When we got home, he did not greet us at the door with the crusty honey badger toy in his mouth. He didn’t report on the Mongol hordes he chased from the back fence. He didn’t open the pantry door with his smart nose, nudging us with his old-man mutterings toward the Milk Bones.
When we got home, he wasn’t there.
We have a 113-pound hole in our house and our hearts where Coolidge used to live.
Last night when I woke up at 1:40 in the morning, I walked unimpeded in darkness to the bathroom. This morning, when I made coffee, I traversed a hallway free of the old-man turdlettes and tinkles that didn’t quite make it out the dog door. These are now conveniences, but not comforts.
Every dog is good in its own way. Every dog is the best there ever was to their own humans. We have had great dogs before. We still have one by our side, but there will never be another Coolidge.
I will remember him thundering down the stretch of side yard to unleash his fearsome fury on those insidious parents pulling their toddlers in red wagons, threatening our very existence with their need to walk on the sidewalk. I will miss the jowl-flapping relish with which he destroyed his kibble… and his Milk Bones… and Winslow’s Milk Bones. I won’t be able to open a bag of baby carrots without remembering that curious nose at my hip and the necklaces of drool descending to the floor with covetous love. I will always smile at how he ran laps around the dog park, unconcerned about the butt-sniffing and back-biting of the others: He just loved to run.
He was a Viking of a dog, pillaging and plundering every nook of our yard and every treat in our hands. He lived his life big.
I loved him rubbing his face between the couch cushions; studying the front-yard litter of mesquite beans to find just the right afternoon snack; unleashing great, satisfied burps at the conclusion of his epic bone-chewing adventures, and sighing his great contentment at being the G.O.A.T. of dogs.
His list of accomplishments was many: Catching a quail on the wing at the tender age of 2. Snatching a squirrel from the yard at the august age of 13.Recreating a crime scene in our own backyard. Putting all sorts of baby rabbits, turds, dead birds, shoes and sticks in his mouth, and offering this frankincense and myrrh to us as grateful gifts for the rich life he lived.
He jumped on top of tables, terrified Jehovah’s Witnesses, bodysurfed in Malibu, outran a dirt bike, chewed the step off our deck and loved us and Winslow completely.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a life expectancy of 10 or 11. At 13-and-a-half, Coolidge well outlived his warranty. We are grateful for the time he gave us, but it doesn’t make it any easier.