We adopted Lenny from our city’s shelter, twelve years ago when he was seven years old, past the age when many consider a dog to be adoptable. It was serendipitous for both Lenny and myself that I was even at the shelter that day. We had two girl dogs (Callie and Nellie) so I wasn’t really looking for another dog. But I was concerned about a Pit pup, and went there to check on her. Luckily she had been adopted, but in her place I saw this skinny Border Terrier mix—his “family” had deposited him in the pound’s “drop off box” the night before—he seemed, rightfully so, overwhelmed by what had befallen him.
The minute I saw him, I knew he would be coming home with me. Because he was an “owner-surrendered dog” we had to wait, but when I finally brought him home, he became what some call a “Velcro dog.” He didn’t really have separation anxiety, he just always wanted to be by my side, a leash was unnecessary; I just had to be careful about tripping over him. It took a couple months for him to get the hang of his new life, that included frequent and long walks with his new sister dogs, who taught him, in short order, how to be a regular dog. Callie showed him the proper leg lift (she had long mastered that “cross gender” method), and Nell, who at first did not take well to him, quickly understood that having two dogs to lord over her “fave” status wasn’t that bad.
Lenny was always a very hardy little guy, though he had chronic dry skin and red eye, there was never really much medically wrong with him. But when he was 14 Nell died, and he went into a severe depression—we think that his experiencing the months of her decline had a severe affect on his spirit (as it did on ours). So we quickly got him, and us, another dog! Lola, a 10 month-old rescued German Wirehaired Pointer was just the ticket—she looked and acted nothing like Nell (who was a Border Collie mix), and although he grumbled a little at first, he quickly regained his high stepping trot and his life took on a new meaning—“breaking in” the newcomer. It amazed me how he seemed to shed years, he acted more like a teenager, out to impress the new girl in school, than the cranky old guy he had been. Then, as I have been chronicling in my editor’s letter, at 17 he definitely started going through changes. I gladly attended to his daily senior dog needs, applying eye medication, cleaning sore ears, hand feeding, carrying him in and out of the car, taking him on increasingly shorter and slower walks, and letting him engage in long sniffing sessions by every familiar tree or patch of green along the way. We went through a new stage in our relationship. It was almost like a long-time married couple, we had renewed our “bond” vows. I gloried in being able to care for him but I also realized that this slower and more measured life wasn’t going to go on much longer.
But it did for another year, and then a few weeks ago, time did catch up with him. It seemed that he probably had a stroke during the night, followed by another in the morning. I never thought it would happen so suddenly. A couple days earlier, I had talked with his vet about how to know if Lenny’s time had come, because he didn’t have any life threatening ailments, it added a degree of complexity to the “is this the right time” decision. But Len made it for himself. My boy died peacefully in my arms, a true terrier to the very end, tenacious, trusting and utterly loyal.
There was nothing grand or heroic about this little scruffy dog, he had a feisty personality that mellowed as he grew older, but my life was certainly made better by the love we shared and I’ll be forever grateful that the patriarch of our pack could lay claim to such a large part of my heart for such a very long time.