A death in the family

Amazing how attached we get to our pets.

We lost a family member last week. Chandler. He was only seven, at least in our years.

He was my son Alex’s dog. And understandably he is devastated. So am I. So are all of us.

We were never sure exactly what intermix of breeds produced Chandler. He was a mutt, but a handsome mutt. A rescue dog who gave and received much love in his too brief life.

Chandler was black, with pointed ears and snout. He was an athlete, trim and fit with hind legs that were sinewy and muscular.

Some ventured to guess that he had German shepherd and Labrador in his genes, others saw a hint of pit bull, but I didn’t. The closest match I ever came up with was Black Belgian Malanois which, like our Chandler, are beautiful dogs.

Dogs have personalities, no doubt about it. Chandler’s personality was upbeat. He was a happy dog. I suppose you could say that about most dogs, but with Chan it was contagious. He hated it when humans were arguing. It was one of the few times he whimpered. Chandler would push up against you, lift your hand with his head as if to say, “Pet me, maybe it’ll make you feel better and it’s better than arguing.”

Life’s too short for that.

My son is now 30 and in a great relationship. Engaged. But there were good times and bad, relationships that were not so great. Chandler was there for him throughout the ups and downs, offering unconditional love. That’s what dogs do.

There was a period when Alex shared a condominium unit in Norwich. Chandler could be a barker. Not incessantly, mind you, but when he concluded someone or something might be threatening his family’s space. That trait was not a good mix with the comings and goings at a condominium complex.

So for a time Chandler moved in with my wife and I. We all became much attached, which has made his passing that much more difficult.

Chandler loved to chase and retrieve Frisbees. We went through dozens of them as his powerful jaws quickly destroyed them. His ability to judge the flight of those flying discs, react, and quickly close the distance to make the catch was far greater than anyone will ever witness on a human athletic field.

He would dutifully bring the disc back, unless he spotted a deer or some other wild creature and gave pursuit. Soon he would return to our back door, sometimes feet and legs muddy from his exploits, burrs clingy to his short fur. You’d want to be mad, but he would tilt his head, tongue lolling out of his mouth and look, well, happy.

It was impossible to stay angry with him.

Whether crashing through snow or chasing that disc in the heat of a summer’s day, he never quit, not once. He would keep chasing if I kept throwing.

He seemed indestructible.

The end came suddenly. Chandler was not eating and, as alarming to Alex, simply not himself. A trip to a local vet on Thursday produced an X-ray that showed a tumorous growth. Alex rushed him to a veterinary clinic for further evaluation, which showed extensive tumor growth and internal bleeding.

He died Friday. But the night before, I dreamed. I thought I saw glimpses of Chandler moving through our house. How could this be? He had stayed the night at the clinic. Why did Alex drop him off?

Then I saw Chandler, seated next to the stairs. I held his head and pressed it against mine. I could feel his fur. Smell him. It was real.

It made me happy.

Then I awoke.

Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.

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