Goodbye, Alice the Wonder Dog

To Alice, the Wonder Dog, my loyal friend…
As Alice, my loyal friend and pet for nearly 15 years, comes to the end of her days, I thought it best to write some words. As life for us all is a precious thing, but also something fleeting, it seems appropriate that we celebrate a life with words, something else that is outwardly ephemeral (words as sounds vanish even as we utter them) but that has something of the eternal (that to which words refer – ideas and sentiments – linger on). Abraham Lincoln, in those words from the Gettysburg Address, suggests this transitory nature of the spoken word – “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here,” Lincoln noted – ironically, those words of Lincoln provide the most lasting memorial to the Union dead, because the sentiments and ideas expressed in Lincoln’s speech have lasted.
Alice, my precious black pug, did not consecrate or hallow any battlefield. Her achievements in the larger world are quite small, like the dog herself, and not noteworthy. But she was a great dog, and that is worth something. And she will be remembered by those who saw her in action, or watched her in inaction – she did exhaustion very well, maybe better than any other dog.
For me, Alice will always be dog # 1 – I didn’t have a dog when I was a kid, and though Carla and I have had many pets, dogs included, Alice was, very much, my dog.
Unlike Irma, one of the smartest dogs I’ve seen, who knew how to manipulate objects to her purposes, Alice was not so brilliant. If left in a room where the door was a bit ajar, Irma would know that is she pushed at the door, it would open far enough for her to proceed. Alice, for a good part of her life, would just wait patiently for someone to do something about the door. It didn’t occur to her to push. She did, though, seem to learn a bit about cause and effect when it comes to doors later in life, and sometimes took action rather than a wait and see attitude.
She was not the fireball of enthusiasm or energy of Irma, or of Pippin, another of our dogs, or of Phoebe, currently our youngest dog. But she could, in her younger days, get up a great deal of speed and was a demon at running along the fence when dogs in the neighbor’s yard would be out. And she did win 1st prize in her age class at one of the annual pug flings in Auburn, KS, for the speed at which she moved in the pug races.
Bu boy, she had a hunter’s eye for dropped food, or food hovering over the edge of a plate, which might fall, and if it did, she was there before anyone, Irma included. As her eyesight became worse over the years, and she developed cataracts, she lost this gift. She retained, though, until very late, her sense of hearing, and was the one dog who especially seemed to notice whether the upstairs door latched closed, or whether there was the chance to get upstairs into the stash of cat food.
I remember her darting out into the yard when still a puppy when we had the first deep snow. Bounding off the steps into the yard, she landed in snow that came all the way to her shoulders. It surprised her, but she loved it and romped in the snow before prancing up the ramp into the house.
I also recall her distinctive pug head tilt whenever I said the word “Chushingura” – the word is a Japanese word meaning “loyalty,” and it is the title of the 1962 cinematic retelling of the story of the 47 Ronin of the Genroku Era, directed by Hiroshi Inagaki. My wife, Carla, cannot understand my own fascination with the 47 Ronin story, and when I was telling her about Inagaki’s version, which features a nice bit about the treatment of dogs, and I spoke the title, Alice did a double pug head tilt. And whenever I said it for the next few months, same thing. That did not happen with any of the other dogs (Marcel, Irma and Daisy at the time), but only Alice. I like to think it is because she was ever loyal to me. And now the day we must part is coming soon. I hate to let my little friend go, but life is not forever, and an extended life when the body fails seems a rather pitiful existence.
When she would give it her all running around in the yard, or following us about as we did yardwork in the spring, summer or fall, she’d come back into the house, stretch out on the floor (cool tile in hot weather, and warmer carpet in cool weather), or lie flat on my lap, if I was resting too, and lifting her head a bit, would utter a sound a lot like a horse shuddering and drop her head to be level with her flattened out body. It is that sound more than any other I associated with Alice, but now her exhausted body no longer has the strength to make the exertion, and so, she no longer makes that sound. Thinking of it makes me sad, and will for a while. But the Alice of story and memory, well, she’ll always be around, still proudly # 1.

3 Responses to “Goodbye, Alice the Wonder Dog”

  1. 1 Gwen
    August 7, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    She will always be to me. …………Alice with the chalice and the brew that was true! Her heart was full of laughter and love.

  2. August 18, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    What a beautiful tribute. I’m so sorry for your loss.

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