David L. Robbins
Novelist, Educator, Playwright, Essayist
Native Son #8
by David L. Robbins on May 19th, 2014

This concludes my trilogy of columns on the deaths of my dad Sam, mom Carol, and dog, Moose.

He used to yell at me.

In the estimation of my dog, I was a danger to myself.

If I swam in a pool, Moose stalked the edge growling until my head disappeared underwater, then dove in to save me, always. If I rode waves in the ocean, he paced the shore until I arrived facedown in the foam. With his teeth he’d seize my ponytail (yes, it was the 80’s), lift my head, then let me hear it. He once dove, howling, two stories into a mountain stream after me. By the time I fought him off and clambered out, I was frozen.

Living in California for two years, I rode horses on the beach weekly. Moose, an eighty-pound street mix of border collie, retriever and cop, padded along, ever talking to my mount. Once, I got impatient with his importuning and galloped away. When I slowed and he caught up, he ran under the horse’s legs to bite him. When the horse came down from his frightened rearing, Moose lambasted him. He’s an idiot! He doesn’t know what he’s doing! Don’t let him go so effing fast!

And so on. Believe me, I know you love your pets, current and past. I don’t mean to imply that mine was more special and that I had a better relationship. I don’t have to. We all think this. I intend only to elicit memories, of love unconditional, daily laughter, lessons taught to us more than learned by them. Moose inspired me to do as he did, run to my work, play in my fields.
He lived a dozen years. His death began at ten months old, when he snuck out of my Church Hill backyard. After three days of worry and posted signs, he returned smelling like sin and ditches. He fell face first into bowls of food and water, then lay inert while I hosed him down.
At age nine, rising from his seat on my pillow, Moose left blood spots. The sheath around his penis was red. I took him to the vet for pills and a battery of exams. A blood test came back with terrible news: infection in his urine, cancer in his blood. A very rare form of doggie leukemia was diagnosed, one in a hundred thousand.

These things always happen on a helpless Friday, don’t they? I rolled him on his back, rubbed his belly and asked God if He might let me keep my dog a while longer. I needed him. He could have Moose later.

On Monday we visited a specialist. After ultrasound and x-rays, this vet also found nothing. But he followed a hunch. Over Moose’s objections, the vet pulled back the furry sheath and an ugly cauliflower-looking venereal tumor plopped out. The vet smacked his own forehead, realizing the results of the blood test had been accidentally reversed: Moose had infection in his blood and cancer in his urine from the tendrils of the tumor. After a quick snip and some antibiotics, Moose was fine. Since he was fixed after his jaunt out of my backyard eight years prior, my dog is also the record holder for a latent canine venereal tumor. Color me proud.

Three years later, after a hike in the California mountains, I noted his gums were white. Moose was anemic. Long story short, he’d contracted the exact rare form of canine leukemia that had been misdiagnosed earlier. Figure the odds of that were a lot more than a hundred grand to one.

In a compassionate vet’s office, we put Moose down. I held him while he took the needle. Quietly and sadly, he looked at me as he passed, sorry he couldn’t protect me any longer. He was cremated, and it’s in my will that his little box goes in with my big one.

These are the things we cobble God out of, I suppose. Love, loyalty, odd synchronicities, faith in a predestined pairing of lives. Moose glows in my memory, along with other gone friends and family. I clothe them all in heaven. I set them at the gates there as if waiting by my own front door.

But Moose will run to me first. He’s faster than the others. Besides, he’ll think I’ll get lost along the way.

And if he doesn’t greet me, that’s a bad sign.

That’s not heaven.

Posted in Boomer Mag, Boomer Articles    Tagged with boomer magazine, native son, richmond, dog, pet, heaven, rva


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