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I remember being in a bookstore when my wife called me over. She had found a book about dog breeds. Handy charts rated dog breeds on a number of scales. We looked up “American Fox Hound”. My dog Kirby was a stray, probably a mutt, found in a Texas cemetery, near death. A vet told me he looked most like an American Fox Hound. More or less.

The book listed the qualities one might find in a dog. Kirby started off scoring high. Traits like loyalty, friendliness, being good with kids, and being protective all were strong traits. And then there were the categories Kirby scored low in. Ability to learn tricks. Ease of house training. Intelligence. Anything that required more of a brain than chasing after a squirrel.

Kirby, American Fox Hound-ish.

Yep, that sealed it for me. He was a fox hound. Gentle and sweet as can be. And dumb as a rock.

Kirby was my buddy for a decade. He’d been by my side and underfoot through every major change.  A wife. Another dog. A little girl, followed by a little boy. Four houses in two states. My family and life grew and changed, and Kirby was my constant. My sweet, stupid, faithful constant.

Kirby was put down this morning. X-rays yesterday explained his fatigue and pain. Cancer had grown and spread. We could take him home with us until his pain became intolerable, but that just seemed cruel and selfish. His pain was already evident, his future already known to us. We decided now was best. He was very uncomfortable. Why wait until his pain was agonizing? The vet and vet staff agreed. We brought him home last night to have a final evening together. This morning, after a family photo, I took him to the vet.

A final family portrait

As the doctor administered the drugs, I petted Kirby’s side, and pulled back his floppy ear that had covered up his eye. My emotions were barely contained. Leaning in, I quietly repeated, “You’re a good boy, Kirby. Your a good, good boy.” Those were the last words he heard. I wanted him to know that, in spite of the time I threw a roll of paper towels at him (I was cleaning up his pee, and while doing that, he looked at me and peed again),  in spite of the time he ate the baby bird that fell from the nest on the back porch, in spite of the countless times he tracked in mud, in spite of the howling when the answering machine came on, in spite of chewed up carpet in two houses, in spite of peeing on my wife’s possessions when we first got married, in spite of the worst wet-dog smell I’ve ever smelled, in spite of being a dog that you couldn’t take on a walk because he wanted to sniff every little thing along the way, in spite of the numerous nights he’d disappear in the woods chasing a herd of deer only to get hopelessly lost until a neighbor would find him and call, in spite of my “free” dog costing me thousands in medical bills over the years, in spite of being absolutely no good at fetching, in spite of shedding all over everything . . . I wanted him to know that he was a good boy. He was gentle and faithful and loyal. He had run a good race.

Good boy, Kirby. Good boy.


(My wife has also written a lovely tribute to Kirby. Click here to read her blog post.)