November 27, 2011

A Personal Note

Freddy Coffee was a Brittany, born Jul. 9, 1996 and died by euthanasia on Nov. 23, 2011.  He had been my friend and constant companion for more than 11 of his 15+ years.  I adopted him on Halloween night, in 2000. At the end he had become blind and so pained that the aspirin regimen he was on, which by the way dogs tolerate quite well, no longer worked.  On the morning that I took him to the vet he was panting and shaking so hard it broke my heart.  I asked God if I should put him down and immediately, the answer "yes" came to me.

Brittanys are bird dogs by breeding and extremely social as pets.  They are protective of whoever they bond with and often demand constant attention.  As a young dog, he was always on the look out for birds.  In my younger years I enjoyed hunting squirrels and rabbits, but had never been big on hunting any bird except dove.  A favorite activity of his was hunting the heavy bushes and trees around our house on Lake Bruin in NE Louisiana.  He would walk around under trees sniffing then staring, almost trance like when he finally locked in on the bird.  I recall one particular night when he rousted a screech owl from the bushes and it almost brushed - not to mention scare - me as it silently flew away.  When it came to birds, he did not discriminate; a bird was a bird and he would let me know it was there.

There's a bird up there!
He had a nose for everything.  Once he chased a fox that had ventured too close to the house.  Another time - several in fact - he investigated the turtles that ventured onto our property to lay their eggs.  He stuck his nose under the head end of a shell only to have it nipped by the turtle.  From then on he would lay down beside them and only watch as they dug a hole and laid their eggs.  He would chase squirrels but once nipped, he never again stuck his nose into the hollow of a tree where it had retreated.

I had to keep a close eye on him because he did not have any fear of snakes.  Once he found a King snake that had apparently just fed and had coiled up right at the steps going into my tool shed.  He stuck his nose right into the coiled up serpent.  The next day as we walked across the yard towards the tool shed, he caught a whiff of the snake and began to follow the scent that eventually took him to a hollow in one of the many cypress trees growing in the lake shallows.  We got there just in time to see the tail end of the snake going into the hole.  I don't think many of my friends who heard that story ever believed he could or would really track a snake.

Freddy visited more than 30 states with us. He was a wonderful traveler, never getting out of his bed until we stopped somewhere.  Once in New Mexico he discovered a gopher hole and before I could stop him, he had stuck his head and half of his body into the opening.

Freddy was as scared of water as any cat.  He did not like to get his paws wet and would lay down to lick them dry if he walked through a puddle. He would lick the morning dew off his paws before coming back into the house.  If he ventured too close to the lake edge and the wake of a passing boat caused him to get wet he would not go near the water again for a week or more.  Once, as he leaned over the edge of the pier smelling whatever aroma wafted up from the surface, I gave him a nudge and he went in head first.  Up until that time, he would follow me onto the pier each time I went out.  After that, he would return to the deck and watch me until I came back.  He would then continue whatever activity he had been doing before I left him.

Sometime much later he began again to trust me and would follow me onto the pier.  Once, as we were preparing to go for a boat ride he attempted to jump into the boat before it had fully descended from the lift.  His paws went over the side of the boat but, his body did not follow and he slipped into the water.  He never again wanted to go for a ride in the boat.

There was nothing that kept him from jumping into my truck however.  Most times he would jump into the back seat and lay down, not to move again until we returned home.  If it was a short trip, he would refuse to get out and would menacingly growl at me if I attempted to remove him.  I would leave the door open and eventually he would come strolling out, curious as to what I was doing.

I still see him on his pillow that has lain beside this desk for so many years.  I see him in the hallway, stretched out under the return air duct, and by my bedroom door when I get up in the morning.  I see him by the side of my easy chair in the TV room and I feel his cold nose on my elbow as I lay there sleeping and he felt the need to go outside.

His remains were cremated and his ashes will rest at home in one or another of his favorite places until it is time for me to go.  At that time, they will be placed in my casket and buried with me.  May he rest in eternal peace.

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