Listen: there once was a dog named Atticus. And he was kind and good, as you would hope dogs would be, managed to make this damp and dreary world brighter than it had any right to be.
He passed away this morning. Complications from surgery. I called the vet., spoke to her to make arrangement to put him to sleep. She called me back half a minute later, and he was going.
The impatient, beautiful had waited as long he could, and held out till he got the ok from me.
I don’t want to dwell on that. Dogs deaths are tragedies- it is always too soon- and their lives are magnificent. And I’ve never known as more magnificent dog than my glorious Atticus.
I met him a long time ago, back when I was almost young, in a land far far away from Chicago. Here he is, when you could pick him up with three fingers:
From the start, he took care of me. He was calm and sweet. Crazy about people and dogs. He just wanted to meet and greet and play with everyone.
Look! Even as a puppy he knew that he was going to caring for me as much as I would be caring for him.
Time passed. He grew up into 60 odds pound black lab mutt, who adored, as always, food, people, and other dogs. We’d take him to the dog park, and he would race around in circles, leading the other dogs. He could run like the wind when he was younger. When I’d run to him, attached with a leash, he would bound, and put up with me struggling behind him.
And god, how he was attached to me. Look at this dog!
One day, we were walking in the forest near our house. And he demanded to go through the undergrowth. I didn’t think there was anything but more prickly undergrowth, but I was wrong.
When we came through the first layer, it opened up. And we found ourselves in a circle of trees, in a grove. It was 20 feet from a busy street, but it was invisible from it. I lived 100 feet away, and I had no idea it was there.
We played in the grove for a while. Eventually, Atticus found a stick, nearly as long as I was. He carried it home with him, balancing it like a balance pole. I was fairly certain it had a little bit of magic in it. I skinned the, really a small branch, and carried it with me in my travels. It’s being used in a production of 12th night that I’m in as a hook. Fair warning to the cast- it has some magic to it, much like Atticus.
I’ll tell a few Atticus stories. He was always an optimist with food, even with food he didn’t like. At one point a piece of asparagus fell on the floor, and he scooped it up. He didn’t like the taste of it, so he spat it right out again. A moment later, though, his optimism returned, and he put it in his mouth again. He did this 5 or six times, and the asparagus slowly moved across the floor.
He was a smart dog, too. He knew his way around the old neighborhood. There was a dog store about a mile form our old apartment in the Ukrainian Village. I knew that if I started headed north, he would demand to be taken there to get a pig ear.
He loved people that brought him food. My father was the food bringer. At the office, before I could even hear the front door open a floor away, Atticus would begin barking, knowing that treats were on the way. My friend Christina once brought him a pig ear, and from then one, he loved her. Every time she came over, he would investigate her bag that had once contained the pig ear, to see if it had another.
Time passed. He grew in snout, and large in belly. He was my best friend, of course, and I was his. This last week, when he was suffering from complications from surgery, if I moved too far away from his cage, he would attempt to get up and get closer to me.
I remember having to spend a night with him at a friends house, and he needed to be in a cage. He was used to getting to snuggling with me, but I was in a different room on a mattress. So he cried in his cage, till I came over with a blanket, and feel asleep with my hand through the cage on him.
We were close, to put it mildly.
He was not only sweet, but he was kind and gentle. He wanted to make you happy. On our walks, he loved people on porches or stoops. He would stop and wag his tale at them till they waved him over. And he would make them happy. It’s what he did- he made everyone as happy as he was.
I spent a lot of time at the pet ER- at least twice a day, with time in the waiting room with anxious people with sick dogs and cats. They all just wanted their beloved pets to get better.
For a while, Atticus did. Until he didn’t last night, and he never woke up. The staff did everything they could for him, and he needed the surgery. Sometimes you do everything write, you do whatever it takes, and you still end up failing.
You can look at death and shout, “Not Today!”, but sometimes it is today. Sometimes the best of us come to the end of our journey.
Before his the surgery, we took his out for one last Adventure. One last hike to Starved Rock. I was concerned because he hadn’t been doing well. He had a tumor that had to be removed. But he did did great- he hiked nearly seven miles. The key was that Christina was in front of him with a backpack full of dog treats. He’d follow dog treats to hell, I think.
Here he is, on that journey, being that magnificent beast that he was:
I made him as happy as I could, nearly as happy as he made me. We were paired. If there was any way for him to come back to me, I know that he would have. But our bodies are weak, and can betray us.
All I can do is what I suspect he’d want me to do- keep on living, and be as kind as he would have been. There’s a missing amount of love and kindess in the world that we would have been supplying. It’s up to me to fill the gap, and do his good dog work.
God, I miss him. Rest in peace, Atticus Priz-Mignoni. You were the greatest dog I never knew, and we are all less for not having you around.