Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Art of Racing in the Rain

A few weeks ago Bob discovered The Art of Racing in the Rain among his papers. He had been given it by a friend whose dog, Lily, a Boston Terrier, he really liked. Somehow he hadn't read it and neither had I. But all things happen for a reason.

So I read it - set in Seattle, which made it fun, and about Enzo, a mixed something or other who was a very old dog and getting ready to die. The novel (by Garth Stein) is told from Enzo's point of view. And if you read it, I challenge you to ever look at a dog the same way again.

I started noticing Koko more - how she moved slowly, laboriously, took a long time to wake up and slept about 23 hours a day. She still knew when dinnertime rolled around and could be counted on to find me at 6:00 every night. Then she'd go back to sleep until it was time to go to bed.

Koko came to us through another agent, Hattie Peters. I worked at Gallinger when I started, and during that first year my mother moved in with us. Her dog, Dulcinea, passed on almost immediately and left her with Hermes, a Himalayan with attitude. It soon became apparent that my mother needed another dog, and we put the word out. Hattie's daughter volunteered to give us Koko, then 10 years old and getting a bit lost in the shuffle of kids and other dogs. She was little - about 12 pounds - and a "pomma-poo," or "mutt" as our vet, Doc Schnabel, pronounced.

Koko spent about three years at my mother's side getting petted and loved. They did everything together, and when my mother had to go to St. Camillus for extended stays, Koko would come and visit. She became a favorite on the unit.

My mother passed away in March of 2006 and Koko came to us. She quickly showed us that she would accommodate us and what we did. She ran with us and Boo, took extraordinary long walks through the fields or glen, and generally ran the much younger Boo into the ground. But if she saw Mr. Walsh at the lake, then in his 90s, slowly walking down the road, she would fall in with him at his feet, go at his pace.

She was a social dog. She had been raised on Otisco Lake and knew how to be a "camp" dog. She regularly made the rounds - the Browns gave out treats, Mary Kay kept Moses' food outside on her deck. The Gromes were always good for a party - in fact, one night I found her there, curled up in a stranger's lap, having walked in and made herself at home.

She didn't know she was small. Bob loves the story of her dragging a dead fish along the shore, proudly bringing it home. She road on my lap in the kayak, attacked the three goldies who took walks down the road, and always defended our property from high above on the deck. She would say hello to any dog she encountered on our early morning walks in the Village.

She survived two mastectomies, many teeth-cleanings, several eye infections, and a bout with a cancer that grew quickly under her tongue last May and threatened to return. She did not conquer her kidneys, however, and we lost her on Sunday.

We all agree that she is up there with my mother who is showing her off to my Aunt Grace. She has taken another walk with Mr. Walsh, and found where the treats are stashed. It's eternal sunshine, so there's no worry about finding a good place in the grass to lie down, if my mother ever lets her feet touch the grass, that is.

She will be missed. I was lucky to have the last couple weeks to stay home with her, doze with her in the chair by the fire, take her with Bob for one last walk into the fields.

Enzo helped, too. He proposed that dogs go on to become human, and if there were ever one dog who should, it would be Koko. She gave so very much to so very many people.