The family dachshund, Nicky, was put to sleep this morning. It wasn't unexpected -- he'd been in a decline for a while, and that had just accelerated in the past month to the point where keeping him alive would be an act of cruelty. But it's still scarring. Every time I've visited Colorado since leaving in 1999, I've made a point to say a special goodbye to him, knowing it may be the last time. Now that's a reality.
This has been coming for a few days but I'm still not really sure what to write now. I remember a great quote about the pain of saying goodbye to a dog, but I can't find it now, which is not really any help. But before the family got Nicky, back in the early 1990s (I was still straight edge, for god's sake), I was not much of a dog person. I felt about the same way about dogs that I feel about Al Qaeda or Sarah Palin now -- I saw them as things that other people liked for no discernible reason.
Nicky won me over, but it took a while. The big moment (and here this blog gets even less macho than it's ever been -- sorry. I'll listen to Hirax later to make up for it) came when I had skin cancer, in 1997. There was an evening shortly before my surgery when I was alone at my parents' house, contemplating the unknown, and started bawling. Nicky suddenly appeared out of nowhere (or the dining room, where he'd been tearing up paper), leapt up on my lap, and started nuzzling me. It cheered me right up and I've never forgotten it.
I'm not much on religion but I hope there's a heaven for dogs. They deserve it. Rest in peace, Nicky.