Saturday, June 7, 2008


So today was the first day of the year that the temperature finally climbed above 90 degrees (its about time)and I had an endless amount of errands to run today. Amongst them, stop by my parents' house and take their dog, Sully, for a walk in the afternoon.

Sully is my father's pride and joy. If he were forced to decide whom he loved more, the dog or his grandchildren, I have a sneaking suspicion the grandchildren would collectively take second. And my dad is a guy who will put on princess garb and sing "Everybody wants to be a cat" just to get the kids laughing. So when I say Dad loves that dog, I mean, Dad loves that dog with the fierce intensity of the closest friend he's ever had.

Sully started out as my brother's dog. His girlfriend gave him a yellow lab puppy for his birthday one year. Later, my brother moved back in with my parents when he went back to school. Between driving up to college, studying, and working, he was never home. The bulk of the dog care fell on my dad. A year later, when my brother decided that an apartment closer to school made more sense, he was told: "Well, you can go. But you aren't taking the dog. He's staying." He didn't argue.

You see, just as my Dad loves that dog, Sully just adores my dad. Whenever Dad walks in the house, Sully has to be in the same room as him, preferrably right next to him, or even better, on top of him. He used to sleep on the floor with his head under my dad's side of the bed, before he got scared of going up the stairs. He's sat next to Dad during every playoff game of every sports team that Boston has to offer. He slept on the floor next to the sofa after my Dad had knee surgery a few years ago.

We had a different dog when I as little, whom my dad loved almost, but not quite, as much. My dad used to jog every night, back then in the 70's when nobody jogged. He wore those ridiculously heavy Nike sneakers like Forrest Gump when he pounded out 5 miles each night, accompanied by our adopted stray, Jake. When Jake died, (on the day of my high school graduation, how much does that suck?) Dad stopped jogging. From 5 miles a night every night to nothing. He just didn't want to jog without Jake.

Without jogging, over the course of the next 8 years or so, Dad put on about 40 pounds. The forty pounds came off in just about one year of walking Sully every day. The health of either one, Sully or Dad, could be determined by looking at the other. When Dad developed hypothyroidism and felt tired and sluggish all the time, the dog put on weight. When Sully developed some allergic reaction to some new dog food, Dad didn't sleep. Like husbands who have pseudo-pregnancies in sympathy for their pregnant wives, Dad and Sully felt one another's ailments. That is, until now.

Sull has been slowing down a bit over the past couple years. He has been getting recurrent ear and eye infections on his right side and then developed severe gingivitis on the right side, as well. It turns out, Sull has a tumor in his jaw on the right side, which has been causing all the ongoing infections. The vet took out all that she could in a minimally invasive procedure about 2 months ago, but my parents decided against a major surgery. There are inherent risks with major surgeries, and Sully is 13 years old. It just didn't seem to be worth it.

When I was driving over to my parent's house today, I thought that maybe I'd take Sully not for a walk, but to the beach instead. He's a lab -- he loves to swim and chase the birds (he always points before chasing them) and roll around in the sand. It'd be a good day for the both of us, and since it was so warm, I could give him a bath when we got back and he'd dry pretty quickly in the sun.

When I got to the house, I found out pretty quickly that THAT wasn't going to happen. I could barely get Sully out of the house, much less into the Jeep and certainly not for a drive. He's having trouble getting up and down the stairs. He likes to sleep all day in the air conditioned house. His face is starting to droop on the right and he rubs the side of his head against my thigh as if it hurts him. It breaks my heart to see him this way.

I finally got him out of the house and he did perk up. He pulled me in the direction of all the neighbors who have treats on hand for him. He stuck his head inside the mail truck to lick the mailman's hand and get a treat. He sat nicely and let a toddler hug him and pull his ears. He climbed inside a kiddie pool with a bunch of kids and let them dump buckets of water over his head. He even ran with me a little and chased a squirrel. We had a good walk.

I decided to forego the rest of my errands and my hope of hitting the beach in the late afternoon. I hung out in the finished basement of my parent's house with my Dad's dog and threw a beanie baby across the room over and over again. I made sure he didn't get lonely. I stayed until my parents came home so I could see the reunion of the two best friends, overjoyed to see each other again. As always.

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