I always knew it was going to be hard to say goodbye to him. From our first meeting, he captured my heart and took up residence within it. He left this world on Tuesday, the last day in September.
Howie was a shelter dog, although how anyone could leave such an adorable striped puppy behind, I could never imagine. But their foolishness was my fortune, because Howie -- as I've said many times before -- was the very best dog I've ever had.
He was a wonderful traveler, even when we had to drive for ten hours in a day, always cheerful, completely trustworthy, delighting in McDonald's for a breakfast egg.
And how he could run! We knew from the shelter that his mother was a German shepherd mix, and from his topline it was clear that he had some Queensland heeler in him, but whether the stripes came from a whippet or a greyhound, who knows? In a run with other dogs, there would come a point when Howie would just shift gears, and change from a rollicking mutt to a speed machine, leaving every other dog far behind.
When Alex and John brought Lillian home from the hospital, Howie carefully sniffed her, and then put the top of his head against her newborn feet. And then the cat walked in, and Howie ran him off with great roars of warning. Never was Howie anything but gentle and loving with the girls; as soon as Joan could crawl, Howie always cleaned her face as he passed by. (She loved it.)
He always had his eye on me, to follow me through the house, to keep me company outside. Even on his last day, he took up a station on the loveseat near my rocking chair, and every time I looked up, if he was awake, he was watching me. My dear, dear boy.
What I don't know how to speak of is how much I dreaded him getting older; he did it fairly gracefully, but the first time I saw him fall down, nearly two years ago, my heart started breaking. I knew that I wouldn't have him for very long after that, and was surprised that he made it into his fourteenth year.
In July he had a visit to the vet and she was impressed at how well he was aging, even though she managed to use the phrase "because he is so old" about ten times. But by then, he couldn't go for walks any more -- he could make it about a block up the street and back, and it would wear him out.
Over the past few weeks we saw him decline rapidly, falling down more and more often, sleeping most of the time, choosing to doze on our bed rather than keep us company outside. He began to withdraw, at night putting himself in the farthest location from us in our bedroom.
I miss him so much.
There will be other dogs in my life, I'm sure. I like dogs, and after all, my abuelita Grammy Palos always said that one should have animals around to let you know if there's anything evil about. But I strongly suspect that there will never be another one even close to Howie.
Howie Zimm 2001 - 2014