I'm so sorry to have to report that on October 6th of 2015, the world became a less beautiful place. Mr. Gorgeous, my longtime collie friend, passed away.
|His back legs were too weak for him|
to stand for long periods of time.
My heart goes out to you as you face this distressing decision. I appreciate how hard it is because while he is very, very tired, in some respects he seems much as he ever was, though in truth, as I've gone back through all my photos of him in recents weeks, I'm reminded that he really has lost tremendous ground and no longer is doing many of the things he enjoyed. I've been thinking a lot of my other clients who passed away and will mention Sweetheart's story since it may help you come to terms with your decision. Sweetheart's family moved six months before she died, but I knew, that last time I saw her, that she would not live much longer. Her spirit was still so very bright, her personality still so very strong, but her body was exhausted. In the end, she got a terrible respiratory infection that she couldn't fight off. Her last days were spent in the hospital and they ended up having to put her down on Christmas Day. Most of us will die that way--sick and in the hospital. But you have a chance to let Mr. Gorgeous go when he isn't sick and suffering. (Though I suspect, given how much weight he's lost, he is, somewhere in his core, already sick, or, at the very least, failing.) A beloved pet's agony can make it easy for us to make the decision to end their suffering, but with Mr. Gorgeous, you have the chance to spare him that. You can give him the best day ever: all the grilled cheese and baloney sandwiches he wants, a trip to his favorite park, and then you help him shuffle off this mortal coil so that he may slumber that eternal sleep, as Shakespeare put it. Make no mistake, it chokes me up to write about it. And there is no way out of the grief that will follow. I lay down on the floor with him before I left the other night and told him everything I wanted him to know and sang him my favorite lullaby. Being Mr. Gorgeous, he wasn't all that interested, so I also gave him some extra cheese. He was pretty stoked about the cheese. And then I came home and cried. I do not envy what you have ahead of you and you are very much in my thoughts.
My favorite poem is Robert Frost's "After Apple-Picking." It is not really about the end of the harvest, but about death. I thought of it during my recent days with Mr. Gorgeous (the apples on your trees helped jog my memory). I'm sharing it in particular because of the lines "...there may be two or three/ Apples I didn't pick upon some bough./ But I am done with apple-picking now." We don't always have to pick every single apple for the harvest to be over. The frost has come, winter is nigh.
|You could see, when he slept, how little of him|
remained and how close he was to death.
His family informed me that he was eagerly eating cheese--his favorite thing--when the end came. He looked beautiful even in death and is buried beneath the huge old cedar tree next to house, the place where, in life, he surveyed his kingdom and whose branches he was perpetually collecting in his fur. I like knowing where he is and knowing, too, that as long as the tree stands, as it has for hundreds of years and may for many hundreds more, his bones shall mingle with its roots and he will be sheltered there long after everyone who knew him is gone.
|Mr. Gorgeous lies for eternity in this very spot where he so often watched over his world.|
|He spent many hours under the cedar collecting its fallen branches in his fur.|
|From the base of the tree, he had a clear view of the upper reaches of his kingdom.|
|He's there now, beside the rock below the huge cedar at the bottom of the drive.|
|Mr. Gorgeous at 3 months.|
|The newly-adopted Mr. Gorgeous with "his" kids.|
I didn't come into Mr. Gorgeous' life until December of 2009. I understand that he had a fair amount of pep and was even known to jump around a bit when he was younger, but by the time I knew him, the wild days of his youth were over and he had entered a more sedate stage of middle age that tended to involve all four paws on the ground--even his counter-surfing days were largely behind him. He still got up on the furniture now and then in those first years, though!
|This is the first photo I took of|
Mr. Gorgeous--the first of thousands!
