I wish to announce the departure of my loyal friend of 14.5 years. Edzell was a Shetland Sheep Dog, or a Sheltie. Edzell left a gaping hole in our lives just an hour ago. There will be no Sponsorship Sunday post this week. I’d like to focus on my friend’s life this last time and honor the contributions he made to our household.
Edzell Wullenweber Courtemanche was a Cryptologic Technician dog from day one. He was named for a large antennae farm in Scotland. My wife and I had never been to Edzell, but it seemed a fitting name for a dog of Scottish heritage.
Edzell was the last puppy in his litter to find a home. We brought him to live with us in the spring of his first year. He spent his first minutes in our house cowering in the kitchen while Nigel, our Old English Sheepdog, tried to sniff ever square inch of him before he would be allowed into the house. It was perhaps the last time Nigel had full control over Edzell.
Ed (as we called him most often) grew from a skinny kid to a big dog rather rapidly. One of his favorite activities was to run full-speed across the yard and launch himself like a missile towards Nigel’s midsection. Nigel would let out with a very satisfying “oooof” and occasionally get knocked over. Ed would run off with this silly grin on his face.
The two were buddies in the best sense of the word. Prior to Edzell’s arrival Nigel had been slowing down and acting old. Edzell fixed that problem and revitalized the old codger. I think he gave Nigel an additional year of living with his silly behavior.
In October of 2001 Nigel died. He was feeble, unable to control his bodily functions, and found it hard to walk. That was a long drive to the veterinarian that day to say goodbye to my friend Nigel. It was even more shattering for Edzell: his best friend walked out the door and never came back.
Edzell was morose, limp, and had given up the spark that all dogs should have contained with in them. My wife and I were convinced that he’d die of loneliness if we didn’t do something about it pretty fast. And thus Maisie came in to our house and his life.
For the next ten years you’d need a crowbar to separate the two of them. They ate together, slept together, spent their days in the yard guarding the alley, and worked as a team in all that they did on this planet. When one was at the vet the other was upset. Edzell and Maisie were like an old married couple in many ways. They shared a love that is pretty rare among any species.
And this past fall when Maisie was too old and sick to carry on, Edzell lost his second friend in this house. It didn’t seem to hurt him as much this time. Perhaps because he knew his end was coming as well. He was used to outliving the dogs that he shared the house with for these many years. My one hope for Edzell, my single prayer for him during those cold months after her death, was that he’d live long enough to enjoy a warm summer’s day. He lived for laying outside on the lawn and basking in the sun. That was his favorite place on the planet.
When Stormy showed up a few days before Christmas Edzell was indifferent. He wasn’t mean, he just didn’t seem to care very much. Stormy was snippy and badgered Edzell on occasion, but over time she realized that she lived with the nicest dog on the planet and came to terms with him. They shared a bowl and a home in his final days.
Edzell was unique. I’ve never had a dog in my life that was so mellow and sweet. He wasn’t a cuddly mush bucket, but he never growled, never showed his teeth over anything anyone in this house ever did. He was the only dog I’ve ever known that planned things out in advance. I saw him set up scams to steal toys from Maisie, or to lure her out of his kennel so that he could sleep inside. He was off the charts smart in every way. It made him a joy to be with every day. He was kind. That’s the word that best describes Edzell.
His rough tongue sought out your face on rare occasions. But the love conveyed by that simple act was amazing. He was sparing in his affections but when you found that sweet spot on his nose he’d ask you to rub it for what seemed like hours. And on that rare occasion, he’d return the favor with some licks to the face. That was a big deal – Edzell kisses were like gold.
With a heart that loved so deeply he touched lots of people – and a few rabbits. Ed had two things he hated in this world – bunnies and cats. He didn’t really care about anything else, but he smote his share of rabbits. There is a reason that we say “bunnies are crunchy” around our house.
In his final year Edzell couldn’t always make it through the night. Once I smartened up enough to realize his self-discipline wasn’t the issue things went pretty well. We put down puppy pads and he did his best to hit the target. His aim was lousy. As I’d pointed out in previous blogs, we called him “Thunder Paws” after he had a stroke. He went from being a stealthy menace to a comical character as he stomped his way through the house. Sometimes it wasn’t so funny these last few weeks – he couldn’t move too well and he’d just stand there in frustration as his legs refused work as he directed. I was sympathetic – the two of us looked like a pair when my knee failed and I had to have surgery. Both of us had a tortured gate for a while. I got better, he didn’t.
Ed lost a lot of weight in the last three or four months. He went from being “big boned” to being a wasted old man. His leg muscles just vanished on him in the last few weeks. He had more trouble standing up and moving. The back steps posed a major challenge. I tried very hard to make sure that I was next to him as he went up and down the stairs so that he wouldn’t worry about falling.
But, fall he did. One day last week he took a tumble on the steps and had to be carried up by my wife. Yesterday he fell down the last step and landed hard. He managed to get up and do his business in the yard, but he was moving very slowly. He stumbled and fell going up the steps as well. I was there to catch him, but he looked surprised that his legs just gave out like that on him.
Last night he couldn’t move from one spot to the other. He usually moved a few feet every hour or two. Not so last night.
When I went to bed I asked God to take my friend before he could suffer. I knew the odds were pretty good he’d mess the carpet where he lay and that would be that for my friend.
I was honored and glad to see that he made it to his pads one final time. He respected our home and did his best. That’s the kind of friend he was for his entire life.
I woke my wife up this morning so that she could spend some time with Edzell before we made that final, terrible, trip to the vet’s office. We both sat on the floor with him and loved him for a while.
And then, in the final act of kindness I could perform for my friend of many years, I picked up his frail body and lovingly carried him to my car. We got the the veterinarian’s office and put him on the table. After several gentle doses of sedation my buddy fell asleep for the final time.
I loved him with a respectful passion. He was never my son, he was always my friend. I know that he’ll be there waiting in Heaven, his eyes bright and his gait strong when we meet again.
Best of all, he got his summer’s day.
Goodbye, Edzell. I love you.