Hippie Squared: Red My Old Dog in the Morning


a blogumn by Jeff Rogers

Red in the Redwoods

I admit it. He was my favorite. My favorite dog ever in the whole wide world. And he died two Saturdays ago.

If you follow my “Three Line Lunch” feature here on Fierce and Nerdy then you might have read about it. And you might have read some of my previous chronicles of Red’s decline, as he aged and as his cancer took hold. I wrote about our trip north to Mendocino to take him to the redwoods one last time, because he always loved camping and the outdoors. The photograph you see here is from that trip; the three-line poem that accompanies it is here. We took him down into a truly primeval and magical redwood forest, but he was so old and arthritic that he couldn’t really make it back out on his own. So I hoisted him on my shoulder and carried him about half a mile out the trail to the car. He seemed quite happy about the whole arrangement.

That’s the thing about Red. He was a truly happy fellow. One of the sweetest souls I’ve ever known on planet earth, human or animal. His happiness was infectious. He had the softest fur of any dog I’ve ever petted. The most common reaction when people would pet him for the first time: you could see them visibly relax. The tension would drain out of their faces. And then pretty much word for word, with little variation, they’d say, in a tone of wonder: “Oh, he’s so soft.”

We were lucky, all of us—my wife Elise, me, and particularly Red. He kept that happiness to his last day. I’m sure when he was actually dying he wasn’t all that happy, but he didn’t seem to be in agony. He collapsed, he was weak, somewhat out of it, but he didn’t struggle, he didn’t convulse, he didn’t whine. He expired in our arms. Though he was mostly blind, and could only hear a little bit in his right ear, when Elise called his name in the last few minutes he responded, moving his eyes up to her face. I leaned in close to his right ear and talked to him about going to the park. I’m confident he felt embraced by our love and eased out that way.

Funny thing is, on his last day I wrote a poem about him. Now like I said, I’ve written three line poems about him, probably a dozen of them, several from the last week—if you want to click over to “Three Line Lunch” you’ll find those easily accessible. And when our older dog Gracie died last year I wrote several installments of “Hippie Squared” about our little pack, including some stuff about Red—how he adopted us, some of his special traits and his love story with Gracie.

But on his last morning I had a sweet little happy moment with him in the kitchen, when he came to greet me, and I thought about making it the three line poem for the day. So I started out just writing lines, but it kept going. I didn’t have the heart to trim it, pack it into three lines, so I left it. Little did I know it would document my last moment with him before he collapsed and began truly dying.

Someday I’ll polish it up, probably, but here it is in its raw state after the jump:

Red my old dog in the morning
Asleep on the floor between bedroom and kitchen
Eyes squeezed tight, face scrunched up, down on the wood floor
Between outstretched paws
Mostly deaf and blind
He’s planted himself in my pathway
So that he’ll know when I go by
And he’ll wake and he’ll follow me
Knowing I’ll bend and I’ll coo to him,
“Hi sweet boy. How’s my sweetie boy?”
And ruff the fur around his face, and pet his sweet head,
And he’ll dangle his old head on his old neck
And let his old jaw hang open, and pant,
In his happy dog smile, dog laugh,
And then lay back down while I do my morning work.