More than a Dog
I guess this is a sad story, but it shouldn't be. It's the story of Andrew, my wife’s beautiful Husky/Shepherd mix. Andrew could have been a dog model, his picture should have been on dog food bags, posters at the vet’s office, or maybe even the side of a bus somewhere, advertising insurance. The dog was flat out gorgeous, and he knew it. Boy did he know it. On more than one occasion I caught him staring at himself in the mirror, as if he was admiring his natural beauty.
Andrew was perhaps the most spoiled dog I have ever come across in my life, he was a prima donna of sorts. When I walked in the door, he would howl for a treat, I'd give him a treat and he’d howl for another. Sometimes, if I refused, the dog would actually stomp his feet-ahem, paws in protest.
Andrew enjoyed car rides more than anything in the world. He would often stop traffic, as people would smile and point at the large regal dog, his head out of the window, pointing straight ahead.
My wife, Anne, had gotten Andrew as a puppy and taken upon herself to make sure he had anything and everything a dog could want. I’m not sure he was ever told no in his life. As a puppy, he would often eat shoes, I'm told he had a taste for fine Italian leather. He also had a taste for trouble, as I would find out.
When I met Andrew he was around 7. I remember being amazed by his youthful spirit. He would run the trails with my dog Bruce. Bruce was 3 and at times had trouble keeping up with Andrew. The dog could run, the longer the walk, the better. I've read that huskies can slow down their metabolism to endure grueling working sessions. Andrew was working alright, running for miles and miles until he decided it was time to come back. (There's a reason you see all of those missing dog posters with pictures of beautiful huskies on them.)
I spent countless evenings chasing and tracking Andrew through acres of trails. He made a name for himself; runners would see me with an extra leash and say something to the effect of, “I think Andrew is up near the second bridge, he was chasing a deer in the creek.” We would arrive at the second bridge and Andrew was nowhere to be found.
Then I would hear it, faint at first, getting louder from up on the hill, a stick breaking, the leaves crunching, then a deer running for his life, with Andrew not far behind. Each time I would promise myself that I would never let him off leash again, and each time I would break that promise after Andrew’s pleading. I was a sucker and he knew it.
At times he would get a crazed look in his eyes, a look that seemed to say, You guys are in for a long day! On days like this Andrew would become a wild animal, with an insatiable appetite to run. His tongue hanging, he was a sight to see, galloping through the forest at full speed on a quest for squirrels. The Shepherd in him was the brains, the husky was the attitude. More than once I would have to go into the creek and pull him out by his collar, and more than once I noticed a distinct look of satisfaction on his face as I would walk the rest of the way with my feet soaking wet.
Andrew was always on the trails, even when he wasn't. Anne and I watched him one evening as he slept. He was kicking and "running" as dogs often do when they dream. Barking slightly, his eyes flickered as he chased the deer of his dreams. Suddenly he was awake. Somewhat confused, he looked around and began panting, as if he was tired from his run.
An extremely vocal dog, Andrew was never one to hide his feelings, his displeasure would be voiced. He would whine if you had something he wanted, continuing and building up the volume until he was practically howling at you.
Needless to say, there was never a dull moment. Andrew was full of personality and attitude, the likes of which I have never seen. A true brat. he would decide what moments he would allow you to pet him, or thumb his nose at you and walk away. We bonded over the course of our many walks together in the woods, although few were spent walking together.
We first noticed something was amiss when Andrew started limping. At ten, he was considered older for a dog his size but he was in remarkable physical condition, we thought he may have just been sore. Many trips to the vet later we knew there was a serious problem.
I’ll never forget the day we found out his condition was terminal. Anne had taken him to the vet again while I was out in the yard working. As I watched her pull into the driveway I could immediately tell the news was bad. I felt helpless watching Anne sitting in the car, crying. Andrew had been diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a highly aggressive bone cancer and given maybe 2-6 months to live.
As his condition worsened, we knew we had to make a decision. It wasn't fair to Andrew to prolong his suffering for our selfish reasons. At the same time it wasn't fair for Anne to have to make such a grave decision. I remember scouring the internet looking for other options, but everything I read pointed to the answer I didn't want to face. A few more days passed and we knew what had to be done. We called the vet and made the appointment.
All to quickly for us, the day came and the weather was beautiful. Anne spent the afternoon with Andrew on a blanket in the front yard. Andrew spent his last day with his favorite person, eating treats while sunbathing out in the yard. On the way to the vet, on a bevy of powerful pain pills, Andrew hung his head out of the window one last time, smiling with the wind in his face, as regal as ever. Andrew the Prince, as we used to call him.
I won’t go into the details, but it was one of the worst experiences I've ever had to endure. Even more so for Anne, it made us question having dogs in the first place. On the way home, I would look back at the empty seat, where our beautiful dog had just sat with his head out the window and a smile on his face.
My wife and I will always have an abundance of memories and funny stories to tell about the most stubborn dog in the world. Anyone who has owned a dog knows how difficult it is to let them go. They are a great deal of happiness for us for so long, but in the end it's never quite long enough. So here’s to the one and only Andrew, hopefully he's being good up there!