Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bert


It was over a year ago the first time Bert went down and it freaked me out. He was an old dog at age ten, really, and was having problems with his hip, as many old dogs do. But he finally got up again, staggered and weak, but standing, walking, limping, moving forward again, and I held his head in my arms and whispered into his ear, “Stay with me.”
Bert was a fuzzy puppy in a pen at the dog pound and when he saw me he pushed the other puppy away from me, and reached forward, upwards towards me, and I picked him up. That was over twelve years ago. I was thirty-nine, the year was 1999, and that puppy was going to be more than a match for me. He dug holes as deep as bunkers and he ate an overstuffed chair after dragging it off the porch and into the yard. He took my ATM card and chewed it up, too. For the first year of his life, Bert was demonic. I was married at the time and she despaired over the fact she was the one who wanted a puppy, but Bert, from the beginning, was my dog.

Bert, like some mutts you meet, was of a dubious heritage. He looked like some Husky and some Chow, maybe some GSD in there with him, but he was all dog. When we moved out into the woods I decided to let him roam free and he did for about two weeks. In those two weeks he would leave the house and be gone for hours only to return soaking wet from swimming and exhausted. One day he returned with his right foreleg broken beneath the elbow, and his right from paw sticking out at a sickening angle. In a time when I could not pay my electric bill I put fifty dollars down and paid the vet a little each month.

Maybe the broken leg will slow him down, I thought, but it didn’t. Bert would hold his leg straight up in the air and run like hell. He never slowed down a bit. One day he tried to leap up on the porch at speed and the broken leg ruined his aim. Bert crashed into the front step so hard I thought it was going to break some other bone, but no, Bert was indestructible and unstoppable. There was no way to keep this one down at all.

But Bert was always a loving dog and in his own way, he tried to do well. There was far too much energy in him for my wife to contain or control him, so Bert and I would roll around and play, making wild dog noises at one another like we were killing. He never hurt me when we were playing but twice he tried to pin me down. The last time was when he tackled me while I was mowing, knocked me down between the house and the mower, and I knew he had seen that as a damn good tactic. It was bad strategy in the end because I would still pick him up, and I just lifted him straight up and dropped him hard. That ended Bert’s attempts at domination but there was things that happened that changed everything about that time; Bert found a puppy.

I was walking Bert on a leash on day and he really lost his mind trying to get to something in the woods. I put him in the house and found a little black puppy, starved, abused, and dying near the fence line. I thought Bert might accidentally kill the poor thing but Bert changed overnight. From the wild and reckless teenager, rebellious and impossible to control, Bert turned into a big brother. Bert took Sam in and sheltered him, played gently with him, and allowed Sam to crawl all over him, and chew on Bert’s face without mercy. I nicknamed Bert “Bertalina Jolie” because his lips were so read and swollen.

Bert carried quite a few nicknames. He was my Muttibeasti. I have no idea, really, where that came from, but it became a term that mean the best dog ever. Bert did become the best dog ever, even when he did things he knew would anger me, I knew there were things Bert did because he was Bert.  Bert knew what the term “Wet Mutt” meant and that usually meant Bert had found a way to soak himself in water. The dog loved playing in the water and would try to bite the stream if you sprayed him in the face. When the backyard flood he would get into water up to his chest and roll over in it, and nothing would show but the tips of his toes above water. Bert would roll in mud until he looked like some science fiction creature that was once a dog but the radioactive Zombie dust turned him into the mud monster. Bert became known as The Hammer because of his voice. When Bert laid it down, I knew there was a stranger near. When the lost deputy spoke with me after the light were on and guns were put away, he told me he thought that brown dog was going to tear the door down to get to him. That was Bert. Bert had a voice hung on him, and of the three, Bert’s fury at some threat to me was the least controllable. He was My Dog. He loved other people but first and foremost, Bert was My Dog. He never accepted anyone, lover or friend, into his life, the way he trusted me.


Bert’s partnership with Sam was extraordinary. The two were inseparable and they taught me more about pack hunting tactics than anything I have ever seen or read. You cannot imagine how well canines hunt together until to see if for yourself. Small mammals who go into the backyard never returned to the woods, except via shovel. To watch those two go after small game as an exercise on nonverbal communication; Sam was a laser, and shook his prey to death, but Bert was brawler using brute force to overcome anything in his way.

