Duncan, my brave, wise, silent ponderer.
We received the unexpected call from the Scottish Terrier Rescue, just prior to April 1, April Fools Day. Truth was, this was no joke. We drove an hour and a half to go see him, knowing full well, we’d be riding home with this 4 year old little boy.
Shaved due to his matted coat, first glance, he didn’t appear to be anything special. He smelled a bit like medicine. I grabbed the leash, and walked along side of him, as if it was something we’ve done a million times. We walked the edges of the rest stop, our meeting place. Definitely, he was coming home. We could love this boy. He was little, compared to our other Scottie, and he had a bigger head than we were used to. Kinda funny, in a pitiful way, it was definate he was going to be our new family member.
It took forever for him to stop moving away when we approached, to trust that his food would always be given both morning and night. He most often found rest leaning his head against a table leg or wall, not being stuck in a cage anymore, he seemed to miss the propping of his head against a vertical wire cage.
Yet, over the next four years, he learned to trust unconditionally. This boy had been given a home where he was loved with dignity, patience, gentle care, and understanding. No one was going to harm this boy. He was our precious Duncan.
Scotties are an interesting breed. They are like cartoon characters. They have gentle hearts, kind spirits, they try to put on an air of strength and independence, yet, their teddy bear appearance makes you want to cuddle and hug them all the time. This boy had definitely grabbed my heart.
He wasn’t the show dog kind of scottie. He had curly hair, big feet, when he walked he bounced up and down. He had the cutest little gate… always walked like it was his mission in life. We would joke that if he could, he’d walk his way to China. Sometimes we’d call him a ‘worker bee’, without any stopping in sight. This boy LOVED a walk.
His favorite place to go was the River. Neuse River Trial has miles and miles of endless paved walkways all along the Neuse River itself. Little ‘off beaten paths that people, deer, or dogs have made, shoot off the main trail, allowing a close up view of the river….. so you can sit and ponder as the leaves float by, or small twigs. It was one of Duncan’s favorite things to do. He’d be on his mission, bouncy walking down the trail, happy as could be, then all of a sudden a dirt path would shoot off the trail, and off he’d go, to see if he could get a front seat view to the river.
We knew something wasn’t right, when he started having spells in the middle of the night, around 3:30-6:30 am. Started out about once a week, then in increased…. where he’d be sleeping soundly in his little ‘condo’, we’d hear him start to retch. My immediate behavior was to roll out of bed quickly, and in one-fell-swoop, unzip his condo door, and carry him about 3 feel to the tiled bathroom floor, where he could throw up and we could clean it easier. It was always yellow bile, yet, his retching was getting deeper from his gut….
Numerous visits to the vet, many medications, x-rays, ultra sounds, diet changes, the most alarming was when he thew up blood. This certainly was not good.
Bottom line, our boy had gone from healthy bouncy-boy to a very sick baby with a mere blink of an eye. Twelve weeks from beginning to end. Our boy was an unfortunate victim of a stomach cancer.
I’ll never forget his last day with us. Of course, there are many memories, too many to mention, that my Duncan gave me…yet, this particular day, was extra special.
Benson, our other Scottie, knew. He was vigilant about staying close to Duncan. We often captured moments when Benson would be within the ‘un-permitted’ two inches from Duncan. What used to be a three foot bubble on Duncan’s side, had now become such a small bubble, there was almost no boundary at all. Benson would smell Duncan’s belly, knowing full well something was amiss. Benson would often sit next to Duncan when he was sleeping, as if it was on ‘watch’ for him. When Benson was tired from his ‘watch’, he’d lay next to Duncan, facing him, almost touching him with his nose, just to be close.
This day… the last day…. we knew. Duncan had lost a quick 10 pounds. I had to actually call to make an ‘appointment’ to help Duncan over the rainbow bridge…the term dog lovers use, to ease the pain of knowing we are helping them ….by taking them to the vet and getting the dreaded ‘shot’ that stops them from suffering, stops them from hurting…. stops their presence in our lives…
Our mission that morning was to send my Husband off to work, as I wanted the silent, one-on-one time with my ‘little guy’. my Rescue boy. My strong warrior, my worker bee….my little soldier that became putty in my arms of love and affection. This boy had won my heart over so big. I understood him. Trying to act tough- as if he didn’t need anyone, yet, he needed love and affection no different than the rest of us. Acting as if he didn’t ‘need’….., when actually his soul needed to know he could trust, could rest in someone’s arms and believe all would be well….. this boy… Duncan…. was no longer going to be in my life…in our life.
