Marolt: It’s only a dog until it’s your buddy
Some people will say, “It’s just a dog,” and those people can be forgiven. Our relationships with dogs are personal. Dogs don’t go to cocktail parties, and we don’t chase one another around parks, so there isn’t much social crossover.
Nobody knows your dog like you do, and you are the center of your dog’s world. It’s a special bond. I give you food and love, and you give me every bit of joy you are capable of producing. It’s the perfect trade.
It’s all about routine. I get down on the floor to do my morning exercises, and she licks my face and paws me until I rub her belly. The phone rings, and she barks for a treat. I lace up my running shoes, and she dances crazily. When I open the door, she knows right where to lead. When it’s just the two of us at home, she’ll never let me be lonesome.
Every night before bed, no matter what the weather is, it’s outside to take care of business. It’s an enchanting time to be outside that I would otherwise miss. She sniffs around in the dark, and I stand at the end of the driveway looking at the stars or marveling at the snow falling, feeling the rain on my cheeks, making rings with my breath in the cold or listening to the crickets chirp in the warm, late-summer darkness as my mind wanders. The other night, I listened hard for their comforting music, but I couldn’t hear them anymore. I tried to anticipate what changes fall would bring.
I was going to take her for a short run the next morning up the trail behind our house, but I didn’t because it rained hard overnight. I put on gym clothes instead and felt like I had to explain that we would go tomorrow. I left her disappointed at the garage door.
Two hours later, I got a call from my wife at the vet’s. Dips was acting only a little more lethargic than her 10 years of age had gradually dictated, but Susan just had a feeling that she needed to be checked out. All of the test results weren’t in, but her platelets were extremely low, and her spleen needed to come out immediately. It looked like cancer. She certainly could live without the spleen, and there was always chemo to buy more time; some people don’t opt for that, though, we were told.
I’d been through it four times before. A seriously sick pet calls for all the strength and courage you can muster. I spent the rest of the day in sorrowful contemplation. I prayed that we would make the right decisions at the right times. Chemo? How much would she suffer with and without it? How much would it extend her life? How would we know when it was finally time to say goodbye? I closed the door to my office, and I sat with damp eyes turned away from it.
Months before, we had planned to meet our oldest daughter in Denver for a big weekend concert instead of going to parents weekend at her college. What do you do with plans when your dog is in the animal hospital? They told us Dips probably should spend a couple of nights there anyway. She’d be fine. We could pick her up Sunday evening on our way home.
Susan and our youngest daughter left early Saturday to meet for shopping before the show. I stayed behind with our son who had the ACT exam in the morning and, maybe, if he finished early enough, the second half of his team’s soccer match in Carbondale. We’d catch up with the others in time for the 7 o’clock show. But somewhere between the end of the ACT exam and the soccer field, we got a call. Dipsy developed a blood clot. We needed to get there to comfort her. We didn’t make it.
There was a dog’s lifetime of tears there on the side of the road. There is pain in our hearts and emptiness in our home today. There is also a merciful God. Dipsy was playful and happy to the end. She didn’t suffer. All the hard decisions regarding her care and life were taken out of our hands.
My son and I regrouped and met the rest of the family in Denver because we needed to be together that night. At the concert, three teenagers and their parents sang and danced and cried over a loss that couldn’t have been so incredibly painful if it hadn’t been such an incredible gift to begin with. It is always the gifts we have to focus on.
Roger Marolt always felt like a boy when he was with his dog. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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