Rascal is 12 or 13 years old now. We’ve had him for more than eight years. He was full-grown and had double hip dysplasia when we adopted him.
He has the short brown hair and barrel chest of a boxer. He has facial features that look like a Great Dane one day and a pit bull the next. He has the bark of a demon-possessed Rottweiler, packed full of steroids and anger. He doesn’t take kindly to people knocking on his doors. Neither do I. It’s probably why we’ve always gotten along so well.
Years ago, there was a knock on the front door. We only use the side door, so we knew right away it was a stranger. Rascal went to the front door to let whoever was on the other side know what we thought of uninvited guests. I walked out the side door to see who had just driven past three separate “Keep Out” signs nailed to trees between the road and the house.
It was an elderly lady, a Jehovah’s Witness. She was pretty close to hyperventilating. When she heard Rascal start barking, she had looked down at the front door and had seen the doggie door the previous homeowners installed. She assumed the beast she heard barking was about to come out of that doggie door. What she didn’t know is Rascal couldn’t fit his head through that door, much less his body. I politely told her neither Rascal nor I were interested in her religion.
Rascal has followed me around from room to room, inside and outside, for years. He has been by far the best dog we’ve ever had. My wife constantly asks him why he so loyally follows me when she’s the one who takes care of him. He’s never answered to her. I think he probably just doesn’t want to hurt her feelings. His hips have started to give out on him the past few weeks. It takes him more than a few attempts to go from lying down to standing up. It’s painful to watch him struggle to stand.
I worry the Rainbow Bridge is about to take another one to the other side.
He gets up maybe two or three times a day now. As soon as he stands, we take him outside and feed him. We’re trying to not make him get up any more than he has to. We don’t know how many more “get-ups” he has left in him.
The other day I was in the kitchen and he was lying in the living room. Someone pulled in the driveway and we heard a car door shut. Not only did Rascal let out that menacing bark of his, he met me in the kitchen as I was walking toward the side door. I wasn’t in the room with him, so I don’t know how he got up so quickly. He channeled a much younger and healthier Rascal that day.
Even in his current state, when he thought he was needed to protect his family, he mustered up something he hasn’t had in quite a while and met me in the kitchen in an instant. It reminded me of a line from a song from my second favorite guy named Toby. Ol’ Rascal may not be as good as he once was, but by God, he was about to be as good once as he ever was. We will always have a dog. We will never have another Rascal.
Toby Nix is a local writer, guitarist and deputy sheriff. He can be reached at email@example.com .