My beloved Springer Spaniel, Roxy, died Saturday morning at home, with three grown adults stroking her, telling her what a good dog she was – loving her so much to the very end.
And Roxy loved us. She had waited for me Saturday morning I think to have a proper goodbye. I came down in the morning and she was off her bed, and in great distress. She had a massive cardiac event, evidently. Her gums and tongue were white and her breathing strained. But she had waited.
Roxy was a people dog who belonged to dog people.
My mother, now passed on herself, used to say that dogs were God’s most perfect creation. Not theologically correct, but in the human dynamic, my mom was entirely correct. Roxy proved it.
I had found Roxy over the phone through a breeder in Aberdeen, Maryland 14 years ago, and was filled with expectation; Roxy’s mom was a national champion Springer “bird dog.”
Roxy lived up to every expectation and more. She was a magnificent white and liver colored dog, with huge, expressive caramel colored eyes. Even in her last days her beauty turned heads.
I purchased her sight unseen, while my wife was out of town visiting family. She was already weened and Katherine, my then ten-year-old daughter, and I made the long Saturday trek up to the top of Maryland filled with excitement about what we’d find, and a bit of apprehension about how we’d tell her mother what we’d done.
The breeder was in a quiet rural area, and his dogs lived in their own outbuilding with runs in the back, while the puppies stayed indoors. Roxy was the last born, and the last sold and when we entered his office, the breeder opened a closet door and Roxy came blasting out like a launched missile, her uncut beautiful full tail swinging back and forth like a broom sweeping the floor. Her feet were much too big for her. She ran straight to my daughter and a love affair began.
Roxy was exuberant, Roxy was flamboyant, Roxy was fun, and Roxy was expectant. But, mostly Roxy was sweet. She never met a stranger and on walks, she’d stop for any child, even babies – she wanted to be petted and she wanted to give them a “hello” lick. As far as I know she never snapped at a human except me when I tried to pull her out from under a desk once or twice, and she never snapped at another dog unless she was snapped at first.
She was the queen of the house. She grew to be 50 pounds and was fast as greased lightning. She loved to run and jump and she loved to dream about catching things. Which she did. One day my wife called me from my home office in a panic – Roxy was in the back yard with a five foot black rat snake dangling from her mouth. She had expertly caught it behind the head, but didn’t seem to know what to do with it, but her tail swishing at maximum RPM’s expressed her pure joy. I had to coax it from her jaws and kill it myself.
She was such a good jumper that she took a number of unsuspecting, low flying birds out of mid-flight. But her dream was to catch a squirrel. Alas, it was not to be.
But mostly Roxy was a grand companion. She loved to lay at the side of your chair, or couch or feet. She didn’t complain, but she watched every move and was always ready for petting, and a little petting was never enough petting.
She also loved the kitchen, and some of my fondest memories are of that long dog on her hind feet with her front paws over the counter top watching my not-so-tall wife cooking dinner. It was often hard to tell who was in charge.
Dogs are wondrous creations. They’re steadfast friends, and on many a walk I have poured out my heart, my hurt and my joys to Roxy, and never once did she offer anything in return by her unconditional love and gratitude.
I’ve rehearsed speeches to her, read the Bible out loud to her, shared a story with her, and just hung out without words at all with her. She loved the moments just because they were moments together, and I loved her more for it.
I have come home beat up, spindled, crimped and stapled in various places by the machinations of the world, but Roxy was always there, saying, “Hello” with that great swooshing tail, and an extremely long tongue ready to deposit a messy kiss. Always faithful, always cheerful, always ready for my love and forgiving of my indifference, and always eager for a hug or two.
When I came down Saturday morning, I knew in an instant that the time had come. She was waiting for me as she always had. She gathered my daughter, my wife, and me around her and she loved us just a little bit longer before she said goodbye. She was a faithful friend to the end. Her love will always be missed in this house.