My name is Bond – Dog Bond…

Well, hello once again, gentle readers. It’s time for a short status update on the canine relationship in the Kammerer household…

I believe I will begin at 4:00 AM Monday morning, about 11 hours after Murphy Patrick Harrigan O’Kammerer first walked through the front door of his new palatial estate (our house). That’s because 4:00 AM is (apparently) shortly after the time that Judy departed the homestead on her way to the airport to catch a 5:35 AM flight to San Francisco for a conference. I say “apparently” because I have no recollection of her actually leaving.

I first noticed that she was missing when I heard, what sounded like, a wolf howling at the moon. Inside my house. At 4:00 AM. In the dark.

Had I not been asleep at the time, I would have been more clear headed and recorded it and then found a way to assign it to Judy’s alarm clock tone on her cell phone.

But I digress…

I got up, opened the bedroom door, walked down the hallway and followed the call of the wild until I happened across the source. When Murphy saw he, he immediately ceased verbal communication, sauntered over to me and demonstrated his joy at seeing me still present in the domicile.

Like a good dad, I squatted down in front of him and assured him that I was still there and had no plans to boogie in the near future.

(Later that night, I told Judy about it over the phone. She said “Howling?”.

I replied, “Yes. Like a wolf.”

“You mean like this,” and proceeded to loudly say the long drawn out word “Aaooooooooooooooo!”

“Yes, quite like that, actually. Although, if I was in a hotel room with people all around me, I would probably not do that particular imitation.”)

I led him back to his bed (The Murphy Bed), coaxed him into curling up on top of it, said goodnight and walked down the hallway to the bedroom. I decided to leave the door open in case he needed to hear me snoring or something, just to make sure I was still there… I drifted off to sleep.

A couple of hours later, I poured myself out of bed and headed toward the room with no telephone and the big hole in the chair. On the way, I noticed that I tripped over something quite fluffy, though not all that soft…

Now that we were both wide awake, I went out and fixed him breakfast. I think my culinary talents must be improving because he seemed to like the breakfast breakfast I assembled for him. But then, dog food isn’t that hard to cook, I guess…

After breakfast, we girded our loins for battle (I put on pants and he put on his leash) and went for another walk around part of the yard to which he had, as yet, not been introduced. We had a great time marking our trail (‘we’, meaning ‘he’). This is all in an effort to familiarize him with the boundaries of the place. Some day we are going to go out there without a leash, and I want him to know where he is while we’re hiking around or dragging fallen trees, etc.

After a productive morning of work, we spent lunch time exploring and getting familiar with the neighborhood, topped off with a trip to the store to get some milk and bread. I wanted to see how he would react to a ride in the back seat of the truck. And how he would react to stayingin the truck for five minutes while I rushed in, got the stuff and rushed out.

I’m happy to say that he did GREAT! When I got back, he was in the driver’s seat with one of his paws on the steering wheel and a big smile on his face! By the time I got the phone out to take a picture, his paw was back in place underneath him. Bummer… It would have made a GREAT picture…

We have been learning a lot about each other the past couple of days. He knows I work upstairs, and I go up and down several times a day. He’s not at the point where he’s figured out that when I go downstairs during the day, I will probably be back up in about 30 seconds, so he follows me every trip up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down…

I am pretty sure that he’ll get over that soon enough and start waiting to see if I’m coming back up/down shortly before he follows me.

Fast forward to about 4:00 this morning…

Again, last night, I left the bedroom door open in case Murphy needed reassurance. I really slept well last night, but I woke up at about 4:00 with a feeling of pressure in my chest. That kinda spooked me until I put my hand there and found that it was Murphy’s head. He had hopped up on the bed in the night, curled up to me and slept with his head on my chest.

A couple of more walks today and another trip in the truck to go get the mail.

Tonight’s walk was the longest one since he’s been here. Maybe two miles round trip. At one point we came upon a covey of quail. (For those of you who don’t know what a ‘covey’ of quail is, it’s a group of quail. Like a ‘congress of baboons’ – yes, that’s what a group of baboons is really called – or a ‘noise of children’ – no, that’s not what a group of children is really called, but it is fun to think so.)

