Lee Pitts: The day your dog dies
She was the only dog in my life I actually paid money for and yet she was about the most useless. I can remember the day we got her like it was yesterday. I only wish it was, maybe then I could have prevented her death.
To the Working Kelpie Council of Australia her name was Ballydine Patriece but we just called her Aussie. We picked her out when she was just a seed in a womb roaming the paddocks of Ballydine Kelpie Stud, Uralla, New South Wales, Australia. I suppose I always resented the fact that Aussie visited Hawaii before I did but that’s where she spent her quarantine period. Aussie came to America as a reluctant guest. When she arrived in San Francisco she took one step out of the wire cage, took a look around that weird city and immediately tried to get back into her cage.
Aussie had some real famous parents you never heard of and I had visions of becoming a famous dog trainer. We tried to get her bred and make a lot of money off her ovaries but Aussie refused to conceive.
She was supposed to be a working dog, but I think she came from a non-working strain. In fact, as I look back now Aussie had several bad habits. She refused to ride in the back of the truck preferring instead the comfort of the cab. When we worked cattle we had to lock her in the house and when we worked sheep there were times we unexpectedly ate mutton for dinner. Aussie caused us several sleepless nights, usually by barking at intruders that existed only in her canine mind. And boy did she cost us money. Her football knee operation alone was $225.
But if Aussie was not the perfect dog neither were we perfect pet parents. We never gave her a birthday present or sent her to obedience school. My wife never knitted her a sweater or made her homemade doggie biscuits. And I suppose there were rare occasions when we argued in front of her. But that was only natural because Aussie was our one and only child.
Aussie was a member of our family. If you’ll pardon the parental pride I could brag that Aussie was loyal, good looking and funny. She was the source of several stories and I never had to pay her royalties. She kept my wife company when I was on the road and my wife insists she was much better company. A better listener for sure. Aussie hardly ever got sick and had no really disgusting habits. She had a strong eye, a big heart and was always glad to see us.
That’s why I cried the day Aussie died.
It was my fault too. For 14 years I had cared for her carefully but on this day I got too engrossed in a project on the ranch and I suppose Aussie felt a little ignored. Either that or perhaps she finally got the urge to meet a male dog after 14 years. But 14 years to a dog is 98 in people years so I really doubt it. Whatever it was that made her stray she ran on to the road that borders our place and you can imagine what happened next. Cars are the curse of dogs. I bet up in doggie heaven they cuss the name of Henry Ford.
This dog had meant more to me than most humans but we didn’t dress her up or have a formal funeral. No, Aussie didn’t even get mentioned in a newspaper obituary, until now that is. I suppose I could rationalize her death by saying that she was getting old anyway, and that she did die immediately, but somehow that doesn’t help.
Now every time I pass that fatal spot on the road or pass a telephone pole with a poster for a missing dog I think of Aussie and feel the pain that others feel when their dog dies.
They say that the best thing to do is to get another dog right away. But I don’t buy it. In fact, right now I don’t think I ever want another dog. I’m not sure all the joy Aussie brought to us during her life was worth the pain I felt the day she died.