Back in 1999, I saw agility on Animal Planet, and thought “now there is the thing for me!”. I didn’t even have a dog, but I really wanted one, and when I saw agility on Animal Planet, my passion was ignited. Not only was I going to get a dog, I was going to do agility with that dog! I don’t really want to rehash all of that, you can read it here.
Britches was his name, and he was filthy. He smelled to high heaven, and had mats the size of ping pong balls behind his ears. The no-kill shelter he was in at the time was broke, understaffed, and overfull with dogs needing homes. He was one or two years old, we *think*, when we got him. We cleaned him up, and took him to the local obedience classes, where he was really timid at first. He also submissively urinated, and had trouble being picked up or carried – so for a while, every day when I got home from classes (taking, I was still in college), David would let him out the front door, and I would pick him up, and he would pee on me a little, but he was so happy to see me that he got OK with being picked up, and the peeing stopped. He was terrified of the clicker and would run and hide, so I got some really quiet clickers from a party supply store so I could clicker train him.
After a couple rounds of obedience classes, lots of clicker tricks, and lots and lots of off leash hiking, we got in to an agility class. Our agility instructor, in Corvallis, OR, still remembers us as the fastest pair to pick up the weave poles; we learned them in one six week session. I had my PVC stick in the ground poles that I would haul out to the local park every day, or the apartment complex side yard, and we’d practice.
I think David was pretty sure that this agility thing would be short lived, so he went along with it. Gonzo was a pretty loving companion and he loved tricks. He was also the only dog of ours ever to walk on a loose leash (probably because he’s the only dog DAVID taught to walk on a leash – I’ve tried to get David to perform similar magic on our other dogs, no dice).
Gonzo was how I met Tammy, at a NADAC trial, years and years ago. Her dog Blaze is still alive, doing well – the two red dogs were pretty cute together. Gonzo was how I met Debbie Berkley, the trainer who got me started with Fly, before I moved on to Linda Mecklenburg. Gonzo wasn’t terribly keen on agility, and when Fly came along, Gonzo was more than happy to take up a permanent post as companion and pet, first for David and me, and then for my Mom, who took him “temporarily” in 2007 when we were between houses during our move from OR to WA, and then never gave him back. He was her faithful gardening companion even up to this past Saturday.
I’ve been a dog owner and lover, and an agility enthusiast for 13 years now, and til today, had never lost a dog. I’m not sure this counts, since my mom bears the brunt of the loss, but, it is a loss just the same, the end of an era. At the end, a piece of buckshot that had been lodged in Gonzo’s hip ever since we got him (he’d been chasing sheep and had been shot at before being caught and put in the shelter) limited his mobility, and when he made a heroic effort to jump off my mom’s couch, he severed a nerve in his leg. She made it through the night with him mostly peacefully, thanks to massive quantities of the pain medication he was already on, but this morning, she let him go.
I’m really not one to believe in the afterlife or anything like that – Gonzo’s molecules, some of them, will be released in to the atmosphere, and the rest of them, or at least half of the rest of them, will come to live in a box in my house. The other half will stay with my mom. It is truly amazing to me that a collection of atoms and molecules can come together in such a way to make a life at all, to say nothing about making a dog, a thinking, living, loving creature, that meshes with a human life in a way that no other creature does. Truly, there is a special place in the human heart for dogs, and there is a special place in a dog’s heart for humans; thousands of years of selection, both natural and purposeful on the part of humans, has made it so. So, Gonzo is winked out, although all of the matter that was Gonzo remains in the universe. But that special something that was Gonzo…well, maybe that’s still in the universe too. Certainly, he played his part in shaping who I am, who David is, who my mom is…and that special something that was equal to more than just the sum of Gonzo’s parts? Who knows what has happened to that. Maybe it is a soul, maybe there is an afterlife – or maybe that extra bit is just what will live on in our memories, happy, carefree, young and limber, loving, and most of all….Gonzo.