I remember the first time Bert fell. He was trying to climb over the giant log in the back and he slipped. I have a photo of that. The look on his face is priceless, or it was, but it was so funny. Bert fell, ha ha, but that wasn’t to be the last time, and it took me a while to understand Bert, the furry demon who never surrendered to anything, was aging. When Lucas arrived Bert took over raising him too, but it was clear Bert wasn’t going to be the match for Lucas he had been for Sam. The comparison between the puppy and the old man was stark, and I realized Bert was getting old fast. I started giving him medication for his joints, and then medication for his pain. Bert slowed down. His daily trips around the perimeter of the property once took a matter of minutes, and suddenly he was gone for half an hour, limping around the fenceline, picking his way over the small limb and having to detour around the big stuff. Sometimes at night I would wait for him on the deck, and he would limp out of the woods and see me there, and that moment of realization that I was waiting for him, would make him wag his tail. He would come up to the deck and greet me and I would pet him without the other two there, and I would ask him “Stay with me”

Bert was walking toward me yesterday and he fell, yelping. I thought he had been shot. But there were no wounds, no sign of trauma. Bert struggled to his feet, regain his balance, but he limped over to the old kennel where I keep a large tub of water for them. It’s a place with water, and it is easy to defend. Bert knew he would never leave that place. It took me a while to understand what he was doing. I couldn’t get him back upright. He fought me hard, but didn’t bite, didn’t try to bite, and I knew, really knew, this was the day I would lose him.

I began digging a grave for Bert. I dug a hole in the ground so I could put the best dog ever into the earth, and really, Bert loved this sort of thing. But he didn’t stand up and come to help or watch. I called an old friend and when she arrived he didn’t react at all to her being there. When the vet came I was sitting next to Bert, getting puppy kisses, and he never reacted to her at all. He tried to stand, got up on his front legs finally, and growled. I held his muzzle and Bert told us he wasn’t going to take this quietly, he was the Muttibeasti, he was the Hammer, he was the best dog ever, and he tried to stand, and tried to stand, and finally sank down into my lap, and my dog, my dog, My Dog, died.

Forces in the Universe, if there be any, please hear me. If loyalty, unconditional love, devotion, play, and protection of loved ones mean anything to you, please hear me. I returned to the earth the dog I love. To the universe I return his energy. To you, if you be there, I ask that you honor him as he honored those things that in life, mean everything to us.

Please take care of My Dog. I still love Bert.

Mike

37 comments:

  1. No words. Just want you to know I was/am here. Your last paragraph says all.

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  2. You made me cry! Gorgeous tribute to one of your pack.

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  3. Burt lives on in you.

    Thanks for sharing Bert with all of us.

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  4. A beautiful celebration of Bert's life! (((hugs)))) He's always going to be a part of you.

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    1. That is true, Mama Sue.

      Thank you very much.

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  5. Mike, there are mo words except I am so very sorry, my heart is breaking for you.

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    1. Thanks, Rose.

      I was sent to Fargo today. I think it was a sign that Bert was well, where ever he is.

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  6. Beautiful tribute to Bert. I know it may seem corny, but have you heard of the poem, Rainbow Bridge? I find it very comforting...and know if there's such a place, Bert is there now waiting to be reunited someday. --Cara

    Here's the poem:

    Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
    There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
    There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

    The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

    Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

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    1. Thank you, CA. It doesn't seem corny right now.

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  7. A good dog is a great friend better than many people. I feel for you but Bert will be waiting for you You are very lucky to have had Bert in your life
    Jo

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    1. I was lucky. And I felt more lucky as he declined because I realized that it would end, and I would lose him.

      I just didn't realize when it would be now.

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  8. You will see his lopsided smile in the constellations, his broken-healed leg in the limbs of your favorite tree, hear the rustle of his coat when the wind whips the fall grasses.

    All we are is the collection of love and hope we grant others. And because you loved Bert, and you love and care for Sam and Lucas and every friend you've ever know, you are a man as big and strong and ornery and sturdy as your Muttibeast, and you, a fire-snake-beast, have now sent Bert's love to all of us, and the energy continues to spread.

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  9. I am crying again. I cry out of joy for the love you two had for each other, and for the pain you feel in your loss of him.

    He was an awesome dog from day one on :)

    You do know that he is going to stay with you, in your heart and memories forever, right?

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    1. Of course I know that.

      Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  10. Aw damn it...
    "Bert would hold his leg straight up in the air and run like hell." Ha, of course, dogs don't have time to feel sorry for themselves, they're too busy giving you a bushel of wonderful memories. Give thanks you're the one hurting and not him.

    Like a divorce, you know it's coming but that doesn't help one iota, and it's worse because Bert never betrayed you.

    Take care Mike, despite being a grouchy old fart you've got friends that feel your pain... like you felt his.

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    1. Comparison to a divorce is a good one, Bruce. This isn't my first trip but it is by far the worst.

