When I was down in North Carolina last month, Linsey’s Aunt Frankie gave me a book called The Art of Racing In The Rain. It’s only 300 or so pages, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to finish it.
Here’s a summary of the first two chapters, which I did read: it’s written from the point of view of a very old dog who is on his last legs. As the book opens, his master comes home from work and the dog is lying on the kitchen floor, unable to lift himself up from a pool of his own urine.
In the second chapter, the dog begins telling us, in flashbacks, the story of their life together, starting with the day his master chose him from a litter of pups.
That was all I could bear to read. I’m not sure I can have my heart ripped out for three hundred pages. After all, I’m the guy who, during “Marley And Me,” started crying during the opening shot of the entire film.
I’ve had Snoots for seven and a half years — since he was a year old. And during that time I’ve always been way too cognizant of his mortality. As I write this, and look over at him sleeping on my bed and twitching in a dream, I know that our time together is about two-thirds complete. Two-thirds! It just seems downright fucking cruel for Nature to make dogs so suited for human companionship, yet give them only one-seventh the life expectancy.
Part of the reason I so morbidly count down the time I have left with Snooty is because I honestly can not remember what my life was like before I found him. Now, we all have our ups and downs in life, and I’ve certainly had my share of downs in the last seven years. And more often than not, the only thing pulling me back from The Ledge has been Snoots. He was there when Carin Gorrell dumped me. He was there for me when NESN and WGBH and Powderhouse didn’t hire me. And not only did he help ease the sting of hundreds of crushing online poker hands, he probably saved a laptop or two from being smashed in the bargain. I only have a few years left of Snooty’s patented surefire grief therapy, a fact which will only compound the inevitable Losing My Shit whenever he dies.
So I can’t imagine what my friends Frank & Julia are going through. On Monday the 6th, their beloved golden retriever Hoover died. He was only 7 years old, but he developed a tumor on his back, and suddenly, that was it.
Hoover was the gentlest giant, and one of the happiest, dopiest dogs you could ever have the privilege of meeting. The average golden weighs 70 pounds; Hoover tipped the scales at 110. When you entered the room (or reached the top of the stairs at Frank and Julia’s beautiful loft apartment), he would smile (a gesture that looked terrifying to non-dog-lovers) and gently bite your wrist so he could “escort” you into the house. He had this way of running around the Fells without ever bending any of his knees; it always cracked me up. He had these enormous beautiful brown eyes that caused more than one person to ask Julia if he was Chinese (honest). When I house-sat, Hoovy would either sleep in my bed (and he took up a lot of real estate) or at the foot of my bed, and I always felt honored.
He was a great dog. I really liked him, and so did Snoots. And as agnostic as I am, and essentially a non-believer in heaven and hell, I’m fucking positive that Doggie Heaven exists, and that Hoover is stiff-leggedly running around on some cloud tonight.
Anyways, I wrote this post because I don’t have the slightest idea what to possibly to say to Frank & Julia other than just that — I don’t know what to say. I can’t possibly (and don’t want to) imagine your sense of loss. I know I couldn’t handle it. Hopefully you can take some measure of solace knowing that Hoover is up there knowing that he loved the life you provided for him, that he knows how much you loved him, and that he’s wondering why there are slightly fewer treats in Doggie Heaven than there were in your kitchen.