A Faithful Friend
The Christmas of 2000 was quite the mixed bag. This Christmas found us as newlyweds- poor, still-in-college newlyweds but happy just to be spending our first Christmas as husband and wife. I got the bright idea to get my mom a dog as her Christmas gift; she had been talking about getting one, and had mentioned that a dachshund sounded like a good match for her. I spent hours looking on-line (mostly because many of you will remember how slow dial-up was in those days…anyone with me?) and happened to find this little mini-dachshund available in a small town between NW Arkansas and Little Rock. We picked him up on our way back to central Arkansas to visit for Christmas. This little eight month old doggie looked kind of pitiful; we would later find out he was a sick puppy. He had been named Smokey by his previous owner- we thought that was a better shortened alternative to what was on his official papers- Smokey Mountain Rebel. Not exactly our style.
Unfortunately, we found out that mom really wasn’t quite prepared to be a dog owner; she wasn’t ready to be tied down, and she was away lots of weekends visiting yours truly. So, since I couldn’t stand the thought of taking him to the pound, we decided to keep him ourselves. After a shockingly expensive vet bill and meds, he was on his way to being a healthy dog.
Smokey loved to be outside…he would run just as fast as his little legs would take him with his long ears flapping in the wind. Often, his ears would be turned inside out after running furiously around the backyard. He loved to play fetch and went to town on doggy chews. He was too smart for his own good; we tried to rig up a way to keep him in the kitchen in our townhouse while we were away at class. We came home every day for weeks to find him sitting in our recliner looking really proud of himself. I finally had to watch to see how he was escaping.
He loved to try to find a way to get some “people” food. He managed to eat two pieces of Papa John’s pizza by jumping up on the chair and climbing on the table; another time, he gobbled down a Hot Pocket mom had sat on the coffee table for a few moments; he also ate an entire plate of rice krispy treats (and looked like he was going to burst) and a whole box of Girl Scout cookies (with chocolate and peanut butter, no less).
While on a walk one day, Smokey managed to leap up in the air and grab a bird in his mouth that had swooped down low. I screamed and ran away because I did not want to see him kill that bird…poor James was left to try to get him to drop it. He was also a great mole digger-upper- if you’ve never seen a dead mole in your backyard, you haven’t missed much. Ick.
I pulled into the driveway another day and noticed the screen door from the window lying in the front yard. I suppose he decided it was time to bust out of that joint, so he jumped from the chair straight into the screen of the open window and landed in the yard. I kind of think he knocked himself out or at least was stunned…he was still in the front yard when I came back. I got out of the car and heard the “tinkle tinkle” of the tags on his leash. If he had been fully aware of his freedom, I think he would’ve been to the next county by the time I returned.
Along the way, we decided he needed a friend. So, we got a little girl mini-dachshund puppy. Smokey wasn’t too fond of her at first; he took every opportunity he could to show her who was boss. Ironically, she later definitely became the boss and would go “kujo” on him for no reason at all. But, he was very protective of Molly; the only times he really snapped at anyone (or attacked the black cat who showed up in our backyard) were when he thought someone was messing with his “sister”.
When Hannah Grace came along, Smokey patiently let her squeeze him…tug his ears…pull his tail…all the things most little kids do to dogs when they are too little to understand how to be gentle. Molly never let her even get close; but sweet Smokey was always so good with Hannah. When she was old enough to attempt to say his name, she had a little trouble- it came out as “Gokey”. She called him that for a long time. She liked to crawl in the large dog kennel and sit beside him- I have a picture of that somewhere.
Several years ago, we figured out that something was going on with him. Smokey was diagnosed with diabetes. We had to give him insulin shots twice a day. He also slowly became blind due to cataracts (a side effect of diabetes). He did pretty well with the blindness- as dogs and people can, he adjusted to his surroundings. He still liked to lie out in the grass on a warm, sunny day. He always loved his sun.
The last year or two, we’ve had a little more trouble keeping his sugars steady with the insulin. Smokey mainly laid in a comfy spot and slept- at 13, he didn’t have much energy left. There were several episodes where he got really sick, and we thought it might be time- but he always recovered.
Two weeks ago today, Smokey was his normal self- until late evening. James couldn’t find him when it was time for him to eat, and he finally saw him just sitting out in the backyard in the cold darkness. When he brought him in, Smokey was very disoriented and could barely stand. He had several episodes that looked like seizures. It was so terrible to see. We tried raising his blood sugar, but nothing seemed to help.
Smokey had dwindled down to being just about skin and bones; he hadn’t eaten well the week leading up to this. We knew in our hearts it was time to say goodbye. I never thought I would grieve so much over a dog; that still pales in comparison in some ways to other losses we’ve faced. But grieve I did- and I’m not ashamed of it. He was in our lives for 13 years, and he was our first “baby” as a married couple. I spent many nights holding him tight while tears rolled down my cheeks after we returned home from ACH without our Hannah. Somehow it seemed that he knew when I was sad- he was my sweet, snuggly Smokey. I will always remember our furry, faithful friend. I fully believe that “Gokey” is even now chasing after a toy that Hannah has thrown…and I can see her laughing with glee as he runs back to her…ears flapping…to throw it for the 100th time. Some friends are forever.