Scooby Farewell


I find myself in one of those horrible adult moments where I have to say goodbye to my old dog,  For some folks it’s a sudden surprise and a teary goodbye at the vet but I’ve been looking around this corner for a long minute. He has been declining for months. Last Christmas I knew it was coming, I told myself, this will be our last year together, observing the lasts in my mind as the time has counted down. Last trip to the river, last ride in the car, last, last, last. I’ve marked them all. I’ve watched him change and turn away slowly from all of the things that made him happy till there was nothing left but supper and me. I’ve watched him drift around the house following me from room to room and when it was too much to get up he would follow me with his eyes from the bed blankets that I’ve put out for him to lie down on around the house.

Today I called the doctor who will come tomorrow and open the gate from his tired hurting body so his spirit can run down the trail that I can’t follow on. Today I am suddenly a wreck. After weeks of monitoring his QoL and changing his bedding daily and mopping the floors when the accidents began to multiply to the point where it was obvious he couldn’t keep up with the demands of his body.  We have come to the end of the trail and I am spent beyond measure with sadness. Tomorrow will be our last date and he won’t hurt anymore and that is all I want for him now.

Of course, all this raw emotion sends me burrowing into my photo archive so it can do what I built it to do; comfort me, stop time, take me back to the beginning for a little while so I can feel it all again like I did when it was new.

Scooby on our first date, the moment we met.So this is the beginning. December 5, 2004 at a Home 4 the Holidays adoption event in Reston,VA. As the event photographer I had said no thank you 300 times that day to all of the beautiful animals that I was photographing. Wouldn’t you know it would be 301 that got to me? This photo is pretty much our first moment of eye contact through the crowd. We got him from a rescue group called Homeward Trails that does great work rescuing animals from kill shelters in the Maryland, Virginia and DC area. He had been found as a puppy under a porch in West Virginia by their group, and adopted as a baby by a young girl but the adoption didn’t take when her life had a change and he was back with them. ‘Look how handsome he is!’  was  all I could think when I first saw him through the lens at the adoption event. Right after I took this photo I walked over and introduced myself to his foster Mom. He sat on my lap licked, my face and that was it, he was home within a week.

Already almost two years old and with his own ideas about who was in charge, his name was Cooper then and we kept it that way for a few years until Cooper the boy, my nephew, was born. Then the kids renamed him Scooby. I always thought it suited him better.  I’d never heard of a Plott hound before (he’s a Blevins Plott), now I could tell you all about them. How they are so stubborn and crazy and brave and stupid and smart and strong all at the same time. I guess I saw a lot of myself in a dog like that. It’s easy to forget how difficult he was at first now that we’re on the other side of this life together but he had no manners, terrorized our old beagle till the day she left the planet and was generally a disaster on four legs at every turn for the first few years. People would scoop up their little dogs in our suburban Northern Virginia neighborhood and run the other way shouting things like ‘Why would you have a dog like that?’

When we moved to Western North Carolina I would be lying if I didn’t admit that part of the motivation for me was to bring him home to a place that he was built to live in. And the conversation with strangers and neighbors changed completely.  I would have him in the back of the truck at the gas station. He would be going off at top notch so much that the truck was swaying and the barking was a total din. An old timer would walk by and peer in the truck and say ‘I bet that’s a good dog.’

Yes sir, he is.

The wheel turns. Soon we will begin listing firsts with new animals. The kids have never been able to have anything but fish because Scooby would hunt anything furry and smaller than him so we gave him the room to do so. He was the terror of every squirrel, rabbit and groundhog in our neighborhood. There will probably be a complete menagerie in my yard before too long. It might take a menagerie to fill up the hole I feel in my heart today. Sweet dreams good boy, I’m gonna miss you. Meet you on the other side.

This morning we got up early to watch the sun come up on the porch. Tonight we’ll leave the gates open.

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