He was a good dog.
Well, no. Not really.
Half the time he was a good dog. A SuperDog. Worthy of Polly Purebred.
But the other half, he was a whiney, headstrong itch that constantly demanded scratching.
And I loved him. I’m proud that my last day with Gilligan was at Frozen Head State Park, switch-backing up to the lookout tower, driven by his and Ozzy‘s panting pace. He pissed me off a few times. He amazed me a few more. And when we met a group of backpackers who were about to ascend the mountain to spend the night, he managed to slip his collar and insert himself next to their husky in a photo I was trying to snap for them.
That was Gilligan. Half the time I loved him; half the time I wanted to slap him upside the head. Sometimes, regrettably, I did.
I never realized how hard I would take his death.
He started whining when we hit Oak Ridge on the way back from Frozen Head. I figured he needed to pee. I consoled him. Only a few more minutes. He put his black-and-tan muzzle on my right shoulder, looking me in the eye through the rearview mirror from the back seat of my truck. When we pulled into the driveway, I let him and Ozzy out. They’d been bolting at every opportunity, but I didn’t think they would now.
Not after a 3 1/2 hour, 7 mile hike up Frozen Head.
Not when I was dangling dinner in their earholes.
But they leaped out of the truck, pissed on the nearest shrubbery and bolted up the driveway to freedom. Lara, who was taking Xena on her after-dinner walk up on the street, shouted as the hounds flew past. They kept going, fueled by the thrill of rubbing their freedom in the face of every fenced dog they passed. I was pissed. Really pissed. But there wasn’t much to be done. I showered. Lara and I went off to meet friends for dinner, confident that the hounds would be home when we returned.
They weren’t. Lara went to bed around 1 a.m. When she awoke at 4, Ozzy was in the garage, grateful to be let in the house. Gilligan was nowhere to be seen.
He still wasn’t here when I awoke around 8. I put a note on Facebook. On my blog. On the animal shelter’s site. Ozzy and I walked the road looking for Gilligan. Lara called the emergency vet clinic. There was no sign of him. We decided to grab lunch and run errands. And that’s when Lara spotted him. Lying on the side of the road. Already stiff. I think he died instantly, but that wasn’t much consolation. I spent the rest of the afternoon bathed in vodka and tears, wishing that asshole were whining at my feet, begging to go down to the dock for a swim in the frigid cove.
So now I’m sitting here smoking a cigar, listening to Hayes Carll, thinking about all the dock diving our black-and-tan dumpster diver got to do before he met his maker.
Godpeed, Mr. Gilligan. You were a good dog …