Today marks the anniversary of a sad day for our household because our beloved dog, Antar (named after the mythical Antar Ibn Shadad, the pre-Islamic desert warrior and poet), went to doggie heaven. It wasn't because of any of those debilitating diseases that dogs inevitably get. You see, Antar passed his fifteenth birthday on Valentine’s Day last. Because of his size—he weighed in at 72 pounds—he fell into that class of large breeds who have a life expectancy of no more than twelve years or so before being called to doggy heaven. But, the old boy defied the actuarial tables as he was 15 years and 4 months old at his passing.
We knew the day was coming for the last four years even though we
hated to think of it. Antar was with us since he was a puppy. When we
moved in to our new house, he was given to us by one of the workmen
whose dog had given birth six weeks before. My wife, Lorrie, who always
claimed she was afraid of dogs, immediately fell in love with the
frightened little fellow. And when she took him into her arms all her
fears evaporated. Antar was the first dog we ever had.
might guess, we didn’t know anything about raising dogs, so we invested
in a personal trainer to come by each week and teach us the basics of
dog ownership. The thing we didn’t understand then was that we were
truly making an addition to our little family—one that would require not
only training, but love, care, and understanding.
Antar is a
mixed breed—the trainer said he saw some Lab, Shepherd, and Ridgeback in
the little guy. We immediately took our new child to a veterinarian to
be checked out. We told Dr. Paul that Bob, who had given us this boy,
said Antar wouldn’t grow to much over forty pounds. The vet took one
look at Antar’s huge paws and said, “Bob lied.” Sure enough Dr.
Paul was right and Antar soon began packing weight on to his expanding
frame. By the time he was two, he weighed in at 92 pounds! Bob was off
by more than a factor of two! The “big guy” was perpetually hungry.
Initially, we went by the feeding program on the back of the dog food
bag, and gave him upwards of six cups of chow daily, which he gladly
scarfed up. Dr. Paul said we should only feed him once a day and also
put him on an exercise program.
Thus began our daily walking
routine. I decided it would be nice to take Antar for a walk around the
lake—a distance of two miles. After we had gone a little over a mile, I
noticed that the leash had gone taught. I turned to see the poor guy
lying down, panting at a faster pace and showing no inclination to get
up. “What have I done!” I panicked. The poor guy was tuckered out, so I
knelt beside him and stroked his head while waiting for him to get his
second wind. Well, he stopped three more times before we made it
back home. When I told my wife what happened, the berating began and I
thought I’d never hear the end of it. I took my companion down to the
pool to let him cool off in the shallow end. When he got out he was
completely rejuvenated and thus a ritual was born—a walk then the pool.
It took only a week of daily walks around the lake for Antar to became
completely conditioned to our exercise routine. Six months later when I
took him to the vet for a checkup, his weight was down to 72 pounds!
Initially, I didn’t think it was a good idea to have a dog in the house all the time so I rigged up a long wire run to let Antar roam
freely in the back yard. He didn’t like this arrangement one little bit,
and let us know it by barking and whining incessantly. “He’ll get used
to it,” I said. That’s how much I knew. He just wouldn’t stop, and to
let me know how displeased he was with this arrangement, he dug a hole
in my newly sodded lawn that looked like the beginnings of an escape
tunnel to China. He made such a fuss that I had to abandon the
experiment of making Antar an outdoor dog. I should have understood from
this experience that I was not going to be the master in this
relationship, but I continued to delude myself nonetheless.
liked taking Antar with me when I had errands to run, and the weather
was cool enough, because I observed from trips to the vet that he loved
riding in the car. He very quickly learned to dash to the garage door
whenever I said, “Want to go for a ride?” I think ride was one of the
first words he learned. I’d put my buddy in the back seat and start down
the road, giving the usual commands I’d learned from the trainer such
as “sit” and “stay.” Inevitably we’d get about a block from the house
before Antar decided he liked the front passenger seat better than the
perch he’d been assigned in back. Believe me when I say there was no
deterring him when he made such a decision. So, there he would sit, next
to me, totally unperturbed at whatever discipline I dished out. When I
got to my destination, I’d leave the windows open of course, make a dash
in and out of the store and return to the car. Inevitably, when I
returned, there was Antar sitting in the driver’s seat. “So, you’re
going to drive me home, are you?” I’d ask, to an authoritative return
stare. When he saw that I was going drive him around some more, he’d hop
back over to the passenger side. I think he would have been perfectly
happy riding around in a limousine with me dressed as a chauffeur.
Antar became our home guardian as well, and would start barking
before we even knew someone was approaching the house. The doorbell sent
him into paroxysms of woofing. This was his abode, he was its
protector, and everybody within earshot would know it. Often, when I
answered the door, the visitor was already half-way down the walk.
That's how ferocious his bark was.
There were other things he
did that were memorable, of course. I recall the time I had made a
sandwich for lunch, got distracted to fetch a beer, and came back to
find my culinary creation had disappeared. How he could reach up to the
counter and snatch my sandwich without a trace I never knew. But, I had
to break out in laughter as Antar cocked his head and presented me with
his patented look of innocence.
Antar was loved by everyone who
came to visit. Even the two feral cats that we've been feeding, always
ran up to nuzzle our boy when we walked him outside. He pretended he
didn't like it, but I think he really did.
In the last few years
of his life, Antar couldn't bear to be away from his mistress, Lorrie.
He would hop up and follow her everywhere. At night, he even came to the
bedroom and commanded, with a bark, that she come out to the family
room and stay with him. Thus they spent the last weeks of his life
ANTAR'S LAST DAY WITH US
So, I hope you can
understand, and indulge me this last tribute to my best friend. Life
wasn't fun for the big guy any longer. His rear legs had become
enfeebled, and it was difficult to get him up to go outside. He would
often even growl when I tried to help him, so it obviously wasn't
pleasant for him either. Four weeks ago the vet suggested that we
consider putting Antar "to sleep." My wife and I were extremely sad and
said we'd think about it. I tried all sorts of prostheses to see if
they would help. Alas, none of the doggie booties I bought worked. His
pads had become so slippery that he could no longer walk on the tile
floors without help. Thus the dreaded appointment was made for
this morning. I cradled Antar's head in my lap as he took his last
breath. I hope he didn't see our tears, for they flowed in unabated
The house is empty now. Goodbye dear friend we will miss you.