Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dog Days

This is my family's older dog. Her name was Mocha, because back when we got her my brother and I liked mocha cake, but not coffee. She was a black lab/huskie mutt filled with an endless nervous energy she applied to chasing tennis balls and whining for attention.

She was 15 years old, which is well over half my own life thus far. We got her at some McCall animal shelter, in a time before McPaws; she was slated to be put down if nobody took her in at the end of that day. At the time my parents were in the midst of divorcing, and middle school was another year or so off. I'd never been in a play and 'gay' was still a dirty word. Newt Gingrich was still Speaker of the House.

Mocha had slowed down a lot in recent years, and McCall's sub-zero winters were particularly hard on her. She had taken to scratching and gnawing incessantly until she had worn away fur and flesh, and she had trouble waiting until someone got home to let her out to do her business. Regardless, though, she never acted her age, particularly when there was a tennis ball in front of her. Then she could be as energetic and bitchy and crazy as ever.

I'm glad I got to see her when I was home in September. According to my mother she hadn't been doing well, but when I arrived she showed renewed vitality. I knew when I returned to DC that that was the last I would see of her, and so I've already gotten a lot of the sadness out of my system. Mostly right now I'm just thinking about her and the many hard times she helped our family through.

I've known for a couple months now that the end was coming, and thought of posting something I had seen elsewhere, a lovely passage from The Odyssey about the death of Odysseus' dog Argus. But in the end it just seemed inappropriate. Mocha was too weird for such noble tribute. Her ears were too small for her head and she was terribly anti-social; she made enemies with most of the other dogs that lived along our walking route, and rather than play with our second dog Emma, she first despised her and then developed a weird aloof protectiveness. Decidedly not the stuff of myths. But she was herself, and that was good enough.

I'll miss her something fierce.

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