R.I.P. Dalton

My dog died.

Dalton was a mutt, a shelter dog, a pound puppy, half greyhound, half coonhound. Fast legs and a wicked nose.

I could tell when he was happy. His long tail would reach skyward and curl. It was a bouncing question mark as he moved.

He was scared of flies and would hide under the table if one got in the house, but he once tried to go after a black bear six times his weight.

Sure, he’d hide from a fly, but he’d also go after a black bear!

He liked to eat poop. Fox and skunk poop were okay. Bear and cow poop, not so much. Ah, but rabbit and deer poop, now those were delicacies! (Fortunately, he left our cats’ poop alone.)

Cow poop, meh.

He also ate other… things. One time we startled a rabbit into the road as a car was coming. The car ran over the rabbit. Dalton ate the rabbit before I even said the Dalton part of “Dalton, leave it.” The rabbit was so big Dalton’s throat bulged like a python when he swallowed. Another time we were walking on a dirt road in the rain. I saw two toad’s eyes peeking above the surface of the mud. The rest of the toad’s body was buried. Dalton scooped it up, mud and all, without breaking stride. And the time he ate a dead bird (ew, those crunchy feathers), or a squirrel but not the fuzzy tail. His stomach wasn’t completely cast iron, though. Once he ran off in the woods for a couple of hours, came home, and vomited a deer hoof.

He was wanting to chase after the deer in the back yard.

He got along well with our seven cats, the big lab next door, and the tall, Russian wolfhound down the street. But he and the neighbor’s tiny fox terrier were not friends, go figure.

Dalton and our Siamese, Blue, chillin’ together.

If I took a nap before dinner, he would wake me and nudge my arm upward. Time to get UP. Time for our dinner. But if I was ill, like the time I had the flu, he knew I needed to rest and let me be, well past dinner time.

He had “fussy ears” as the vet used to say, prone to irritation and itchiness, and I had to use a medicated cleanser when his ears acted up. If my right ear hurt, I’d check his right ear. Sure enough, it’d be fussy. If my left ear hurt, his left ear would be fussy. I know this is impossible. I know this. But over the twelve years that I had him, our ear system only failed us twice, when I had swimmer’s ear and his ears were fine.

He helped me train for a Marathon. He was an excellent running companion, and in his later years an excellent walking companion.

My daily exercise companion.

He was an excellent writing companion, too. Quiet, contemplative.

He wasn’t one for idle chitchat and would let me get down to work.

He didn’t like to play catch. But he’d sit patiently while I left the room to hide a piece of pepperoni, a kibble, a whatever, and when I said, “Find it!” he’d sniff around the house until he found it.

Waiting while I go hide a treat.

Twice he refused to go down a familiar, wooded road while we were out on a walk. I trusted his nose. He probably smelled a bobcat or a bear. Or a Bigfoot, I liked to imagine.

He kept me from feeling insane. Like the time I heard a woman scream from an abandoned house. (There was NO ONE there.) Dalton heard it too, stopping in the road, jerking to attention. He stood a long time afterwards, staring at a blank space in the abandoned house’s yard. I saw nothing, but maybe he did. At any rate, he let me know I wasn’t going crazy when I heard weird things.

He slept on a doggy bed on the floor next to my side of the bed. He’d follow me into the bedroom, and when I climbed up on the bed, he’d pad over to his special place. Round and round like dogs do. Then he’d finally drop, tuck in nose and tail and let out a harrumphing sigh. If he was off-center on his cushion, he’d lean against the wall. There’s a mark there on the wall, dirt and oil. I’ve cleaned out his dog paraphernalia, his leftover kibble and whatnot, but I haven’t cleaned the mark off the wall. Not yet.

Yesterday I took an afternoon nap. No one else was in the bedroom. Not even a cat. I settled in bed, closed my eyes, and heard his harrumphing sigh. Dalton is taking a nap too. And then I remembered he was gone. I sat upright, looked around the room; I was alone. I had told him before he died that in doggy heaven he’d chase deer and rabbits to his heart’s content and never get tired (and never catch them, either; after all, it’s deer and rabbit heaven, too). But maybe in heaven he takes naps as well.

He was not an eye-contact, snuggly, kissy dog. But on his last day, he kept making eye contact with his…

not chocolate

not coffee

not caramel

not walnut

definitely not latte

not golden-brown,

but gingerbread-colored eyes. A little glance. And again. I think he was telling me he needed to go. I rubbed his fussy ears just the way he liked it while the vet did her part. The vet was surprised how fast he went, and with no anxiety. “He was certainly ready,” said the vet. Right afterwards, Dalton’s body was stretched out the way he’d do in a block of sun on the floor, gingerbread eyes still open. He looked content. And I believe he is.

173 thoughts on “R.I.P. Dalton

  1. A touching tribute, sorry for your loss. Dalton looks so handsome in the photos and undoubtedly was very clever. Having such an unusual marathon-training companion must have been great, and some of his odder behaviour you describe must have come from his ancestors’ survival technique (just a thought).

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    1. Thanks, Anthony. It’s been fifteen days and finally this is the first day I haven’t cried. It’s getting easier to look forward to when I’ll see my pup again rather than looking back and missing him.


    1. I did hear him sigh, but I’m open to the possibility that it was a noise from outside (some kind of animal? machinery) or, I dunno, the water heater? At any rate, I haven’t heard it again. Thanks for stopping by, Steve!

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  2. Aww, what a handsome boy. He reminds me a bit of our recent addition Bean, who I thought might have Greyhound and vizsla in him, although the Embark test indicated I was way, way off. I’m sure Dalton is having a grand time over the Rainbow Bridge finding poop and eating all kinds of crazy things, none of which make him throw up.

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  3. A moving tribute for Dalton. That you two were so attuned to each other makes me feel he surely does live on, in your memory. Something very profound in our friendships with other species, other Earthlings. I think you were both lucky.

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  4. I meant to reply to this back in August. As I was going through my email inbox, I found this email and remembered that I had never responded. First, the writing is phenomenal. Can you consider this an obituary? Second, I’m so sorry for your loss. Dalton definitely had a good life with you and C. Radar is 14 and is much nearer the end than I’d like to remember. You have belated hugs from us and our pups!

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