BASS: Remembering Austin
It’s ironic that it snowed last Friday.
Austin loved the snow. He’d frolic through it and do what we called porpoising, running his nose into the snow and then leaping up.
If a dog could smile, Austin did.
The snow made me cry when it started to fall that night. Everything is making me cry.
His bed is gone, moved to the garage for now. His dog-food dishes are washed and stored away. The SPCA has his food.
I see a bit of dog hair and cry again.
It’s stunning that I have cried more over this dog than I did when either of my parents died.
But, there’s a reason.
It’s because Austin was our dog.
He knew enough, when we were meeting dogs to find one to adopt, to run to me, put his paws in my hand and give me that look only a dog can give.
I was smitten. He came home with us that day.
He was a beautiful border collie-German shepherd cross who two other families adopted from the animal-technology program at Thompson Rivers University, only to return him.
Too high-strung, one said. Too much energy, another apparently said.
Yes, he was both, but those weren’t negatives. Those were endearing characteristics that simply made us love him more.
Austin could almost levitate; even the staff at TRU warned us they would come in some mornings to find he had somehow leaped out of his kennel and was several kennels away, playing with a friend.
We had our own kennel for him.
He could jump out of it, despite its six-foot-high chain-link walls. So, we put a tarp over it.
He chewed through it to get out to run with the coyotes in the hills behind our house.
We put plastic lattice sheets over it. He chewed through them.
We put plastic tarp and lattice sheets over it and he decided to chew through the chain link walls to get out and run with the wildlife.
We blocked them with piles of bricks, so he dug his way out through the bottom. He was finally stopped when we put tongue-and-groove flooring in — although he did his darnndest to dig them up.
Not that he spent much time in the kennel. Just when we weren’t home and he was still young and felt that need to run through the hills behind our yard or head to the neighbour’s yard to take a dip in his pond.
He never begged at the table, but would simply sit beside my hubby and wait until the fork was put down for the final time.
Don’t ask me how he knew, but he did and he would give Alan that look — the one that meant, “Where are my duck strips, mister?”
Only after having them would he eat his dinner. It used to bug me; now, it just makes me cry to think of it.
He loved to go for long walks and meet other dogs in the neighbourhood.
His great delight was to go off the leash and run through the fields.
Of course it was.
When it came time to explain to the boys that the vet couldn’t fix Austin, my youngest, who walked him most days and who lives with autism, asked: “Who will I walk with now?”
It broke my heart.
The cruelty of this is, just before the vet did what she had to do that I wish she didn’t have to do but she did, Austin was wagging his tail, hugging us, going from one to the other, just loving us.
The reality is this would not have lasted. He was dying.
He just didn’t know it yet.
I wish I could explain why his death hurts so much more than that of my parents. Perhaps it’s because they were dying for a long time.
Maybe it’s because the diseases that killed them they caused themselves through their own lifestyles.
Or, maybe it’s just because what some saw as an unmanageable dog I saw as a free spirit who loved to run, to play in the snow, to open his own presents at Christmas and to then proceed to rip each stuffy apart to get to the squeaky inside.
In his own way, Austin became more than just a member of the family.
Don’t ask me to explain it. If you own a pet, you understand.