Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Parting is such sweet sorrow

I remember the day we adopted Tiggs like it was yesterday. Earlier in the week, I’d been surfing the net (as we said in those days) while I was at work...oops. There was this stripey, five month old puppy at the Larimer Humane Society in Ft. Collins. They had his breed listed as a “pit bull/whippet.” He actually was neither of those things, and I’m sure if they could have listed hyena as a breed, they surely would have.

At the time, we’d just gotten married and we were about one month away from putting everything we owned in storage to travel around North America and climb full time. Not exactly a great time to get a puppy. Never mind that fact that our 8 year old dog, Winnie, also from that same shelter, was not a fan of other dogs (read: dog aggressive). It really wasn’t the time to bring in another dog, but instinctively, I called Adam and told him we should go meet this little pup that day after work - miraculously, he agreed. We arrived, and immediately found the lurpy, goofy looking guy. We had him out in the yard and fell in love instantly. Trying to be sensible, I told Adam we should go home and sleep on it before committing to adopting him. In that moment, Adam picked him up and held him and said, “I think we need him tonight.” This was rather unlike Adam, but after seeing the family next to us we called them The Farkle’s)  sizing him up and filling out the adoption paperwork for him, we decided right then and there we were taking him. We couldn’t let him go with a family that would probably never give him the kind of mountain adventures that  we would. They put him on hold while we ran home to get Winnie. We didn’t know then what we know now, and that could have been dangerous to introduce them the way we did. But by some miracle, Winnie actually loved him. Instantly. That was it, he was ours.

The next month, he pooped all over the house and was as wild and wily as could be. Crate training? What is that? We didn’t have a clue. But in a few weeks, we packed up the truck to hit the road, guessing that his training would be worked out on America’s open roads, in the woods, and at the crags.

For 13 months, Tiggs ran and romped from Ontario, Canada, to the Dirty South, Vegas to Vancouver and everything in between. He made human and dog friends wherever he went and would run for 8 hours a day straight. He rolled in dead things, ate poop and had a blast. We never once worried about him. He was a spaz, our spaz. An eventful stop in New Jersey resulted in him eating a pound of my freshly acquired Mortadella, which he promptly burped back up into my face. That same stop, he chewed through a live extension cord (I don’t know how he didn’t die then). That was the start of Tiggs’ nine lives (maybe more!). At the Red River Gorge, Adam hit a bump on the dirt road out of the Motherlode. We didn't’ realize that our backpacks, along with Tiggs, flew out of the back of the camper until we were at the top of the road. We turned around to find him sitting in the middle of the road waiting for us with a shit-eating grin.

He has eaten gravel, battled two deadly auto-immune blood diseases that nearly killed him many times, smiling through it all. Tiggs always had a zest for life - a true joie de vivre. At Joe’s Valley he’d roam the hillsides for hours, setting off an avalanche of rocks when he’d come bombing back down steep embankments.

He has always been at our side during adventures, never one to pass up a car ride or a hike up the hill with Adam behind our house. He’s really the only “real” dog we’ve had. Honey, Ollie and Cappy have all been cartoon characters in dog suits who’d never last a minute in the wild. Tiggs is a true mountain beast - he’d follow us anywhere, happy to be part of it all. Tough, happy and true. Never one for the camera or too much attention, Tiggs often faded to the back of family photos while the other pushy dogs stole the spotlight - that was ok by him. Always a noble, zen-like creature, he was content to howl at the moon outside at night and seek affection on his own independent terms.

When we found out a year and a half ago that Tiggs had polycystic kidneys and was in kidney failure, we couldn’t believe it. He was still such a crazy puppy at the age of 10. We vowed to do what we always have with him - enjoy each day with him to the fullest, just as he always did. These last two months, we’ve homecooked anything he’ll eat - beef, chicken, gravy, bacon, pureed veggies, whatever he wanted was his. We’ve given him IV fluids here at home every other night to keep him hydrated and help his failing kidneys flush out toxins. But in the last two weeks, his body has failed. He no longer wants food of any kind. His kidneys became so large they pressed into his tummy, causing pain. He has grown weary and thin. And though he is still our wild and crazy Tiggs, his body can no longer carry on. It’s time for one last great adventure...the one up in the sky, where all dogs go to heaven and romp at the rainbow bridge.

I will miss my adventure buddy and all of his wild ways. Who will keep me safe from the postman and the UPS deliveries? Godspeed, Tiggs. We will meet again.

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