Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Sweet Clown Takes her Final Bow


Memphis, our old yellow Lab, has now come to the final days of her life, and her bright smile will soon cease to greet me, ever again. Memphis has in fact, not smiled her bright, showing all of her teeth, with her glimmering eyes and her thumping fat otter tail, for several days now. Last night was particularly hard on her and she spent the night and most of yesterday, withdrawn and sleeping under the steps in the foyer, she laid on her fluffy pillow in the shade, responding to very little.

Memphis had been losing weight very gradually over the past year, but this weekend signaled a major change as she just began to be disinterested in eating. She was led into some nourishment by way of canned chicken, raw eggs, anything that we could coax her into eating. This morning, she absolutely refused to even examine our best offerings, and so, it was time to see the vet.

Her blood markers were not good, and indicated a near total kidney failure. Poor Memphis was reaching a toxic level in her bloodstream that very little could be done for to correct. To give her a little more time I left her at the vet’s to get a flushing of fluids to re-hydrate her somewhat, for one more night, before she takes the big sleep tomorrow.

Tonight she will be offered whatever she might think palatable and we will say our good byes to a great dog and long time friend.

There is no easy way to deal with death. It is a fact that is the same for all of us, crossing all species. The death of a sweet animal, however, who has shared its life with you, who has looked to you for food, shelter, companionship, health, and love is no easier for having had practice in going through it all many times before with others that died before. The fact that I do have an option for Memphis is a good thing, as I have had with other dogs and horses, that instead of letting her slowly starve and become filled with the toxins created by her own internal failings and then die, I can give her a peaceful send off to avoid the suffering that will come with this deteriorating situation. Euthanasia is a cruel angel of mercy. Memphis will calmly go to sleep, and I will cry and miss those sweet eyes and her ever present happiness.

Memphis, I am convinced, is a creature who achieved a level of enlightenment of some sorts, by the path her life took with us some eleven or twelve years ago, when we picked her from a litter of bouncy yellow pups. Chosen as a possible hunting dog to replace another departed yellow Lab, Memphis soon turned out to be a total clown, and played dumb to the point of never having had to do one thing of work in her entire stay here. She was impossible to teach anything to because at the first thing she did that I could reward, was to roll over on her back and wave her legs in the air for me to scratch her white belly, and smile. She just never would be serious. I soon gave up on her education and left her to just be a farm dog, which pleased her just fine.

Left to her own, Memphis was quite an avid and patient hunter, choosing her own prey, with a strong preference for moles that had high squeaky noises for high entertainment value. Possums were found frequently on the front porch with a very nonchalant Memphis laying close by pretending she was oblivious to the get away plans of the not yet dead possum. She also brought in a shoulder and head of a spotted fawn last year and proudly displayed it for the other dogs in the pack to take notice of her prowess.

As a young silly puppy, a period which lasted until last week, well more like until her second birthday, Memphis loved to chew leather, a lot. Living on a horse farm, a dog could easily find oneself tempted by all manner of things hanging on hooks, or laying on benches. I can’t count the leather halters that were victims, and gloves pretty much fall into that category too. There were chair legs, extension cords, boxes left by the brown truck deliveries, seat cushions, and many more things much too numerous to add to the list of the mangled, chewed, and departed. Making it to her third birthday was a milestone. Punishment did nothing to deter this beast of destruction, so we just hung stuff on higher pegs, and hoped she would soon outgrow the silly stage.

Memphis did finally quit the chewing part but never lost her puppy outlook on life. There have been few creatures I have had the pleasure to be around than this totally optimistic, dog, and I will miss her smile and will look for it in all the places she used to lay. I will miss too, how she used to lay against the wall of the house while on the front porch, and she would roll mostly onto her back. Then if she saw you and started wagging her tail she could get some really good rhythms going as her tail whapped onto both the floor and the wall, sounding like a full drum line corp. Any further encouragement got the sounds ridiculously funky. The dog could get a serious groove going with that big tail.

Memphis also liked playing games, with us, and with the shepherd, Heidi. Ball chasing was pretty high up there but the game of messing with the Nazi was more fun. In the evening we would let all the dogs in to spend time with us chilling out. Heidi liked to rule the bed in the living room, and by default, Memphis’s bed was under the stair case close to the front door. Through the course of the night, Memphis would somehow get closer and closer to the living room, and never actually be seen moving. First there was the white foot crossing the threshold, then the next foot, and finally she would somehow ease herself into the room. This game just drove the German crazy because she was defending her rights to rule and Memphis would push the limits of this control freak’s boundary issues, and just smile and play dumb doing it. Memphis never fought because she never had to. She was the real alpha, because no one took her really seriously and she always smiled, and got her way.

What a happy clown. Memphis was always happy, no matter what. Hers has been a pleasant and fairly utopian life, for any creature’s standard, and it has been my pleasure to have known her and shared her time in this existence. How life would be so different if we could all go through life wearing her glasses. In the past few years that have been pretty rough on many fronts for me, it has been a treat to head to the barn on my daily routine, with my pack of dogs, led out by this silly white dog, with her fat wagging tail and eternal optimism. This, will be hard to replace.


The night was not good, not bad, but no change and no miraculous recovery. This morning Memphis did wag her fat tail, but still refuses water and the most tempting of morsels, and there was no smile. The quality of her life is nil, over, and done. Today is the day she will live no more. It is my choice for this, because I can make it. If left to her own, would she really want to live another several days in this pitiful condition? I think not. The Memphis I knew will be asleep, soon, and forever. In my mind and heart she will remain as long as I can remember, and perhaps she will reincarnate into another bouncy puppy for some lucky person to know. I don’t know about that, but wishful thinking never hurts to ponder. Farewell sweet, sweet clown, my Memphis. RIP

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