Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pip 1998-2008

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
But when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

- Rudyard Kipling

Today, August 17 2008, Pip finished his journey with Barbara and me. It was a heart-wrenching parting, for he was truely a sentient creature, who shared our laughs as well as our sadness. It is very difficult for me to write with the lump in my throat and tears clouding the screen, but this is something I find necessary.

More than one friend has told us that they want to come back in their second life as our dog, and I guess we did spoil him a bit, but we have such wonderful memories because we treated him pretty much as a member of the family.

Pip originally found Anne at the small animal program at Kirkwood Community College where he was a rescue dog who had been putting up with all the things the students did to him in learning their skills. Anne drew Pip for her training class, after the other students had passed him over in favor of the "cute" smaller dogs . . . their mistake! Pip is by appearance mostly Border Collie, and he ceratinly had the mind of a hearding dog. Intellegent and eager to please, he and Anne were quite a team.

Barbara and I found ourselves agreeing to keep Pip "for a few weeks; no more than 2 or 3 months" while Anne situated herself in more permanent housing. She never got him back; not so much as because she did not have the best situation for keeping a dog but more because we really fell hard for this guy. It was plesant to have someone happy to greet you on coming home, no matter how bad your day was. In return for food and a warm place to sleep, he gave pure affection, was a very good listener, and kept away the bad guys with a ferocious bark when appropriate.

There were a few growing problems in his youth. The first time we left him in the house at Estes Park, we decided to "keep him out of trouble" by closing him in the bedroom. . . . big mistake. On return, he had chewed the phone, a book, and several other choice items. I am sure this was to give us the message that this was not a good way to treat a loyal friend. Thereafter we left him to roam the entire house, and he in return guarded the place and left the phone, the books, etc alone.

He did fail his training on occasion. Rabbits, deer, and assorted birds were great entertainment. Fortunately in his earlier years we lived on 3 acres with a lot of trees and he could chase the animals through this forrest rather than into the streets. In his older years, he still let them know he was there, but the chases were shorter for the most part.

He was known far and wide as a conniver. Friends would comment on his generous body, while at the same time yielding to his persuasion to them to feed him from their plate. He would smile, wag his tail, and get all but the most hardened of men to bend down and give him a rub and scratch behind the ears.

At this point, I must really admit that Pip was not my dog, but entirely Barbara's. They were really a pair! In the house, in the yard, in the RV; he was always by her side and variously referred to as "Velcro" and "The Shadow". When Barbara was gone, Pip would lie in the yard looking at the street for her car to return, or inside keeping check on the door to make sure he was there to greet her return. As I mentioned, he was a good listener, and occasionally he and Barbara would have 2-way conversations. . . really.

While not banned from the bed, he almost always slept on the floor. However, when we woke up in the mornings, even if we just laid there without talking, we could expect this 90# black and white form to come flying up on the bed, and for this he earned the title of "The Flying Nun." At some point most mornings, he and Barbara would lie in the bed and he would give off sighs and literally purr as she scratched and rubbed the right spots. I was almost jealous!

He LOVED Estes Park. The temperature was suitable for his double coat, and the variations on smells around the town and park were probably on par with my visit to the British Library. From our main deck, he watched and talked to various creatures of the mountains. Without question it was the favorite of his places to live.

Most people experienced in RV life would not think a dog this large would work out in the confined space of a RV; this was not the case. Pip was so well-behaved, and so quick to learn what he should and should not do, that his presence had no impact . . . and his presence was better than a small, barking dog jumping around the dashboard. He was quick to bark and warn off strange noises, and quick to befriend guest when present. Traveling won't be the same without him.

This past winter was a good one with Pip. The weeks I was in Palm Springs, we walked almost every day along a 2-mile trail frequented by other dogs/owners. This was an unofficial off-lead area with a hiking trail. Pip would explore and meet other dogs and their people as we circumnavigated our daily route. He would get distracted while I walked ahead, then run to catch up. The first suggestion that there was a problem was that in the last 2 or 3 walks we took, he slowed his pace and seemed to be getting tired at the end. As we moved the motorhome to Tucson, we noticed him doing a lot of panting, and in the last 3 or 4 days he became very lethargic. I was/am in Cedar Rapids as Barbara took him to the Tucson Veterinary Center, and we ultimately got the bad news that he had a spleen tumor that was bleeding into his abdomen and treatment options offered no cure or releif.

Pip gave to us as much as we gave to him, and Webster's states it well:

Friend (n) " one attached to another by affection or esteem".