Tuesday, December 18, 2012

1 Jan 1998 – 17 Dec 2012

It was a cold winter evening in Socorro.  A wolf hybrid belonging to my old girlfriend B---- just had a large litter of pups.  One of them was a runt, and kept getting muscled out from the mother’s nipples by the stronger pups in the litter.  B---- called me and said that she knew I had recently lost a dog and was looking for another one.  She had a batch of newborn pups from her wolf hybrid, and she figured the runt would be an absolutely perfect fit for me. 

I went to visit B---- and there she was, as tiny as could be, with eyes still closed.  I could not resist.  I took her home with me.  She was born on about New Year’s Day 1998.

I have never been good at naming pets.  I have no imagination, and I usually just grab the first word that comes to me and run with it.  I initially named her Alpo after a can of dog food, but a girl I was dating at the time told me to change the pup’s name or I could forget about being seen in public with her again.  So, I struggled to think of a name for my pup.  She was not yet housebroken, and as I was scrubbing up one of her messes with a canister of Comet scouring powder, the name of my pup came to me.

That’s basically how I do it.  The pet gets named after whatever brand named item I am looking at.  Poor animals.

Comet became my wolf-dog.  She had the look, that attitude, and the intelligence of the other wolf hybrids in her litter.  She was just miniature in size.  She never weighed more than 60 pounds in her entire life. 

At the time, Socorro had no leash laws.  As soon as she was old enough, I took Comet to campus.  I never had a leash.  She just followed me there as I walked to the university.  When I walked into a campus building, she would wait at the door.  She would wait patiently, for hours if she had to, until I came back out from the building.  If I was in a classroom for more than a few hours, she would wander off to the duck pond for a dip in the water.  But she eventually came back to wait for me.  In the meantime, everybody who walked into or out of the building had to walk by Comet.  There were many young men and women who were away from home for the first time, and missed their pets back home.  So Comet got spoiled with attention.  Lots of head scratches, lots of petting, lots of ‘good doggy’. 

She did this all day.  Every day.  For years.  Everybody on the campus of NMT knew Comet.  I remember once walking around Socorro and Comet was following behind.  I rounded a corner and passed by a young girl walking in the opposite direction.  I had never seen her before, so she walked past me.  Then Comet rounded the same corner.  The girl, who I had never seen, suddenly lit up.  “Comet!”  she said excitedly, as she ran to her kneeled down and gave my dog a hug.  Huh?  Who are you again??

NMT’s version of homecoming is called the 49ers Celebration.  I never paid much attention to this celebration during my academic career, but during the 2001/2002 academic year there was a group of young students campaigning to get Comet voted 49ers Queen.  I remember them campaigning in the old student union building “I am telling you, that dog is more popular than any other girl on campus….!”  They were probably right about this, considering that at the time there was probably one female for every ten male students at NMT.  But they campaigned mightily and when the votes were counted, Comet ended up winning.  I could not believe it.  Of course the decision was appealed and the prize was eventually given to the most popular human contestant.  But somewhere out there, somewhere, there is a woman who lost to a dog in a popularity contest.

I once shared an office with a grad student from Romania.  Outside, Comet and a few other dogs were running around and playing in the snow.  I kept looking out the window at their playful antics, and could not concentrate on my work. 

“Look at those guys play!  It is so joyful!” 
“I know,” said my office-mate in her thick Romanian accent, “all they do is play.  Play Play Play.  Those dogs do nothing productive!”  I guess us Americans do not take our academics seriously enough.

I eventually left Socorro and moved to El Paso, and Comet has been my constant companion ever since.  We have been on many adventures together, mostly hikes in the hills and swims in the Rio Grande.  She was a faithful friend to the end.

Yesterday, I had to euthanize Comet.  She was 2 weeks shy of 15 years old.  She slowed down over the years, but always remained remarkably healthy for her age.  She eventually went completely deaf, so I had to keep her on a leash when walking in the desert for fear of letting her walk off, not able to respond to my calls.  She continued to walk until the last day of her life, and still got joy out of going to the desert.  She could not walk far before getting too tired, but she could at least get pleasure out of sniffing things to stimulate her brain. 

About one month ago, I realized the time to end her life was near.  I did not want to unnaturally prolong her life if it came to that decision.  She was very old, and had a very full and exciting life.  I am confident I gave Comet the best life that I possibly could.  It was loaded with outdoor activities, love and fun.  Between chasing rabbits in the desert, becoming friends with an entire college campus, hiking with me to the top of South Baldy in the Magdalena Mountains, or swimming in the Rio Grande, her life was very full.  I am responsible for the quality of my pets’ lives.  Last week, I took her to the desert one last time to sniff some old coyote trail.  I bought her some spare ribs to feast on like she did when she was younger.

I sometimes wonder how much Comet really perceives and remembers.  She was a wolf hybrid, and although she was domesticated, she still had an intelligence that I had never seen in any other of my dogs.  I believe she outlived all the other pups in her litter.  How far back could she remember?  Could she remember my old girlfriend B---- or the other pups in her litter?  I know that Comet’s mother instinctively growled at her runt pup, even after Comet was several years old.  What could Comet perceive about her mother?  Could Comet remember all those days lounging around the NMT campus, enjoying the attention of hundreds of students?  Could she remember chasing rabbits, and never once getting close to catching a single one of them?  Could she remember playing in the snow?  Or was all her memory more short-term than I care to imagine it was?  After she went deaf, could she even remember what it meant to hear things?

I guess I have no way of knowing.

We euthanized our dog Nero a few months ago.  Now Comet is also gone.  Next month, I am hiking to the top of Anthony’s Nose to disperse their ashes.  Comet represents my anchor to 15 years of memories.  So many memories.  So many memories just wash away…


DoOrDoNot said...

I feel as if I just read the post on Nero. I'm sorry you've lost two terrific companions so close together. Such lovely memories. Thanks for sharing some of Comet with us. RIP furry friend.

Larry, The Barefoot Bum said...

I'm sorry for your loss.

... Zoe ~ said...

Oh my. What a wonderful post including so many memories. Farewell Comet. Beautiful dog.