Dog Years

On Friday we said good bye to Skipperdee, our Australian Shepherd. Our son Andrew and our soon to be daughter-in-law Jill had to take him to an urgent care vet after he began having seizures and could no longer walk. At almost fifteen years, he was ready and he had a gentle death for which we are very grateful.

Skippy with one of his many hedgehogs. He loved to be inside the Christmas Cave, our version of a Christmas tree.

Our dogs have played such an important part in the life of our family. We have had three dogs since we were married almost 36 years ago and the family’s collective memories of our lives together are laced by our time spent with Abby, a little spaniel, Francesca and Skipperdee. While we have mourned all of their deaths, I think this one may hurt the most. Skippy is the last dog that all of us had together, as a family. The kids were still kids, more or less, when this little puppy wriggled into our lives. Now, Claire is in Ecuador, Melissa and I are in Mexico, and Andrew is in Washington. We miss Skippy and in missing him, we realize that we miss the old us. We miss the family, dogs and all, that we were.

Aboard our Cal 34.  Andrew encouraging Skippy to love the sea lions. Alas, he did not. Nor the boat.

These are the times where our Little Cunning Plan doesn’t seem so cunning. We could not be there with Andrew and Jill to ease Skippy out of this life. When Francesca died, we all gathered around her as she went. We shared that pain together and it made us realize the great love that we share for one another. Now, scattered to the winds as we are, we share our pain via Skype and Facebook. It’s better than nothing but it can never be the same.

Skippy guarding the tent.  One of his less desirable traits was his intense hatred of the mailman.

Skippy and Franny and our Claire. Just having fun.

Skippy helping me build the Puddler Pram

And as parents our roles have changed. Making the hard decision to call the vet would have been left to Melissa or me. Now it is Andrew who must make that call. We can offer support and advice but more and more, we must step aside as Claire and Andrew create their own families. And that means they must make hard, sometimes painful choices. That is what good parents do though. Watch with pride and some sadness as their children become good, kind, loving adults.

Franny and Skippy shaking me down for treats.

Franny and Skippy under the Daffodil Rhody

Like Abby and Francesca before him, Skippy made all of us better people. Dogs show you how grateful you should be just to have a bit of kibble, a fresh hedge hog toy and a good belly rub. And scattered or no, we are all grateful for the love and beauty that Skipperdee brought to our family.