Bags of Bran

November 23, 2011, 10:33 am
Filed under: Biography

Tuesday, November 15th at about 1:30 AM we had to put my late father’s beloved English Cocker Spaniel beyond the reach of suffering. It was a harrowing five hours between getting home and that decision. If you’ve not watched an animal which you care deeply about die slowly, I do not say that I commend it to you.

What I do commend to you is to document the good memories you have while you still have them.

So here goes:

  • When my parents first got Phoebe, she was about as hyperactive a dog as you could imagine. My favorite trick was to put my head close to hers and WOOF in her ear. She would back up, look at me for about two seconds, and begin tearing around the house, up and down the stairs, making puppy freak-out yipping sounds. Mmmm….
  • One of her favorite activities was destroying and devouring tennis balls. You would fire a tennis ball across the yard and she would bring it back, only she wouldn’t really bring it back. She would stop about five feet short and look at you as to say “mind if I keep this for a few minutes?” If you got to talking and not paying attention to her, she would have that tennis ball shredded in about 60 seconds, and she would eat the safety yellow fuzz off of the outside. Not so much the little rubber nuggets, though some of those invariably would go down the hatch as well. More than once we asked amongst ourselves, “where did the tennis ball go?” only to discover the following day where the tennis ball had gone when safety yellow fuzz showed up in the yard.
  • When I put my hand near her, she would, using her nose, flip my hand up on top of her head for scritches. If she was really insistent, she would poke me in the leg with her clawy paw. This was from the time she was a puppy until our last evening together when she was so weak she could no longer walk.
  • One time I was taking a nap, and sleeping rather soundly, for I was tired. Phoebe came upstairs to join me, as was her custom. She had evidently just eaten a rawhide chew thingy and swallowed a big chunk of it which was stuck sideways in some neck tube of hers. She hops up on the bed where I slept, and *HOOAAARRRKKKK!!!* pant pant pant *HOOOOARRRRRKKKKKKK!!!* Up came the rawhide chunk, which she unceremoniously re-devoured, and thus ended my nap, thanks so much.
  • In Iron Mountain, Michigan we got a lot of snow. One year, we had a ridiculous amount of snow, and in the interest of getting some exercise, I took Phoebe out for some bushwhacking at Fumee Lake Natural Area. We stuck to the showshoe trails for the most part, but as we were heading back to the car, she discovered that she could walk more easily on the groomed ski trails. OK, fine. It was pretty cold and she wasn’t sinking in, so no big deal. The snowshoe trail I was on was cutting a diagonal away from the groomed trail, and Phoebe saw that soon she was going to have to catch back up to me somehow, but she was really enjoying not having to wade through chest-deep snow. Happily, there was a T in the trail not far down, so she sprinted off for it, thinking she could catch up without having to go through deep snow. When she got to the T, she tried to cut the corner with a mighty leap, came up a few feet short, and *WHUMFFF* disappeared beneath the snow completely. All was still. After a few seconds I started jogging over that way, not sure if she had gotten lost or something. Suddenly an otter-like undulating figure, eyes wild and tongue lolling with effort, came rippling out from underneath the snow, frosted and sparkling in the sunshine! She climbed back up onto the ski trail as from a swimming pool, shook herself free from the remnants of her nebulous captivity, and trotted after me, none the worse for it. I don’t think she took any more shortcuts though.
  • She was a chow-hound! She loved breakfast and dinnertime so much that she was well known to pop wheelies and make strange sounds of rejoicing. Most of her dinner went down unchewed and untasted.
  • Phoebe could catch just about anything. Her favorites were spaghetti noodles and popcorn, and we have some very acrobatic pictures of her in midair going after the noodles. The best part about the noodles is that they would wrap around her head partway, and she would chase them. With popcorn, anytime a kernel came up short, she would catch it between her front paws like a cat.
  • She liked to spar with the squeaker. The squeaker was sort of like two tennis balls that met in the middle and was covered with green fuzz. A durable, rubber squeaking bone-shaped thing. She loved it when I would mess around and play soccer with the squeaker. She would lift one paw up high like she was going to give high five, then lunge after it.

The rest will be fleshed out when I have more time. It’s important enough that I will stay on it, trust me.

  • We would tell little kids that Phoebe was perfectly safe as long as a) you don’t grab her tail, and b) you don’t taste like peanut butter.
  • She defended Russell from marauding children.
  • She would pop wheelies when she was excited.
  • We would have family hugs.
  • She hated baths until right afterwards.
  • She loved stinky swamps.
  • We would set her after geese.
  • Even when she started going deaf, she could still discern the crinkle of food-grade plastic.
  • She used to be a kennel sleeper, but when she moved to our house, we went all easy on her. She always wanted to sleep in the middle of the bed.

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