Growing up on the outskirts of Santa Fe, I loved exploring the countryside on the back of my horse. But it was never just my horse and I alone. Irish, my retriever mix puppy-dog, was always by my side. We were determined to set out and imprint the land with paw and hoof prints. Irish loved to explore. He loved picking up the scent of some wild animal and following it loyally until it was gone. He was a terrific dog.
Irish had a thing for naps. He loved lying out in the sun, stretching out his legs, absorbing the sunrays and the heat. He would look up at me with a tongue-lolling smile, I’m sure saying something similar to, “You gotta try this; the sun is perfect right now.” He was a terrific dog.
The days when I was sick with the flu, worshiping the porcelain gods, and certain that my insides were giving out, Irish had a way of comforting me. He would put his nose under my arm and prop up against me—somehow he knew he was giving me strength. And the days when I got really sick—sick with pneumonia—when just breathing took effort, and my lungs felt as if anvils were resting on my chest, Irish never left my bedside. He would lay with me for hours—close to my body, brushing his head against my hand. Calm and tranquil Irish breathed deep, slow breaths. I exercised my lungs to his cadence. He was a terrific dog.
Tricks were mindless for Irish. He would do them for the amusement of humans, and of course for the tasty treats. You could tell he thought they were pointless and trivial, but he’d do them while smiling anyway. Sit, Lie down, Stay, Roll over, Catch, Beg, Up-dog, Play dead, Cover his nose with his paw—all easy-peasy for Irish. He was a terrific dog.
Other dogs never intimidated Irish, or any other pet-friends for that matter. Dog, cat, bird, fish, Irish could live in harmony with all of them. For being a larger dog—sixty pounds—people always commented about how calm, friendly, tranquil, and happy Irish always was. Take him to any dog park, into anyone’s home, or to any new place, and he would fit right in quietly and perfectly. He was a terrific dog.
Irish was a master on the leash. No matter what was going on around him, he knew right where the leash began and where it ended. He never once pulled on the leash, never dragged whoever held its end. Irish always respected and enjoyed leash walking. If the leash ever looped down and got caught under one of his legs, Irish would lift his paw just perfectly to free the leash out from under him. He was a terrific dog.
Status was always a part of Irish’s life. Whether it was posing for the camera or staring in his own film — A Puppy Named Irish — Irish was comfortable being the star of the show. Naturally, sleeping on the bed with me was always going to be his spot. He never slept up by the pillows—no he wanted his space, too. The foot of the bed was where he loved to sleep. Every night he would jump up, push the covers around with his paws, (it looked like he was swimming when he’d lay there pushing them around) and he would settle in for the night. He was a terrific dog.
As Irish got older, his strength and bravery never dwindled. When kidney failure started, he snubbed it, determined not to let it slow him down. When a cancer spot appeared on his leg, surgery didn’t slow him. And when the cancer spot relapsed, and the next round of surgery nearly killed him, he still fought to survive and smiled through a devastating recovery process. When Irish got so thin and frail that he could hardly stand, he fought it, but in the end he had to tell me it was time. I couldn’t bear the thought. The thought of losing the kindred soul whose been by my side through high school, through college, through the hardest and best years of my life, how could I possibly say goodbye? I couldn’t. I still can’t. When I look for him at the foot of my bed every night, the hole inside my heart deepens. Irish has passed but I can’t say goodbye to him. I tell him daily that I will see him again. Somehow, someday, we have to be reunited. He was the perfect son, the perfect companion, and I love him with every part of me. I will miss him forever. He was a terrific soul.