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  11. Mike, what a wonderful tribute to a super dog! I am certain that Bert's spirit is running like the wind, and smiling like sunshine.. When you feel better, remember where the animal shelter is, and visit as much as you can. Other dogs deserve a human as thoughtful as you.. Be well, and be peace.

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  12. Shared memories, unconditional love and always being a part of each other no matter what separates you. That is pack.
    xxoo

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  13. Hi Mike,So sorry to hear about Bert,Bert is now running so free up in doggy heaven!

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    1. I hope they let him swim. That mutt loved the water

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  15. Hi Mike. I found the following entry on a Facebook entry discussing Pit Bulls and thought that you might find it interesting.
    You made me what i am today,courage at it's best.
    You wanted me to know no fear,a cut above the rest.
    Not only did I master that,I've thrown in loyalty too.
    Look past my eyes into my soul,you know I die for you.
    I'll watch your kids,I'll watch the house.
    your praise will be my crown,ask what you will,i'll do my best,
    I even be your clown.
    but some of you don't like me,i'm sure I don't know why.
    the only thing i'm guilty of is courage,love and try.
    but still they want to see me go,they want my breed to end.
    will I see you sitting idly by?
    you,whom I call my friend!
    you made me what i am today,you never saw me waiver.
    i've done my best to keep you save ...
    won't you please return a favor?

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    1. Thanks Richard.

      I'll likely get a pit after a few months. A rescue that needs me.

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  16. Halfway down the trail to Hell,
    In a shady meadow green
    Are the Souls of all dead troopers camped,
    Near a good old-time canteen.
    And this eternal resting place
    Is known as Fiddlers' Green.
    Though some go curving down the trail
    To seek a warmer scene.
    No trooper ever gets to Hell
    Ere he's emptied his canteen.
    And so rides back to drink again
    With friends at Fiddlers' Green.
    And so when man and horse go down
    Beneath a saber keen,
    Or in a roaring charge of fierce melee
    You stop a bullet clean,
    And the hostiles come to get your scalp,
    Just empty your canteen,
    And put your pistol to your head
    And go to Fiddlers' Green.
    There's a wide place on the road to Hell where warriors stop to sit a spell.
    They wet their whistle and rest a bit before Satan rings the closing bell,
    they then ruck up and go to Hell.
    This place is called Fiddler’s Green.
    Some clever Sergeant built a bar, then stuck the bell inside a jar.
    Then working with a clever Warrant, they sucked the air out in a torrent.
    No one can hear that cursed bell.
    Now warriors never go to Hell.
    They rest and wait at Fiddler’s Green, hanging with soldier, sailor, airman, Marine.
    They talk shit at the bar, hands low and high, for “There I was about to die…”
    Or at the tables, eating pie.
    But somehow no one hears the bell, at that wide place on the road to Hell.
    On the other side of that road to Hell, there is a green and leafy dell.
    It’s reached by a tunnel that goes under the road.
    This place is called Piddler’s Green.
    Fire hydrants everywhere, lots of toys and the scent of kibble fills the air.
    The mice are fat, sassy and slow, always a warrior with a Frisbee to throw.
    A knotted rope for tug-of-war and tennis balls by the score,
    And always, always a warrior who wants to play, until your own warrior comes, on that sad/glad day.
    As most surely he will.
    No one minds if you cross the path, and take a nap and not a bath.
    You can always swipe a scrap from a table, every warrior there's watching sports on cable.
    There's ear skritches, face skrunches and bellyrubs aplenty.
    Most important –and mark this well – for only you can hear The Bell.
    The Bell that rings not for Hell, but the one that rings and makes you yell,
    and causes your heart to swell with joy.
    The one that says your warrior has come, the one that says you can be at peace.
    So my friend who has four feet and is gifted with that special sight,
    at that wide space along the road there are two clearings, left and right.
    One's a bar, the other a glen, and no one spends a lonely night not knowing if much less when.
    For just over there, when the moon is just right, is a place on the corner where you can catch a sight... of your warrior, asleep at night.
    ‘Tis the Watching Place.
    So you know that they are safe, and if they should stir, oh, just a bit,
    it's because a tongue, ever so gently, on their cheek just alit.

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  17. Stolen from the Donovan @ Castle of Arghh.

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  18. No, But I lifted it from here with permission a few years back. Good folks. http://www.thedonovan.com/

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  19. Long overdue, but my condolences. And I'm glad you had Bert, and that Bert had you.

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  20. Oh, damn, Mike. I knew this was coming, but I remember I told you I wanted to read about Bert's life before I read about his death. Although its 21 months later, my heart is broken now for you and I know you think of him everyday. He was your Muttibeasti, your Mighty Beast. You still love on a dog's head. This was such a loving obituary.

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