torn paper towel. I would always tell him he knew better in a stern voice as I tried to hold back laughter.

This is the first time that I have gone through this as an adult. It does not get easier. Maybe, it is even harder. I miss him more than I can stand. Everything reminds me of him and most of the time, I think he is napping in the other room.

He was not like most dogs in that he did not so freely give his complete love and trust. It felt like when we adopted him, that we had to earn it. He was set in his ways and not about to change for us. It took time but it was fun these past 4 and a half years watching that relationship grow. I know how much he loved us and I am so grateful that we had the chance to love him.

The only way they would cuddle was butt to butt. Brothers!