Moxie 2000 - 2014
We met you 14 years ago in the ASPCA shelter. We brought our dog Stanley as we thought he needed a companion. He shared your status as a stray wandering the streets. He bore the scares of a troubled beginning but you were immune to all the turmoil. They had named you Ashley and you made a grand entrance flopping over everything and everyone as a hopelessly cute sorority sister borrowing the self assurance of that Beatles song “Girl”: “When you say she’s looking good she acts as if it’s understood… she cool cool cool cool… Girl! Girl!”. Stanley was unimpressed and continued his Eeyore the donkey imitation - slowly moping about while you lit up the grey industrial tile. We were sold despite Stanley’s seeming indifference. We christened you “Moxie” as a nod to your dominating spirit. Even Stanley was won over.
You were always popular on those late night walks in Central Park. Leaping forward to greet the other dogs while Stanley held back. You were the Queen bee in the dog runs and unlike Stanley you knew when to run and when to bark - often times the loud bark was followed by a hasty retreat…. often hiding behind Stanley. The transition from the Upper West Side to off the grid rural Vermont was seamless. You found a new hobby - wandering out into the pitch darkness to gaze up at the moon. The thrill of the sylvan night matched the electricity of the city. You were resilient to the new animals, setting and weather. Stanley would cower in the corner as he thought the house was collapsing when snow slide off the roof - you wagged your tale and asked for dinner. You adjusted to cars and demanded the front seat - always staring forward as if the direction of the car relied on your gaze. You also believed that copious barking would ward away all potential threats… which often times included any person or animal within site of the front windshield.
As the years wore on your body failed… but never your spirit. Even Stanley’s quiet passing never dulled your vibrant need to participate. As your back legs gave-out you turned to your commanding voice as the means of participating. This led to many evenings of embarrassment as guests failed to understand how we could endure a dog that never seemed to stop demanding the floor. You were difficult at the Vet. You knew it could only mean trouble and pain. You didn’t understand the procedures to remove a life threatening infected cyst or the others to prevent blindness. You were angry when we left you overnight; but you never held a grudge… all was forgiven with a large meal and a loud bark. You didn’t thank us - you forgave us. And you accepted our apology. We knew you could never comprehend the dark chores of guardianship.
Now we were faced with that ultimate task: the question of ‘when?’. Your unsteady gate and bleeding paws told us “now”; your hardy appetite, endless barking and steady gaze said 'one more day'. A night of restlessly trying to stand was followed by a day of dragging yourself forward. We looked past the sores, the smell and the mess. We tried to tell ourselves that things were rebounding. You were never one to go gentle into that goodnight. That wasn’t you. To the last you were defiantly stumbling and demanding a dog treat while refusing to lie down. We prayed for the quiet goodbye that Stanley gave us… but you are Moxie. That defiance we cherished during deep dark nights became the thing that gave us the most pain. But that is not your concern. That is something for guardians to fret over. We loved you for being you… and you were you… till the last.
Your physicality was our grief writ large. The vet didn’t understand how you could stand. His eyes showed a surprise that we had not acted sooner…. just as your eyes dared us not to. You will never comprehend our grief. But perhaps Stanley can explain it to you… just as you tried to explain about the roof-snow to him. We buried you side by side so there is no need to bark so loudly to get Stanley’s attention. We know you will never thank us… but know you will forgive us. Despite having other rambunctious dogs… it is very quiet here tonight. But we take solace in knowing you have now joined Stanley and are no doubt bounding about the new room… he is very glad to see you… even though he won’t show it.