For lazy dog owners in Canada, spring signals the backyard cleanup season, that time when people everywhere spend a few hours scooping up the leftovers from their pets.
When you have a big dog, this job is particularly nasty. Our Finnigan was a championship pooper. Oh well, at least he pooped in the same spot.
I looked out at his territory this morning and felt a little sad. This is all we have left of the Big Woof -- a yard full of leavings -- they remind us that he's been gone nearly a month now.
Finnigan left this world kicking and screaming -- literally. In December, he began to have grand mal seizures, not a lot of them, only once in a while. But it was a sight to behold, terrifying to watch a beloved pet grinding on the floor, foaming at the mouth, only to be awakened snarling, with an otherworldly look on his face.
The vet told us that there really wasn't a lot we could do for him, aside from putting him on meds which might or might not work. She did warn us to be careful and steer clear of this massive mound of evil, and she gently suggested that we might have to put him down to keep my granddaughter Squishy and Sophie the Pug safe.
We didn't put him down of course because we loved him, and we knew what to do when he fell to the floor thrashing -- just run out of the room and lock the door behind us. In the meantime, it was business as usual. We even bought Finnie a new Kong, and installed a dog gate in the Subaru.
Alas, the first Sunday in early March, Finnigan had three seizures within 24 hours. With each, we watched the life drain from him. His eyes became shiny, and he was confused. Scott slept with him in the basement, and I will never forget Scott wailing as another seizure began as he slept with Finnie on the bed. An hour later, we made the decision, or let us say, the decision was made for us that we couldn't keep him.
He was already on his path.
Scott put him in the back of the Subaru, behind the dog barrier. In a final act of defiance, the eel-like Finnigan was able to squeeze through and put his head on Scott's shoulder. He followed his master into the vet, and lay his head on Scott's lap. And a few minutes later, he left this world just as waggy and happy as usual.
Finnigan was only six when he died but like most black Labs, he lived the hell out of his life. He played Kong for hours in the backyard, terrorized Sophie, knocked down toddlers with his tail and spent his summers at the cottage swimming and playing. He was a happy asshole who liked to trim the trees just for fun, maul the kids when they came over, and bark as if his life depended on it.
My feelings for him were mixed. He was sweet one minute, and a total tool the next. He made it impossible to get the mail, and terrified the neighbors.
Like I said, he was an asshole, but he was our asshole.
I was sad for about a week, but I couldn't get over how lucky he was. He wasn't sick at all in his life, and only had a few seizures. It wasn't a bad way to go.
Heck, as a final exit, I'd take it.
I feel worse for Scott who's really having a hard time. Finnigan was his buddy, his wingman, his number one fan. I used to laugh at Finnigan draping himself over Scott while he sat on the recliner. A dog never loved a man more than Finnie loved Scott.
He only had eyes for Scott. Me, he put up with.
Still, it's never easy to say goodbye to a beloved hound. The house is so still and clean. The backyard echoes with the sounds of other people's dogs as they pass by.
Thankfully, Sophie has adjusted beautifully. She's busy sleeping beside me, and bouncing from pillow to pillow. Little does she know that her life is about to change.
You see we've always been a two -- or three -- dog family. And so next week we will welcome Pearl, an Australian Shepherd. We can't wait.
The love has to go somewhere, and we're sending it out to another dog. Finnigan wouldn't mind. He would probably just wish he was here to knock the stuffing out of another puppy.
I have a photo of Finnie, the one at the top of this blog. He's watching the ducks up at Geri's with a Kong in his mouth. It's how I'll remember him. Wet, stinky, and full of shit.
Just like our backyard.