Matty the Dog

My sweet dog Matty died. He was a thirteen year old basset hound/shepherd mix, so I feel lucky to have had him so long. The day after Christmas he suddenly had trouble climbing the back steps, and as I scooped the sixty pounds of him into my chest to get him back in, my gut told me this is probably the beginning of the end. In the next few weeks his spine was compressed, and he quickly deteriorated until he couldn't walk. It was time.

We had a gathering. It didn't occur to me that anyone would want to come over but people asked, and the day before, friends stuffed themselves into my tiny living room and surrounded him. He wagged his tail as everyone arrived.

Whenever I threw a party, Matty would figure out where the most in-the-way spot was and then spread out and fall asleep there so he was thrilled with the attention. He ate too many treats and got lots of ear scratches. We told stories and remembered good and naughty times: stolen chicken dinners, awkward short-legged dog paddling, walks in the park.

The vet came over. One of Matty's and my favorite things was laying on the floor together - he always called "little spoon"! - and for the last time I stretched my body against the long length of his and put my hand over his heart. It was some "mama bear" instinct; I just couldn't bear the thought of the doctor calling it. It beat against my palm, then slowed, then stopped. He died in my arms.

I hesitated to say anything here, actually, but this experience reinforced the biggest truth of my work, which is this: it's important, not because I'm so wonderful, but because I tell stories and preserve memories. I'm lucky, and looking over these photos is a powerful reminder.

Goodbye, friend. You were absolutely one of the best.

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