I think the first thing he did when they brought him home was knock my then one-year-old daughter off her feet with his exuberant tail. Then he peed on the floor, I’m sure. He was rambunctious, enthusiastic, and friendly; my brother was lucky to get him, and the family benefitted. My youngest brother Ryan got in trouble at the small private school he attended; I don’t remember what it was exactly he had done, but it resulted in his being homeschooled for a bit. That and he got to get a dog.
Growing up we’d had several dogs, but I don’t remember my dad’s ever being the biggest fan of any of them. Looking back, I know he ended up far more often than not doing all the chores we kids promised to do when begging and pleading for a pet. It’s no wonder he opposed the addition of dogs to the House of Reamy; yet he relented enough that we seemed to nearly always have a pet dog. Allowing Ryan to have a dog for getting kicked out of school shocked the rest of us kids, though. And in the interest of fairness, my dad didn’t actually reward my brother’s behavior; I just spin the story that way.
Ryan named his dog Sarge. I taught Sarge to sit and shake; I also taught him to sit and wait for the command before jumping for a treat. He understood get on the porch, get your rope/ball/bone. My brothers, my dad and I went camping at the Sand Dunes. We hiked Mt Blanca once; Sarge did it twice, but my brother carried him over all the streams. When we got back to camp, the exhausted Sarge collapsed.
He endeared himself to me by sleeping with my daughter when she stayed at my parent’s house. He curled up at the foot of the bed or on the floor next to her as if he knew she was the most vulnerable among us.
He didn’t like the lead and rarely needed one. As he got older, Sarge didn’t run off much. He remembered people who’d visit; he only barked at new people. After we let them into the house, he knew they were okay and left them alone.
Sarge was my smoking buddy. He somehow knew when I was going outside for a smoke, and he always joined me; though he sometimes chickened out if it was too cold or wet outside. He nuzzled my hand with his nose or stood on the railroad ties that formed the retaining wall for the driveway. When he wanted attention, he’d come put his chin on my leg. I wished on more than one occasion he could talk, actually.
Sarge got sick a couple of years ago; I’m not sure what was wrong with him. He was lethargic, sedentary, so unlike the Sarge we all knew. There was talk of putting him down, but none of us wanted to do that. The vet claimed it was some autoimmune disease; the steroids he prescribed Sarge worked for a bit. The last few months, he was far more like his old self than he had been. My family was relieved; we couldn’t bear the thought of his being miserable, but we really couldn’t bear the thought of putting him down.
On Christmas, Sarge was his happy exuberant self. I woke up before everyone else the next day, and Sarge and I went out for a smoke. It was very early, still dark; but I noticed his limping. He came and sat next to me while I finished my cigarette; I petted his head, scratched his ears. When we got back inside, I helped him up to the couch. My mom didn’t like his being on the couch, but she had stopped making a big deal out of it. I couldn’t see anything in his foot that would cause a limp; but he didn’t seem to be doing well. I made coffee and sat with Sarge for an hour or so. As the rest of the family started to stir, I let them know that Sarge wasn’t feeling well. We carried him outside later so he could make his head calls.
My dad scheduled an appointment with the vet. My daughter and I packed up and headed home before the appointment; I wanted to go before the roads got icy. We were just over halfway home when my dad called to let me know they had to put Sarge down; I had anticipated this, but had hoped against it. I cried a little – as I’m crying a little now writing about it. My hand rested on the shift lever of my car, and my daughter reached over and put her hand on mine. “It’s okay, Daddy,” she said, “I know how it feels.” I cried a little harder.
I loved that big goofy dog; I don’t know if I’ll ever find another dog like Sarge. I don’t feel much like trying, honestly. My daughter stayed with me for the last week of December; since she’s gone home, I have had a couple of evenings where I sit and tear a bit. Visiting my parents is different without Sarge there. There’s a large hole in my heart with Sarge gone.
You were the best dog, Sarge; I miss you, Buddy.