He had had diabetes for more than half of his 10 years on this planet, and while we were able to stay ahead of it since the day he was diagnosed, his liver had other plans starting this weekend, and he very quickly deteriorated until the point where taking that last drive with him to Dr. Tom was the right thing to do.
He was a rescue dog, and after a tumultuous start with a family that to this day I cannot judge, but hope they never again are entrusted with an animal, fate smiled on him - and us - and brought him to our family. We taught this crazy Miniature Schnauzer to walk on a leash, to sort of listen to the occasional command, and to trust us completely. What we didn't need to teach him was to bark, to cuddle when he knew we were troubled and we needed him to cuddle, and to endear himself to everyone he met.
Sure, I'm biased, but he was a sweet, kind, wonderful little being who permanently embedded himself into the very fabric of our family. He always knew who needed him most, whether he was hugging you with his paws, putting his head on your shoulders like Finnegan the dog (Mr. Dressup fans will know), shoving his little body into yours while you slept or sat, or simply staring at you when he knew you didn't want to be alone. He got us.
All day long I've heard his echo around every corner in the house, and I don't know how long it'll take until I stop wondering when he'll materialize in front of me or when I'll get used to that empty spot at the end of the bed when the house gets quiet at night. Indeed, it's the quiet that seems so odd, and as much as I appreciated not having to hold my breath this afternoon during a live radio interview from my home office that he'd freak out in the middle, the breath-holding was part of what made him so lovable. He was unpredictable, loud, messy, expensive and frankly borderline insane. But, God, I loved him.
I appreciate that he was a dog - and this isn't on the same scale as losing a human family member. Yet he indelibly coloured those experiences as well, helping us grieve after we lost my father and Debbie's mom. His mark on every chapter of our family's life mattered, and he made the tougher chapters somehow easier to bear.
As much as losing him hurts, and as disturbed as the rhythm of our family is by his absence, I keep reflecting on the singular reality of dog ownership: That their relatively brief lifespan means they'll always leave us. That getting a dog makes losing him or her someday an inevitability. We deliberately set ourselves up for wrenching days like this. Yet I wouldn't change a thing, because I'd rather have and lose than never have in the first place. Because I can't imagine life without a dog. I guess that makes me a dog person. So be it.
He also made our kids better people. After we first brought him home, they quickly took to the routine responsibilities of owning and caring for him. They fed him, made sure he always had enough water, and played with him until he was exhausted. And then played some more.
But it was after his diagnosis that our kids came into their own. They learned how to give him his needles, setting precise alarms and texting each other and us to ensure everyone always knew what had been done, and what needed to be done. We never worried about missing a shot or mis-timing a meal: They had it covered. They just knew. Their words today, shared on Facebook, continue to bring me to tears:
Zach: It's not gonna be the same without you greeting me at the door every day.
Dahlia: Rescuing you was the best thing we've ever done, Frasier. You taught us about unconditional love, kindness, responsibility and so much more. You truly were the best dog and my best friend. You were so cute and had the sweetest, funniest personality. Saying goodbye to you was the hardest thing I've ever had to do but I know that you are no longer suffering. You were and will always be a part of our family. I hope there's lots of Kleenex for you to chew up there, buddy. We love you and we'll miss you so much, Frasie Boo.
Noah: You'll always be my little guy. I'll miss everything about you. Rescuing you when you were just 8 months old was the best decision our family ever made. You made us happy just as much as we made you. I love you Frasier
I could not be more proud of how they took this scruffy pile of quivering fur and made him their own, of how they found ways to communicate with him despite the obvious fact that dogs don't speak English and humans don't speak dog. Yet he always knew what they were up to, and watching the three of them with him was one of those powerful joys of parenthood that won't ever fade. He made them better people.
More often than I dare admit, I'd hold him and whisper in his radar-dish ears three simple words, "Know you're loved." I wanted him to know that despite his tough start, we loved him unconditionally. My wife and I would always ask each other if he knew he was loved, and inevitably we'd conclude he did. In spades. At the same time, he had a funny habit of giving us far more than we ever gave him, and for that we're forever grateful.
We love you, Frasier Herschel. We're unspeakably sad you're no longer with us, but just as unspeakably happy to have had you at all. May your memory always be a blessing to us, and to everyone whose lives you touched.
The family grows by one (his first day with us, when we thought he was black)
The difference a day makes (a much prettier pup emerged after his beloved groomer, Jean, worked on him for hours)
A boy and his dog (when his human brother got sick)
4 weeks on (early learnings)
They'll always be puppies (his dog-buddy, Hudson)
His master's foot (when he hovered over Zach's broken leg)
Puppies don't get sick, do they? (his diagnosis)
A director is born (his movie debut)
All Act of Dog-labelled entries
* See Debbie's Facebook entry for more.