Duncan’s favorite place was the river. Four days of not eating, he had become quite weak. He still found it in himself to muster the appearance of excitement to go for a ‘walk’ to ‘go to the River’. The moment he heard the word River…he would always perk up.
This time, he didn’t have to go in his car seat. He sat on my lap for the 5 blocks to drive to the entrance where we would walk. He leaned against the car door, and put his head out the window…. feeling the warm breeze on his face… his fir blowing in the wind…
He’d lean with one arm out the window as if a little man. Benson was silent in the back seat secure in his car seat….like an angel of perfect behavior, Benson knew..and he knew I knew.
We leashed up, and headed to the River. Duncan was extra slow that day. Yet, he wanted to walk. Benson, ever so patient, walked just as slowly, tolerating the delays we had, since Duncan was now weaker. With an understanding spirit, Benson didn’t pull, he didn’t chase after squirrels. He knew…we had to make this particular walk, extra special. After all, this was a day of celebration of Duncan’s favorite things.
Crossing over the beautiful bridge, overseeing the river, Duncan paused, as he often did, to see what objects were floating on the top of the water, such beautiful and interesting objects as a colorful golden fall leaf, or a possible twig with a brightly colored red bloom. Observation was one of Duncan’s strongest characteristics. He was a silent, majestic, observer.
It took us over double the time to get to his favorite part of the river that day. Many stops. Many moments of waiting for him to either catch up, or slowly smell a twig or leaf along the way, Benson and I understood Duncan deserved all the respect we could give. He was smelling these things for the last time. It was his celebration of life. Living things that made life worth while… the sights, the smells, the sounds… these were what we were setting out to do that day.
Once we got to the little beach like area, Duncan didn’t jump straight into the water like he normally did. This time was different. He calmly edged in… one slow step at a time. He didn’t chase the floating objects in the river this day… he just silently watched as they passed by. It wasn’t about ‘chasing’ life today. It was about the pondering. The observation… the precious sights…. the precious moments of his life. Summarizing it all up in one River visit… he watched all the beauty that made up his life. He watched across the river… gazing as the reflection of the sun bounced twinkles of light. He waded. Walked and stopped. Waded some more. The sound of the river resonated in my ears…. representing life, moving forward, uncontrollable drifting to a new place. Funny how life carries you into new places…… never really going back to where you once were before….
When Duncan was ‘done’ with his river, and had had enough. We slowly left the beach like area, Benson by his side, as they both dripped off a bit… it was time to go back to the car. Time was nearing.
Once back on the trail, Duncan stopped. He was tired. He had used all the energy he could muster, making his way to the river, and now, he didn’t have it in him to walk any more. That’s ok. I was so blessed to be the one to hold him tightly against my chest… like a baby… like a precious infant, keeping him warm, soaking wet and all, against my clothes. I was honored, privileged, and humbled to be the one to carry this boy the mile and a half back to the car. Benson by my side, walking without one pull, not one tug on his leash… walked next to me like a champion. His gate was swift, paced as perfectly as my steady stride back… I whispered prayers, stared into Duncan’s eyes, reassured him of my love. I had a mile and a half of one way conversation where I was able to express my unfiltered appreciation for all the lessons in life he had taught me. His silent acceptance of our love. His precious and honorable deep soul. He taught me to observe life from his point of view. My recap of his first days of non-trust and scared stiff, to full trust and no boundaries- acceptance that he was totally safe in my arms. We had come a long way, in four short years.
It was a gift, this bright and sun shiny day. It was one of those life changing moments that I’ll never forget.
This boy loved life… from his silent observation. His contemplative soul. His restrictions of self expression were merely missed by those that don’t understand deep souls. I ‘got’ him. I was blessed with understanding this Rescue boy. The boy that wasn’t taught to play with a ball, didn’t understand ‘toys’, he wasn’t handed a silver spoon life of “everything given to him” in his first four years. Yet, he adapted to understand the meaning of true love and life through the last years were were gifted to have him.
The amazing lessons Bouncy Boy taught me were beyond measure. He never complained, never ‘wanted’ for much. He cherished such little things. His simple pleasures were free….. He did’t need to be loud, didn’t really need to have the center of attention on himself. His needs were small. Love. Trust, and to be treated with dignity. Right till the end.
I miss him so.