|A naughty Mr. Gorgeous, interrupted while napping on the couch.|
|One time in the first days of our acquaintance, I couldn't find Mr. G. anywhere. At long last I discovered him in this chair in the music room. I suppose he liked being part of a symphony of browns.|
|Mr. Gorgeous looks out over the world and thinks, "Huh."|
|He was rather detached about matters.|
|Was he indifferent? Or merely inexpressive?|
|Or perhaps he was simply content.|
|There's no need, of course, for every dog to be a genius.|
|Whatever his IQ might have been, he had the brainpower to oversee his territory...|
|....take advantage of opportunities when he felt so inclined...|
|...and follow the humans to and fro should he be interested in doing so.|
|He was so beautiful that all he had to do was exist and that was enough.|
|Who is the fairest of them all?|
In addition to being so good-looking, Mr. Gorgeous also had this marvelous floating trot. If you could persuaded him to stop marking things while on a walk (no small task), he would shift into a different gear and this trot would emerge, loose and swinging, a majestic gait for a majestic dog! He had a variety of speeds, including the slow plod he used when meandering around the grounds and the sudden dive he'd make toward an entrancing scent while on a walk. Up until arthritis and then the degenerative myelopathy slowed him down, he could run, too. There was the bounding "get back here, you rabbit!" sprint that he used when chasing wildlife, but the best run was the one he'd do alongside your car when you drove in. I loved when I came to the house and he was waiting at the gate at the top of the long drive. He would run down the length of it beside your car, an activity suffused with joy. I always intended to get a video of him doing this and I always forgot, or it was inconvenient, and then it was too late.
An example of Mr. Gorgeous' lovely trot.
|Waiting at the gate at the top of the drive, ready to run the length of it with whoever will be driving in. I wish I had a video to go with this photo.|
|Happy to see me!|
|Mr. Gorgeous pushes himself forward though my legs and says hi...|
|...and then pauses on the way back to get a good rump scratching.|
A clip of Mr. Gorgeous at play.
|Playing keep-away with his kitty.|
|While he was not obsessed with it in the way many dogs are, Mr. Gorgeous occasionally would like to play a game of fetch.|
|Fluff in motion!|
|Mr. Gorgeous and a toy against a green backdrop.|
|He loved a good ear rubbing.|
|I was very fond of his ears.|
|While he wasn't very animated in expressing his affections, he did like to stay nearby.|
Here he is waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs...
|...outside the guest house...|
|....beside the kitchen table...|
|...and just behind the computer chair.|
"Watcha doin', Buddy?"
"Who's my Fluffy Buddy?!"
"Hey, Bud, get back here, you still have cedar branches in your fur!"
"How's it going, Big Fluffy?"
We were good friends, he and I.
|Mr. G. was polite but reserved with most dogs.|
|"Beauty and the Beast" is what my mother calls this photo of Abbey and Mr. Gorgeous!|
|Mr. Gorgeous was highly tolerant of, if not overly interested in, other dogs, including guests in his house like Goldie.|
|He seldom played, but when he did, it was a beautiful thing!|
|Looking rather silly while |
chomping on a rawhide stick.
|A very narrow dog dwelled beneath the voluminous coat.|
|When long, it picked up all kinds of debris...|
|...including, on one occasion, this large branch!|
|His habit of rubbing his face in all the bushes didn't help.|
|Mr. Gorgeous' thick coat wasn't quite as elegant-looking from rear.|
|I like how he appeared to float in the grass on the raft of his fur.|
|Sound asleep on his very favorite piece of hard, flat floor. In all those years, it never fluffed once.|
|He did love this bed, at least!|
Mr. Gorgeous attempts to fluff the floor.
