“No use!” he said, thickly, harkening back by instinct to a half-remembered phrase.
“The engine has broken down.”

“No,” quoted the sobbing Mistress, wiser than he.

“‘The engineer has left it.'”

   –Albert Payson Terhune


Life can take a sad turn when you least expect it. And I certainly wasn’t expecting it today when I found out that my dog had died.

You might very well be saying, “So what. It’s just a dog.” Yeah, just a dog. But one that I’ve had for nearly thirteen of my twenty-five years. I only had a mother for six years. A father for ten. So it’s very sad to me.

Itty (“Itty-Bit” was the runt in her litter, and the name stayed even though her small size didn’t) was quite a fixture of my junior high and high school years. Going through that age doesn’t always make you feel like you’ve got a whole lot of friends, but the best thing about a dog is that they’re always insanely happy to see you. They never seem to have a bad day or hold a grudge because you’ve been ignoring them. There were days when it seemed Itty was my only friend.

Itty was extremely intelligent. I trained her to not only sit, stay, shake, lay down, roll over, heel, and all the other “basics”, but she learned the names of the various rooms of the house, and knew the difference between names of furniture. Training her was difficult until I figured out that she wasn’t stupid, just bored. I would run the same exercises with her over and over again, until she just wouldn’t do them anymore. She taught me how to teach her. And boy was I well trained!

Collies are very people-centered herding dogs. Itty’s favorite things were just laying around the family, doing nothing in particular. She would sit for hours and watch television. Or lay on my bed while I did homework. Itty listened to everything. It could be the TV, radio, two people talking, me on the phone, whatever–she would listen. Even when her eyes were closed, one ear was always pointed toward wherever the sound was coming from in a room.

After I got out of college and she was living with me here at the condo, she would lay on the couch in the living room, just keeping an eye on things in that watchful way that only collies can. She loved rolling around and around in the grass, or chasing me around the park to make sure I got at least a little exercise.

If she needed to go out, she would always let me know. In the morning, she would come over to my bed and nudge me with her long wet nose. If that didn’t work (or if she couldn’t reach me), Itty would breathe on me until her dog-breath did the trick. And if that failed, she would just stay there, looking at me and patiently waiting.

In 1995 Itty became sick and I sent her to New Hampshire to live with my cousins on their large tract of land. She really needed more space. I remember the last time I saw her, waiting at 2:00 am on a loading dock at Los Angeles International airport to be loaded onto the plane. It’s strange, but I would swear that somehow I knew I would not see her again. It was pretty sad.

It really struck me how much of a roller coaster today ended up being. The day started great–it finally felt like things were getting done, I was upbeat and feeling good–and then I get this call from New Hampshire. Oy…

But then things picked up. I’m still melancholy, true. But I can’t help but be thankful for the good life she had, the fact that she didn’t suffer with a long painful illness, and most of all that I didn’t have to make the decision to have her put down. Eventually the sadness will fade away and the happy memories will remain.

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