My right arm is now about 2 inches longer than my left…

I’m figuring out what English he knows.. So far, this is what I know he knows:

Off

Stay

Sit

Go

This way

Off

Good dog

Good boy

Heel

Murphy

Off

No

OK

Back

Treat

Off

I’m also figuring out to which English he best responds:

Off

This way

Treat

Back

Treat

All in all, I think we are bonding well…

On to Wednesday!

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Fifteen days ago, we lost a beloved member of the family… It was, as most of you know – many from going through the same experience – even recently so, quite painful for both of f us.There has been a great big hole in our home, and in our hearts, since then.

That’s not what this post is about…

Today, we welcomed a new member into the family! We have filled in a big part of that hole, and Judy and I are happy to say that we traveled about 500 miles round trip this weekend and adopted another Brittany!

He is either 8 years and 8 months old, or he’s 5 years and 1 month old – we’re not sure. There is conflicting information on that. We hope to clear that up on Monday. Either way, he is a very sweet dog and he is lying down right beside my chair as I type.

We found him in a rescue home in Quincy CA. He had been there for about a month after the foster “parents” rescued him from a shelter where he had been for three weeks after being surrendered by his former owner.

We discovered that he has an interesting “name” history. Apparently, he has gone by the name “Dog” for most of his life. The folks who welcomed him into their home and loved him up over the last month thought he deserved a more imaginative name, so they renamed him “Dodger”. A much better name for a dog – it makes him more personal.

Long story short, Judy contacted Louise and Derrek (his foster parents) when she found Dodger online. After several traded emails and phone calls, we all agreed to a meeting in Yuba City this afternoon to make sure everybody agreed that this was a good idea. We met, and the decision was made…

Judy had been talking with her sister, Kathy, about it and Kathy mentioned that it’s often suggested that the new owners change the name, for some reason. This kinda fit into our situation…

You see, while the name “Dodger” was a massive upgrade from the name “Dog”, I, and most of my family are from San Francisco, where the word “Dodger” is not spoken in polite company. 

This, of course, presented a bit of a concern for us because, in other circumstances, it is a great name for a dog. For instance, if you live (or grew up) in Los Angeles, or Brooklyn, you couldn’t go wrong giving your dog that moniker. But my family either all lives in Northern CA, after being born here, or they live in San Diego where the name is held in nearly equal disfavor.

Another concern was that we didn’t want to hurt Louise and Derrek’s feelings because they came up with such a good name for a dog.

Concern number two was alleviated just as we were parting company this afternoon. Louise and I had just said goodbye when she said, “Oh! By the way, do you know how he got his name?”

She related the story to me and finished up with “So you can rename him to anything you want, if you like.”

I told her my relief and the reason for it. She asked if we were going to name him “Giant”.

“No, Judy ‘s a Padres fan,” I said. “We will think of something appropriately neutral.”

With the demise of concern number two, the demise of concern number one became reality…

We had about a four hour drive home and had a great time with Dodger. He’s a happy doggie…

On the way home, we were thinking of names left and right. None of them seemed to fit. About 90 minutes away from home, Judy saw a sign with the name “Kelly” on it. How about “Kelly”? After all, it IS St. Patrick’s Day.”

I almost involuntarily changed lanes.

“YOU ARE A GENIUS!,” said I… “But not Kelly – – – – HARRIGAN!”

“We could call him “Harry,” she replied.  “Or there’s ‘Patrick’,” she went on. After all, it’s St. Patrick’s Day.”

“We could call him ‘Paddy’,” I responded. “No, that doesn’t sound like a nick name for a dog. It’s a much better nick name for a hamburger.”

We went on like this for about three quarters of an hour. Then it hit me…

“Murphy,” I blurted out… “We can call him ‘Murphy…”

It was brilliant, I know… But we were still not quite satisfied. We liked all of them – Harrigan (because it was my Irish Grandparents’ name), Patrick (because it was his day, though we couldn’t see ourselves calling a dog Patrick, or any derivative of Patrick) and Murphy because it’s a great name for a dog…

The indecision was monumental… A single decision was not forthcoming…

So here’s what we decided to go with…

Say “Hello” to Murphy Patrick Harrigan O’Kammerer…

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He even looks, Irish, doesn’t he? Actually, I think he looks like Carl Malden…

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I sit at my keyboard with reddened eyes and tear streaked cheeks, in mourning and in gratitude. 

