This time last year, in the midst of the Polar Vortex, Randy submitted his letter of resignation as my Seeing Eye dog:
we’ve been a team for nine years…
and that’s a long time in dog years.
We’ve walked 3000 miles…
and that’s a long road in dog miles.
I’ll turn eleven this summer…
and while I still have good eyes, good teeth and good hips,
I’d like to get off the street and onto the back porch.
Your best friend,
I read his letter to my wife. “Sounds like you’ll need a new guide dog,” said Mary. “But what will we do with Randy? We don’t have a back porch for him anymore.”
“Right. Big city high-rise. Two dogs in an apartment. Maybe he’d like to live with Jim and Joanne in the country. He saw a deer up there once and he acted like he’d had a vision of God.”
We talked it over with Randy and we could tell he liked the idea of country life, with good people in a farm house with a real back porch. But our roots had grown deep. Randy had walked down the aisle with us at our wedding. He had stolen the first taste of wedding cake—before it was sliced and served to our guests. He loved us and we loved him. Mary was the only person Randy would run to greet without stopping to plunge his mammoth head into the recycle bin to lick empty cat food tins.
Then things started happening too fast. Mary’s cancer spread and her strength faltered and I trained with a new guide dog and, by spring’s end, we had two big dogs in a high-rise and Mary was on hospice and in pain and could barely stand up for falling down and I was exhausted. And Jim and Joanne told us they would welcome Randy into their home anytime we wished.
We talked it over with Randy and decided to make a practice run to rural Wisconsin to reacquaint Randy with Jim and Joanne and their menagerie. We got a friend to drive our car and rode three hours and Mary slept all the way in the back seat with the two dogs. We had lunch and Randy bonded with the house dog and the house cat and everybody behaved and we rode home and Mary slept all the way in the back seat with the two dogs.
Randy spent most of June and July with Mary. At times, he was draped across her legs and Mary had to tell him to move so she could get out of bed and, when she did, he followed her wherever she went. And the unanswered question was when Randy would go to live in the country.
We talked it over with Randy and decided that Randy would stay with our family for the duration of Mary’s life, to be with her and see her on her journey home. And then some. And that’s what we did. And as Mary slept more, Randy slept more. And, at twilight on the last day of July, Randy was at Mary’s side when she slid into that deep pool.
August passed, day by day. Labor Day weekend, we took Randy to his new home in the country, with good people and a real back porch.
Now, autumn leaves have fallen, holidays have come and gone and we’re into a new year. Jim and Joanne tell me Randy’s doing fine. He’s become a therapy dog to their rescued but fearful hound, Lucie. He respects Daisy, their old cat who rules the roost. He’s found his place in his new pack. That’s what dogs do.
I miss Randy. I miss his easy-going ways. The new dog misses him, too. She’s taken to playing with the youngest cat. She’s found her place in the new pack. That’s what dogs do.
We all miss Mary, whether we live in the city or the country. We carry her love and energy. And I think we always will, wherever we are. That’s how we sustain ourselves when loss brings sorrow. That’s how we’re getting by.
“Fall on Me” by REM, from the album, “Life’s Rich Pageant”
These past posts can help fill in the back story of Randy:
*New Souls for Old, 2/13/13
*Randy 24/7, 2/20/2013
*Randy’s Petting Zoo, 2/27/2013
*Big Fish Story, 6/3/2013
*Dog Days, 6/15/2013
*Rehearsing for a Mugging, 11/09/15
*I Don’t Ride with Animals, 12/05/16