The last 18 months living with our eldest dog Phoebe have not been easy. Watching a dog you love suffer. And yet not being able to really do anything about it. Not being able to just ask her how she feels. The last two months harder still. But today was the hardest of all.
She came to us in April 2002. Just four weeks old she had been dropped off at the local animal hospital. She had been abused. We met her and though we had two other large dogs at the time, Casey and Kilgore, we thought about it, and decided we would give her a home. But before we could pick her up, another family said they wanted her. We stepped back thinking she’d found a perfect home. But then a week later she was returned to the hospital, again abused. We picked her up that day.
It was April 1st, 2002. And though we didn’t really know know what her birthday was, we decided it would be Valentine’s Day.
Kris came up with her name. I actually wanted to call her Winona Ryder. (No joke.)
My favorite memory of Phoebe was of course when she misbehaved. I had been in LA shooting a film and was home for a few days. All I wanted was some amazing New Haven brick oven apizza. We sat down to dinner. Because we eat so late, we almost always do so sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table and TV. I had my first four slices on my plate. I ran back to the fridge for a beer, but when I returned only three places sat on my plate. Casey and Kilgore looked mortified. Despite the food being right at their level, they knew better. But there was Phoebe munching down that piece of pie. She was young. She hadn’t learned the rules yet.
She’d always been our difficult dog. Moody, often times bitchy, and certainly neurotic, she was also loving, loyal, and, well, our 75 pound lap dog. She was the best blanket in the world on a cold New England night. And damn if she didn’t love having those floppy ears scratched.
Casey certainly loved her as if she were her own pup. They would have epic races in the yard as to which of them could get to the tennis ball or frisbee in our back yard first. Casey would usually win, sometimes I think towards the end it was because Phoebe let her. Kilgore would rarely partake. If he did if was usually to snatch the toy away, go lie under a tree, and chew it to pieces.
I will always remember the night Casey died in March of 2006. Kilgore was barking his head off at 3 in the morning. I came downstairs to find Phoebe cowering under the table, and Kilgore running to me, then running into the living room, and back again. He brought me to Casey, who had passed without warning.
I know they both missed Casey in their own way, but Phoebe especially turned into a loner dog. Kilgore didn’t have much patience, and by this time he was a grumpy old man. And when his turn came in October 2008, I honestly think Phoebe truly enjoyed her life most for a few months there as an only dog.
Then we brought Springsteen home, and the epic races for the tennis ball started up again, and once again the younger dog would let the older dog win.
Phoebe was definitely a people dog. Not all that fond of other animals, she just wanted attention. She just wanted a treat. She just wanted to play ball. She was a lab/hound mix, gangly and beautiful.
In recent months, though she could barely walk, she’d still bring you a tennis ball out in the yard and drop it right at your feet. I would always toss it lightly. And despite her trouble in retrieving it, she’d bring it right back and wait for me to toss it again. The joy she received from playing ball outweighed any pain she might have been feeling.
I even played ball with her out in the rain this morning. One last time. Though after bringing the ball back to me twice, she gave up. The pain was finally winning out.
I hope she can chase balls for eternity on the other side. With Casey once again running by her side. And hopefully Kilgore will wait a bit, enjoying the reunion, until he snatches away the ball and chews it to bits.
I hope we came through for her and gave her the life she deserved.
I hope she’s not suffering anymore.