Mourning because my nearly constant companion and best buddy over the last three years, one week and one day, Max, is gone.

Gratitude because I thank God for seeing fit to finagle  a way  bring us together in the first place.

Max was, as any of you who love dogs will understand, part of the family. He was just about the happiest dog I ever met. No matter what, he always had a joyful demeanor and the look to go along with it… (See above – He almost always looked like that when he was awake.)

Except, perhaps, when he was taking a bath…

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Or pointing at something…

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For which he was trained at an early age…

Or when he was just feeling lazy, or patiently waiting for me to acknowledge him or say “Ya wanna go for a walk outside?”

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He loved hiking in the woods…

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No matter what the weather…

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Even better if he was with a friend…

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And even if he had a frozen butt…

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He loved having fun in the snow, though he never quite got the concept of “mush!”…

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He loved hanging out with the family…

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And running in the back yard…

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He even liked Panther, though she only learned to tolerate him…

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And he had an affinity for waste baskets, though he never admitted it – even when he got caught he would give us the “who? Me?” look…

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He loved helping me work in the yard…

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He stuck by my side all day every day. While I was working in my office, he was right there beside my desk. I kept treats for him there, and every couple of hours I would ask him “You want a treat?”

Treat was one of the words he knew best… He never refused one. Even an hour before he died, he would still eat a treat, and be happy about it.

Max loved everything about life, I think. He was still a puppy at heart, though not in body. He kinda reminded me of my brother-in-law, Jeff, that way…

And kinda like me, too…

Being a “senior” dog (He was 13 when he died) when he first came to live with us, he had some arthritis in his hips. We spent thousands of hours massaging those hips, and happily so. He loved it. He would come up to us and we would scratch his head for about 15 seconds, and then he would start walking until his rear end was swung around and facing us, ready to be rubbed.

He loved our daily/nightly walks around the neighborhood… And he loved hiking with us in the back yard… And he always was a “puller”. No matter what mood he was in, once he was on a leash and walking around the neighborhood or the woods or anyplace else, he became a puppy again. He had to sniff everything that was associated with another animal, and when he wasn’t sniffing, he was dragging us along the path. 

And he would eat anything he could wrap his jaws around…

Until the last three days…

Every morning, he would be lying down outside our bedroom door, waiting for us to exit. And waiting for the magic word, “breakfast!”. Thursday, the 28th, I walked out and  announced  “breakfast time for Max!” as I proceeded down the hallway toward the doggie diner. . I fixed his breakfast and noticed that he wasn’t behind me waiting. I just figured that he would get to it when he felt like it.

Later that day I came downstairs for lunch, and I noticed that he hadn’t touched his breakfast. Alarm bells went off in my head, but I let it go.

Then, after work, I got him ready for a walk around the neighborhood. He was, as usual, excited about that and we started off. He wasn’t pulling me along. And he wasn’t sniffing. More alarm bells.

When we got back, I noticed that he had vomited in four places. 

At that point, I was really worried. When Judy got home, we talked about it and decided she would take him to the vet on Friday morning.

Judy and I stayed up with Max until 5:00 the next morning, trying to make him comfortable. At 9:30, Judy got him in to see the vet. They ran several tests and called Judy about noon. 

Long story short, Max was in critical condition with advanced liver cancer and in acute pain. We were crushed. They had him medicated with pain killers, and suggested they keep him overnight on IVs and check on him in the morning.

We talked about it and asked if we could bring him home and take care of him here, especially since no one would be there with him overnight. And we thought we could keep a better eye on him anyway.

They were wonderful. As long as he had no IVs inserted, we could bring him home. We picked him up at about 5:00 in the afternoon, along with several doses of the pain killer and an empathetic conversation with a wonderful nurse and doctor. But we knew that we would bring him back the next morning, and he would not be returning home with us again…

We wanted to make sure that his last night would be as comfortable and filled up with as many of his favorite things as we could… And it tore us up inside… He was in pain, his breathing was extremely labored and he couldn’t get or keep anything down.

