Colby: 1992 – 2006

September 12, 2006

friend

He was the runt, the only male, and the only one in the whole wriggly litter that completely ignored me. It wasn’t until all his sisters left that he came over to investigate. We’d answered a classified ad for golden retrievers and driven across Pitt County, way into farm country, and found ourselves in knee deep in trailer park puppies. Puppies that had been liberally sprayed with cheap perfume in lieu of a bath, as they all smelled like fuzzy little French hookers. On the way home Colby curled up in a ball in my lap, and I remember thinking that he was roughly the same size as a grapefruit. We stopped at a crossroads grocery for cold sodas and to let him pee. He promptly disappeared into ankle-high grass, and I promptly panicked. I mean, this guy was small, but grow he did. I was 21, a carefree college kid with a truck, a dog, a girl. Things then were simple and the responsibilities were few. Those days are over fourteen years and a lifetime behind us. There have been other dogs in the meantime, but Colby has been my partner and anchor for my entire adult life.

As we aged together, we faced our share of loss together. Colby was one half of a pair of Goldens purchased weeks apart. There was only supposed to be one dog, but we decided that two couldn’t be any more trouble than just one. We were college students and could rationalize our way to about anything. Bailey and Colby were inseparable for years, until a truck intervened in 2000 and took Bailey from us. A divorce in 2004 further divided our little family, and once again Colby was there to help me gather the pieces and puzzle out how they went back together. After 13 years, learning to sleep alone again would have been a lot harder without an old dog snoring and farting the night away beside me. He’s remained one of the few constants in a life I’ve built here, 2500 miles from my home and family.

A few years ago he got sick, and we were fortunate enough to be able to get him put back together. After a long convalescence he’s remained my partner on rafting trips, fishing expeditions, backpacking trips, weekends at our friend’s cabin, and perhaps most important, while just reading and sipping wine on the deck. I’ve never known what it might be like to not have him around, sleeping in the sun on the porch. I’ve not imagined what it would be like to not hear those toenails clacking across the wood floor in the wee hours, or not have him always lying directly underfoot as I get dinner together.

This past year his weight has dropped steadily, and at only 60 pounds he seemed a shade of himself, though the look in his eye and the smile never wavered. Lately it’s been even harder to keep the meat on his bones and interested in his food, and he played that for all it was worth. Canned food, broth, steak, chicken, pork; anything to keep him eating. Eventually he caught on that the people-food rules didn’t apply to canine seniors, since he started to position himself in front of the dishwasher so we’d have to give him any scraps before we could clean up. We started to discover the tricks of older dog management; that extra time in the morning it might take to get up the stairs, the value of a warm spot in the sun in which to lie, or that it’s much easier to get up off a throw rug than from a slippery hardwood floor.

Colby turned 14 last Tuesday, and that was as much as I could ask. A week ago he hiked in with us to the cabin and spent the weekend roaming the woods around Copper Center, chasing squirrels with the other dogs, and paying special attention to children with bacon. On Friday night we had a BBQ at the house, and he wisely staked out a space near the grill, hopefully eyeing those same kids and their hot dogs. Colby died peacefully early on Sunday morning, his heart finally just too large to be contained by the confines of his body. We were together as he went. He gave a lot more than he got, and he will be missed. There is a Colby-shaped lump in my throat that I expect to carry for awhile. Goodbye, my friend.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Christine September 12, 2006 at

Jared, I am so sorry, but what a wonderful way to live and what a peaceful way to go. The spirit of every dog I have ever loved has become part of who I am, and it sounds like you have a healthy dose of Colby in your heart (as well as in your throat.) Lucky, lucky you.

Warm sympathy,
Christine

2 Cathy September 13, 2006 at

Jared, what a tender reflection on your friendship with Colby. You are a marvelous writer with a great ability to connect with the reader. Surely Colby will be missed but you have no regrets. What a grand frienship!
Cathy & Bill

3 The County Clerk September 16, 2006 at

Brother. i hear you. He’s a handsome fella. I’m sure he got what he needed. You did good.

4 Amy September 22, 2006 at

Your post brought tears to my eyes. A lovely tribute.

5 jcockman September 22, 2006 at

Thank you all for your kind words. He was there when I needed him the most, and I’m thankful for that.

6 Jenn September 25, 2006 at

That totally made me cry. I hope you’re feeling better. My condolences.

7 eryk September 28, 2006 at

My sincerest and warmest loving thoughts to you. It’s difficult to lose a loved one, but it really sounds like your time together was as good as it possibly could have been. You’re both lucky for that. Lots of love…

8 Ari (Baking and Books) October 3, 2006 at

What a beautiful entry. Dogs really become a part of us don’t they? I’m so sorry for your loss, I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

9 Bruce October 26, 2006 at

Here’s to Colby, for being the thread that binds one’s life together. For showing the way, and helping you get there. And, for his unconditional love.

Cheers.

10 fred lapides March 5, 2007 at

after reading, my next look was at a site called
katry.blogspot.com and this was posted:

The best thing about a man is his dog.”
Today I beg off from my usual long windedness. The roofmen are busy dropping rolls of paper and piles of shingles on my house. The painter is staining the new cabinet fronts, and three fencemen will be here later to give estimates for the Gracie blockade around the backyard. I can hear the music blaring from the outside radio, and I don’t recognize a single song. It is near time to hit the road.

The kitchen redo is nearly redone. A built in bookcase needs to be put in, and once the cabinets are finished, the kitchen needs to be painted. I have been living in such chaos I need to close my eyes when passing through the dining room-kitchen combination or my whole body starts to itch. The dog’s crate sits in the middle of my living room floor leaving space for little else. I have hopes that Gracie is getting beyond the eating my house when left alone stage and can be weaned from the crate. Once the workmen are gone, I’ll try leaving her for short lengths of time. I’m figuring this redo will cost me nearly as much as the house did.

My friends’ dog passed away this morning, and I was at a loss for words. I know that even the kindest sentiment or bit of comfort goes right to the hurt and pain. Pets love us with such depth that I often wonder what in the heck we have ever really done to deserve them

11 eric March 6, 2007 at

that’s beautiful. just beautiful prose.

I have a little dog named lacey. I ride my bike around town and she follows me wherever I go.

e

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