Today is the day to say good-bye. Today is the day to wrap an old friend in a soft blanket and lay him to rest under a huge walnut tree.
Today I said good-bye to GusMonster.
GusMonster came to me via a rural road in Minnesota. While driving my son to school one morning, we saw a dog in the distance. Coming closer, we saw it was a puppy. My son got out, and got the puppy to come to him. The bright red ball of fur climbed into the van and promptly curled up on my son’s swim towel and went to sleep.
Gus spent that day at a grooming shop. He got a bath and some food. The groomer told me he was very hungry, and she had kindly fed him several of her sample packets of food.
Once home, Gus got to meet the rest of the pack. He got on fine with everyone. I called the local radio station and they announced the lost puppy over the air. Flyers were made and posted all around the area. No one had lost a puppy.
We decided to keep Gus. His big feet earned him the Monster part of his name. He had bright, coppery red fur, white socks with freckles and green eyes. He was a really pretty puppy. There was pit bull in there somewhere. It showed in the shape of his head, and in his then square body. The rest was a mystery.
The vet came to vaccinate the horses. He gave Gus a once over and deemed him healthy and to be about 6 months old. Gus took that news and almost instantly began losing his baby teeth as if it were a cue.
As with all puppies there were trials. Gus peed in the basement rather than outside, when he got loose he gleefully ran all over the property, not bothering to come when called. He had no clue about walking on a leash. He didn’t sit, stay, or lie down. As he got older, his eyes changed from green to gold. His manners improved.
Gus hunted squirrels. He seemed to think that was his purpose. He got good at it, too. After that, he learned how to hunt raccoons. Later he was taught to hunt pheasants. Well, not really hunt the pheasants. What Gus learned that when Arty or Rocky were on point, there was a bird there somewhere. Gus’ job was to flush that bird for the hunter. More than once, Gus proudly trotted to the door holding a pheasant in his mouth. We shared the pheasant with the dogs. After all, they worked for it too.
Gus guarded his family. He played, he ran, he hunted. He stayed with me through so many bad times I can no longer count them. He accepted other dogs in our lives without issue. He never once offered to bite or growl at a human. He never chased the horses, but he’d follow the tractor as if he’d been doing it his entire life. He kept a look out, watched repairmen carefully and slept on the floor with his head on my foot while I watched TV.
I will never find another dog like Gus.
As the years passed, GusMonster’s muzzle got whiter. His freckles faded. His socks blurred as he grew more and more white hair. He moved a little slower. He coat became rougher. He got thinner and the arthritis in his back took its toll. But he still kept watch. He still slept with his head on my foot while I watched TV.
And today, after 15 years together, we parted. Gus was let go to run again. He was met at the Rainbow Bridge by his old hunting companions. They are running, playing and catching up the years they have been apart.
Play on, GusMonster. You deserve it.