Some fifteen years ago, my mom passed by one of the SPCA displays where volunteers sit with sad-looking, big-eyed mongrels in hopes of catching the sympathies of would-be adoptive parents. She took Rudy home with her that day on a trial basis, understanding that he had a somewhat...difficult personality and had a tendency to be aggressive with unfamiliar people and pretty much ALL other dogs.
Rudy certainly had his behavioral ups and downs over the years, but he was as devoted a companion to my mom as she was to him. When we finally had to uproot him from his familiar surroundings in Virginia, he handled each new situation with far more grace than I ever would have expected from him:
Two ten hour car drives, first to Ohio, then to Missouri. A new house and yard to learn the layout of. A small, noisy human with a penchant for pulling and poking doggy eyes, ears, noses and tails. And probably most confusing of all, watching his person become less and less attentive to his needs and increasingly less responsive to his familiar sniffs, licks and requests for back scratches.
Rudy was a cranky old man of a pup for most of his life, but he aged with dignity. We extended his life for perhaps an extra year by having half his teeth extracted and he never seemed to hold the experience against us. We put him through one last surgery this spring in hopes of helping him breathe easier and giving him a little more time, but in the end he seemed to know he was ready to go as he lost interest in eating or drinking. Our vet agreed that it was time to let him go, and on April 12 we stroked his soft head as he fell asleep one last time.
Rest in peace and dream of squirrels, puppy dog. As Nathan tells me regularly, "We miss Rudy."