Monday we had to say goodbye to our dog, Luke. He was 14 years old and until very recently, I was convinced we would be able to claim ownership of the world’s oldest dog. I honestly thought sometimes that he’d outlive us all.
He looked great up until the last couple of months, when he finally began acting like a nonagenarian (in dog years). He came upstiars less and less, and it took a beat or two to jump up onto his couch (yes, his couch, because he was spoiled), so when the end came, it was sudden but not surprising.
In his last days he was a shadow of his younger self, when he would sail up the three front steps in one leap, or bound through the deep snow like a deer, or come charging through the yard so fast, his feet hitting the ground sounded like a horse and not an 80-pound husky mix.
Mixed with what, we never knew. He was mostly husky, but the shelter where we found him wasn’t sure what else. All we were told was that he was a two-time loser, having been returned twice — once by a woman who had cats and learned quickly that Luke did not like cats, and again by an older man who could not keep up with a dog who was a runner, a jumper and a digger. So of course, the couple with the quarter-acre property on a busy corner took home the dog that should probably have been raised on a farm.
At the shelter that day it came down to Luke — who had a habit of jumping onto the top of doghouses and standing there, like Snoopy — and an adorable border collie puppy who I’m sure was adopted within 10 minutes of our leaving. But Luke was a handsome dog, and there was something about him that just seemed right.
It could have been that, at 15 months, he was already house trained, a big selling point for me, who’d never been a dog owner.
My wife, Paula, had wanted a dog since the very beginning, and getting Luke was the first big thing we went into together. Sure, we had committed ourselves to each other in front of God, our families, friends and a professional photographer. Then we got an apartment, and then a house, and then spent a couple of years renovating that house. Those are some major commitments. But in those early years of marriage, as we were trying (and failing) to have kids and also attempting to get our careers up and running, we went ahead and added Luke. Almost immediately after, we learned we were having Michael, and four years later, we had Isabella, and we were a family of fi ve. Until Monday.
Luke was a great dog, but he was a pain in the neck sometimes. When we first got him he was so rough with Paula, her arms were bruised so badly our vet wanted to call the police, thinking I was the source. Luke never met a fur coat he didn’t like, and despite several training sessions tended to jump up on people, especially those who failed to pay him the proper attention.
He was great with the kids. He loved getting petted. He’d crawl over to you low to the ground, which Paula called his “army maneuvers.” We fed him from the table, which was not a good idea, and after dinner he always wanted two treats, not one. I often felt like his doorman, letting him in and out of the house as he wished. He’d lie stretched out on his couch, and we’d say, who has it better than him?
He had his share of adventures. Like when he opened the kitchen window and jumped out. Or opened the bedroom window upstairs and jumped out. Or broke an old plate-glass window in the dining room and jumped through that, somehow managing to avoid slicing himself open on the jagged glass (and forcing us to cancel a flight that night to Massachusetts while I patched the broken window in a driving rainstorm).
Once, when we had him crated, we came home to fi nd him running around the house. Upon further inspection, I found the crate door was still locked, but he had pushed on it until a weld popped near the top corner of the door opening, giving him just enough space — a few inches — to squeeze through. That’s a husky pushing through a hole the size of a Chihuahua.
After that Houdini trick, we put the crate away and let him have the run of the house, accepting the fact that he was who he was and hoping he’d keep damage to a minimum. And although he pulled down a couple of sets of blinds, we replaced them with paper ones, and after that he was just fi ne.
We can replace those paper blinds with real ones now, I suppose, but we’re in no hurry to do so. We’ll leave the Invisible Fence sign up, and the welcome mat by the front door is in the shape of a bone that says “Woof,” and that will stay.
My daughter is looking forward to getting another dog but says she will accept a turtle as a temporary substitute. Which is fine, because we’re going to wait a while.
July 1 would have been 13 years that Luke — aka Lukey, Lukey Dukey, Lucas Aurelius — was with us. He will be missed.
A former associate editor with Times/Review Newsgroup, the author is an award-winning columnist and freelance writer from St. James.