This clip was shot toward the very end, when he didn't have much feeling in his hind legs, so he's rather tottery.
|Mr. G. looks really happy|
in a lot of these photos,
but the truth be told, he's
just wandering around
with his mouth open.
|He preferred to drink his water, no matter what kind of bowl it was in, while laying down.|
|"I wanted out until you opened the door, but now I have to rethink it."|
|Barking his fool head off.|
|Mr. Gorgeous liked these green-and-white dental chews (seen by his front paw), but only after they'd been left sitting on the floor for a while. One time, I found one stuck in his fur!|
|He liked to face backward while riding in the car.|
|Because he might wander--or swim!--off, I usually left him behind when I went down to photograph things in the unfenced lower reaches of the yard.|
|It's where he wanted to be most of all.|
|Mr. Gorgeous' beloved park.|
|We often went there at sunset.|
|There was sand and grass and water, with so many things to sniff and dogs and people to meet!|
One of my other favorite places to take him, on days when I wasn't feeling up to the steep hike up from the house on the way out and then again up from his preferred park on the way home, was a very flat park not too far down the road that was also popular with local dog owners. It was at that park that I met Lady and her owner and it was through Lady that I got to know Sweetheart and through Sweetheart I got to know Cutie! (I will add that Mr. Gorgeous' family recommended me to Goldie, who passed my name on to Pipsqueak, Little Buddy, and Sable & Co. In other words, Mr. G. is directly responsible for my entire dog-sitting business.) From Mr. Gorgeous' point of view, the best thing about that park were the light posts set every few yards along the path, a most excellent place for reading and sending pee-mail! I also liked that park because of the bald eagles that lived and nested in the trees and, more practically, because it was conveniently located adjacent to the lively waterfront downtown parks but the parking was free and always available. There was another nearby lakefront park with boardwalks over wetlands that I was very fond of and which Mr. Gorgeous enjoyed. Because he was good in the car and his equanimity could be relied upon, it was fun to take him to different parks all over the city to add variety to our walks.
|A rainbow rises over our second-favorite park on a damp day.|
|A wintry sunset at the park. You can see the short light posts along the path that Mr. Gorgeous so enjoyed marking.|
|A collie in the grass at another one of our favorite parks near his home.|
|Mr. Gorgeous waits for me to finish photographing things from one of the viewing platforms. He always got lots of attention from passersby while waiting!|
|Up until Mr. Gorgeous could no longer get in the car, we drove all over the area to add variety to our walks.|
|I dipped these mosquito larvae out|
of one of the ponds to photograph.
|Photographs taken on May 6, 2013 at Mr. Gorgeous' house include tulips, leaves, chess pieces, flowers, water bubbles, and flowering tree branches.|
|Photographs taken on September 27, 2015 include koi in one of the ponds, apples, grasses, zinnias, a dried artichoke flower, two kinds of hover flies, roses, a backlit leaf, a spider, berries, Mr. Gorgeous, and bees from his beehive.|
|Thank you, Mr. Gorgeous, for being so photogenic and living in such photogenic surroundings!|
I also took some photos of the two of us together over the years.
|On the dock at sunset in February of 2010.|
|In April of 2010.|
He didn't actually like having his head so close to mine, but sometimes I made him so we could get a photo together.
|August 2012. We'd just been swimming together in the lake!|
|In January of 2013 I captured our reflections.|
|May of 2013.|
(There's a big gap in selfies after I replaced my point-and-shoot with a heavy DSLR that usually had a large lens on it.)
|I took this one in May of 2015.|
He was clearly in decline at that point and I was worried I might not see him again.
|September 30th, 2015.|
I knew this was our last day together, so I made him take selfies with me. It wasn't easy to do with my heavy DSLR in one hand and trying to wrangle an unenthusiastic Mr. Gorgeous with the other, but I got what I needed.
It's rather hard to bring this post to a close because it means bringing Mr. Gorgeous to a close. Nevertheless, we've come to the end.
|This is the final photograph I took of Mr. Gorgeous.|
But Mr. Gorgeous' sun has set. The harvest is over, winter is here. And yet, the spring will come. It will not be as beautiful without Mr. Gorgeous to ornament the season, but it will be spring nonetheless.
|Me and my buddy.|
And in that spring, and in the seasons and years that follow, I will continue to think of and miss my dear collie friend, the one and only Mr. Gorgeous.