Bertie Wooster the Cairn Terrier took his last breath today. It happened in the office of a very kind veterinarian who listened, understood, and ultimately, solved this excruciating dilemma for us. It’s one of those situations where I am not certain how I should feel. When that happens, I usually start writing about it, and sometimes grace flows into me. I hope that will happen today. I could use a little grace.
Bertie was a fierce little Scotsman. Once he barked down a very healthy looking coyote in our driveway until it skulked away. He was either fearless or terrified, it was hard to tell. Loud noises set him off into paroxysms of yapping. That was probably fear. When someone walked by the house — especially if they had a dog with them — he’d bark ferociously until they passed. I always thought he was probably being protective of us, of his territory. At the dog park he’d growl and nip at the legs of much bigger dogs. I swear I’ve seen him do that to a Great Dane and a Pit Bull. How reckless can you get? He weighed 17 pounds, for God’s sake! And don’t even mention the word squirrel. You can imagine how those little varmints taunted him from the trees near the deck. Ah, Bertie, you were a loud little sucker. It’s very quiet here tonight without you.
When the vet asked us whether we’d like Bertie’s ashes, we said yes. It’s easy to decide where to scatter them: in the dozen or so holes he dug in the side yard. He’d like that, I think. Whenever you couldn’t find Bert, he’d be over there with his head stuck in a hole, barking at the vermin. I don’t think he ever caught anything, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Ultimately, it was Bertie’s ferocity that put an end to him, though. He didn’t understand that just because skin allergies and the medication to treat them made him itchy and irritable, it wasn’t all right to bite people, attack other dogs, steal food from the hands of guests, bark day and night at any and everyone. Poor Bertie just couldn’t relax. He didn’t want to be petted; in fact, he’d nip at you if you tried. In another three weeks Bert would have been 11 years old. He may have lived a long time, who knows? But I do know one thing: he wouldn’t have enjoyed his old age. He couldn’t say it, but I think he just hurt too damn much.
So I picture Bert tonight standing at the Rainbow Bridge, barking at everybody who goes by. I like to think it’s ok to do that up there.