Our hearts are broken
The thing is, he hated being away from us.
So, over the years, we would reassure him when we had to leave, telling him we’d see him in “a few little minutes.”
Maybe he disliked being alone. After all, he came from a big family, a litter of ten.
He was a Christmas gift from my father.
The first time we saw him, at the breeder’s home, we fell in love. You can imagine the chaos: ten 6-week-old puppies, frolicking in the somewhat confined space of the kitchen, slipping on the hardwood floors, growling at each other, pulling the socks off one of my feet to play tug of war.
But even then Murphy was different. He crawled, shyly, onto Chad’s lap, then scooted up his chest to lick his face and cuddle with him alone.
You might say Murphy chose us.
He was incredibly smart. We thought he must have a photographic memory because on his twice-daily walks, beginning as a little puppy, he would notice anything that was out of the ordinary. Political signs, especially, would be approached warily, warned with a low growl that Murphy was prepared to defend his family from this unknown potential threat if that became necessary.
Even at 12 weeks, he had his doubts about politicians. How smart is that!
Somehow, during one of my business trips to NRJ in Paris, which always lasted at least two weeks, Shannon taught him to walk off-leash. He learned to stop at every street corner or curb and wait for permission — the word “release” — before going forward, even if a cat, or his most disliked adversary, a squirrel, dashed in front of him.
I think he always took a bit of pride seeing he was the only dog in the neighborhood trusted to walk without a tether.
One morning, a few years ago, I had let him out into the front yard for his usual morning sniff and pee. It was early, before 6am, and when he didn’t show up standing at the front door a few minutes later, I walked out, rounded the corner and saw him nose-to-nose with a rather large coyote. They weren’t fighting. They weren’t even growling. Murphy was actually wagging his tail. When the coyote saw me, he calmly walked down our driveway and up the street.
Murphy had made another friend.
He was destined for greatness in the show ring, the blood of grand champions coursing through his veins. Muphy became the first of his siblings to champion, at barely 9 months, defeating 37 other, older, more experienced wheatens in that last show.
I explained to his breeder, who did all the showings, the trick was in the incentive. I told Murphy before each show he entered that he would get a bacon-wrapped filet mignon cooked medium rare if he won.
He won every show in which he was entered.
Once, returning from several weeks in Europe and Asia, Murphy met me at the airport, licking every inch of my face, squeaking with unrestrained joy at my return. A cop, on duty, murmured, “I wish someone was that happy to see me when I go home.”
Murphy was unusually sweet, especially good with children and older people. Ears and fur yanked and pulled, he’d just lick the little face in front of him and wag his tail. He didn’t have an aggressive bone in his body.
He found joy in the most mundane, stalking treats with head feints, tossing them in the air so he could chase and catch them.
He loved the snow. He loved going for rides in the car. He loved bacon and steaks and cheese. He loved his walks.
He loved us.
Surely, we’re given a glimpse of the Divine by these creatures, so unlike us, who devote every breath of their lives to our happiness, who love us, and we them, so completely. Murphy felt like a miracle granted us every single day.
He celebrated his 14th birthday October 29, with a steak — but we already knew it would be his last. Murphy was diagnosed with rectal cancer shortly before, and we — Shannon, Chad and I — began grieving even then.
We couldn’t imagine life without him. We still can’t.
You see, we always hated being away from him.
And the hardest part yesterday, doing what we knew we must, was looking into his eyes and telling him not to worry, to trust us, that this was best for him, away from his pain and suffering, even if that meant being away from us.
As his eyes closed, and his little tail thumped the bed, we “released” him.
We let him go.
We love you, Murphy. Thank you for every wonderful day and night, every moment of pure delight and love you gave us.
You were the best dog ever. You did such a good job.
Rest now. Don’t worry, ok?
We’ll be with you soon, in just a few little minutes…