Marvin ~ 1993 - 2006 ~ R.I.P.
Let Each Man Have, At His End, Such a Horse, Such a Hound, and Such a Friend.
Andrew Marvell, English Poet
My dog died last night. He had been failing for some time, prone to the hip problem that so often plague German Shepherds, and took a sudden turn for the worse a couple of days ago. Marvin was half-Labrador, half-Shepherd, and entirely dense and good-natured.
He was about 14, and we had him for 11 years. We got him a the Brewster Pound when my son was so small he PROMISED he'd take care of the dog faithfully. He had been brought there by a family who had given him as a puppy to a teenaged son, who refused to care for him anymore when he got a driver's license. My son did a little better than that, but primary care fell to the adults. Even so, for all the time we had him, he never went hungry or cold, or had anybody hit him, or hurt him. So, he had a good dog life. He was dumb as a post, but he worshipped us all.
We buried him in the yard this morning, near the lilac bushes he liked, and placed some slates over him. He spent his last days lying under the Christmas Tree, doing an imitation of a present, breathing in the balsam and thinking of Maine. Maybe. Or maybe just hoping somebody would drop food on the floor where he could reach it.
He will be sorely missed. In honor of his passing, here are perhaps the finest words ever written on the subject of canine companionship and love.
The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man's reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its' clouds upon our heads.
The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog. A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and poverty, in health and sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, when the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer; he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master, as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its' journey through the heavens.
If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger to fight his enemies; and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its' embrace, and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in watchfulness, faithful and true even in death.
Senator Vest's Tribute to his Dog - 1870