We took him for his last walk around the neighborhood – it was slow and tough on Judy and me, but he enjoyed it…

Coming down our driveway, Max starts out on his last romp around the neighborhood.. His typically happy self..

Coming down our driveway, Max starts out on his last romp around the neighborhood.. His typically happy self..

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Last night, Judy and I both slept next to Max’s bed, in front of the fireplace. Not so much sleep, actually. We spent the night being with him, petting his head and stroking his back, talking to him, telling him what a good dog he is and how much we love him and going outside with him when he needed to go outside. And trying to get pain killers down his throat. We would pet him until he fell asleep, and his breathing became somewhat easier, and then wait for him to wake up again and start over.

The next morning at about 7:30, I took him for his last walk around the back yard. I cried most of the way…

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Then he rested in the piano room…

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And played ‘hide and seek’ under the piano…

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It was time to go…

We arrived at the vet hospital and met the nurse on the back side of the building. Eventually, we got into the room, where they had laid out a fluffy, soft blanket on the floor. Max knew what to do with that, so he got comfortable. I laid down on the floor close beside him, put my arm around him, facing him, each of us looking into each others eyes. Judy on the other side of him on a short chair, caressing his back while I stroked his head and neck area, speaking to him just above a whisper when I wasn’t choking up.

The nurse came into the room to flush out the catheter on his leg and make sure it was open. She asked if we would like a few more minutes. I said, “no. but if you can arrange it, we would like to have a few more years.” The nurse began to tear up and left to get the doctor…

After a few minutes, the doctor came in and re-explained what was going to happen.

She said, “I know that making this decision was the hardest thing you’ve ever done.”

“No,” I managed to get out, “This is the second hardest thing I have ever done. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is to observe the reason I did the second hardest.”

She paused a moment with a thoughtful look on her face…

Finally, she nodded her head in agreement and said, “Are you ready?”

Judy and I both answered, “Yes,” and I started talking to Max again while she retrieved the needle..

Both of us stroking Max’s now shaking body, I spoke into his ear, repeating the words he had come to know over the past three years. “You are such a good doggy, Max. What a good boy. You”re my best buddy and my best friend, Max. I love you, Max.”

One difference this time… I ended withI Love You, Max… Goodbye, Max…”

He stopped shaking. He stopped his labored breathing. He went limp. Judy and I both broke down…

It was exactly 10:00 AM…

Sometimes “goodbye” is the toughest love of all…

We had previously agreed to talk about something else on the way home, just so we could get home in one piece. I couldn’t help myself and started to say something about the events of the past three days when Judy interrupted me with “How about them Bears, huh?”

That got us home. As we walked into the house, I almost yelled out my, now, customary “Helloooooo Max!” but caught myself.

It didn’t matter – we both fell apart anyway. We wrapped each other in a consoling hug and regained our composure. Then we started gathering Max’s beds, toys and other things… More crying and consoling…

This has gone on the entire day. We are still very emotional about it. I am a wimp, but I think that in this case I can afford to be.

There is a sign in Max’s feeding room, above his full food bowl. Judy reached for it and I stopped her. I wanted to keep it there…

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It’s still there…

Thank you, Lord, for bringing Max into our lives. Thank you for the joy he brought us.

Thank you for the laughter, the games of ‘fetch the duck’ and ‘keep away’ and a thousand other moments of fun and games.

Thank you for the buddy to take on a hike, always ready to hop into the car and take off for adventures unknown.

Thank you for allowing us into Max’s life – to give him a place and a family by whom to be loved, and to make his “golden” years a time of joy and security…

And thank you for the pain and grief we are feeling now – because from that we know that love exists…

I have often pondered, over the past three years, one week and one day, the fact that “God” spelled in reverse is “dog”. If God is love, and I believe He is, then can it be said that “Love is dog”?

Today, you would have a hard time convincing me otherwise…

Max going back up our driveway alone, ahead of us, after our last walk together around the neighborhood...We Love You, Max... Goodbye, Max...

Max going back up our driveway alone, ahead of us, after our last walk together around the neighborhood…
We Love You, Max… Goodbye, Max…

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