It has been over a year, now, since he died, the black wolf of my heart with whom I spent fourteen years. More wolf than dog, he lived wild as a baby, till I found and rescued him, almost-dead, from the dump where he was trying to survive the brutal March coastal rains. He had been running with the big dogs, who lived wild on Meares Island, mating with wolves, and had gotten left behind.
From the beginning, he was very intelligent, and extremely Alpha. I was just the dotty old lady on the other end of the leash that he led around to do his bidding. If he could carry a tune, “I Did It My Way” would have been his song. He was opinionated, bossy, demanding and hilarious, and he led me a merry chase until he finally – sort of – mellowed in his fourteenth year.
He barked his head off any time we drove anywhere, and he “paced” – from back seat to front, from front to back, each time his tail giving me a sound THWACK across the face, while I laughed helplessly. Once he barked all the way to our beloved beach – an hour and a half each way – and all the way back. Major headache.
People driving behind us said we looked hilarious: my head turned to the right, admonishing: “NO barking!, his head turned to the left, his big jaws going up and down: bark, bark, bark! He rode shotgun, disdaining the back seat. When he was younger, there was sometimes a dispute about who was actually going to drive.
I had to give him treats to do my bidding. He was, my sister said, a pain in the ass his entire life. But I have never been so well-loved, never loved a creature so much, or missed one as much as I have missed him since he died and the neighbourhood – and my life – went eerily silent.
He followed me everywhere. In his puppy days, we galloped joyously along sandy deserted beaches, him lalloping in and out of the waves with a loopy grin. We went down every forest trail on the West Coast, along every inch of beach, watched the sun come up and go down so many hundreds of times.
When I got ill, had to stop working, and we could no longer afford to stay, he followed me to the nearest place I could afford, an hour and a half from our beloved home. We didn’t have a fence where we lived, so for a time he had to be chained up. It killed me: a wolf on the end of a chain. If you think dogs don’t grieve, you should have seen him sitting in the living room, looking out at the city street, remembering his wild trails and beaches.
We moved to a rural setting, and then things got better. Every day, he and I would explore the local forest trails, the lakes, the rivers. It wasn’t home, but it helped us survive where we were.
My boy was starting to grow old. At seven, arthritis started really bothering his feet and legs, likely because of the rains he had lived in when he was a baby. But his spirit still longed for wild places, as does mine, and he still got so excited every time we got into the car and headed out. Bark-bark-bark.
A few more years and long hikes were too much for him. After his last long hike, his hind end gave out. He lay down for three days and I worried he might not get back up. But he did. Whew! I had to curtail the walks, and he missed them. He spent much of his last year, when he was fourteen, in the yard. I would walk him about a block, then back. He was hobbling, and it was all he could do. Then we got to half a block. He needed to go out in the middle of the night, and I would listen to his big paws padding along beside me, knowing soon they would not.
We knew it was his last year. We knew that hind end would one day soon give right out and he would not rise again. The vet told me we were talking weeks. He had one last Christmas. Then one night, January 15th, he barked to go out and, as he went through the door, his hind end gave out, first to one side, then to the other, back and forth. “Pup!” I cried. “Pup!” and it was time.
He barked all the way to the vet’s, thinking we were going on an outing. I had to drag him out of the car by his collar when he saw where we were. He didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to leave me, that I know. I held out his favourite treats and he reluctantly followed me, head low, into The Room. He did not follow me out.
He fought the anaesthetic with his considerable will. I was on the floor beside him, my hand stroking and stroking his head. The hardest thing I ever did was leave him there, when he was gone. I hated the thought of his body burning. But I needed him with me, for the rest of my life, and cremation was the only way.
No living being on this earth ever loved me the way he did. We had a soul connection, born of our days together along the wild shores of Clayoquot Sound. He shared my wild wilderness spirit. He companioned my life, which would have been – which is! — so much emptier without him.
I miss him still. I always will. What a great-hearted creature he was. He was my guy. My boy, Pup.