Last night the old family dog and frequent contributor to this blog McGwire passed away. In many ways his last days were like my mom’s, constant health problems and having no permanent home for more than too long. He lived 14 years, unless my math is incorrect, not that it makes a difference at all. He was an old dog who still often times had the wonderment of a puppy.
Fortunately we knew McGwire was sick and I got to see him last week before passing. I stole some gourmet dog treats from work in hopes these might brighten his day. I suppose they temporarily did.
The story of McGwire is not a simple one. We first got him back in 1999, a few months after the home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Since I have a white family, we rooted for Mark McGwire to succeed. We were thinking about getting a black cat and naming it Sosa, but chose not to and thank goodness we didn’t because Sammy Sosa is white now.
I remember the first time I held McGwire. He had shit on his feet. The shit on his feet go onto my shirt, smearing Tino Martinez’s face. The woman at the animal shelter said this was his way of saying he liked me. I knew immediately we would be mortal enemies.
The summer was spent raising McGwire, teaching him how to behave better and potty train. He had our first dog Baylee to learn from, but being the youngest he was always the spoiled one. McGwire immediately took the biggest liking to my mom. Whenever I questioned it my mom would say “it’s because I’m the mom” as if this justified him ignoring everyone else and being obedient to her.
As time went on McGwire grew closer to my mom than anyone else. He still loved us and we loved him, but it was clear he was her dog. He never quite learned how to play well outside as he was a dog who went by his own rules. Fetch for him was a one step process, running to the ball and then not bringing it back.
After our parents sold our house he stayed with my mom. In that 2-3 year period I saw him a lot less. When I did see him it was almost like he didn’t even know me. He would bark like we had never met before and I was a threat or stare out me with no emotions. I would only see him a few times when he lived exclusively with my mom until she died.
When my mom died McGwire came to live with me. This was not the most convenient situation. McGwire would be alone for 10 hours every day on days I went to work. Amazingly he only ever pooped once in the house over those 20 months he lived with me and never once peed inside. Coming from a sick dog left alone who loved people, I appreciated his strong bladder and bowel.
The longer McGwire lived with me the more attached I became. He had without me wanting it to happen become my dog. I was in no position to take care of a dog nor could I take on the financial responsibilities fully. Still, there were no other options available. If I didn’t take him then he would end up in a shelter or worse, with someone I didn’t like.
At the end of last year I decided to move and McGwire would not come with me, while ironically I was actually in a better position to take care of him as I was jobless. Thankfully a friend of my sister’s was able to take him in and give him more love than I ever could have. He would have a yard, cats to keep him company all day, and more than a small apartment to roam around in. McGwire had won a retirement plan.
Not everything McGwire gave the world was perfect. His poop was gross and his butt looked like an elephant’s face/my elementary school librarian. Having him in my apartment gave me bad allergy attacks at times and his selfish need to eat for survival cost me much of my social life for the good part of two years as I always had to make sure he got what he needed. Still, I tried not to complain. Taking care of him the best I could meant sacrificing other moments and opportunities in life. I think I did this because it was the simplest way I knew how to honor my mom.
Despite his brief shortcomings, McGwire was a loving dog. Behind kicking me off the couch every night at midnight, getting into my trash every so often only to find nothing interesting, and making most meals I ate intrusive to my knees, he was a great dog. He was a ladies man, choosing girls over me anytime. M.C. Gwire had a temperament that was near perfect and a breath far from it. He might be gone, but his presence will always be felt. McGwire is the reason why I wanted a job working with dogs in the first place. He gets a lot of the credit for every hug I give a dog at work. He gets a lot of the credit for every baby-talk voice I do that makes a dog’s ears go back and tail wag. Best of all, McGwire is the reason why I never learned to pick up food if I drop it.
Here’s to you McGwire. I cannot cry over your death because I know if I did you would just come sit next to me and kiss my face anyway like you always did before. Instead I’ll eat a lot of candy today (that’s my excuse for eating a lot of candy) because you always loved food. I hope wherever you have gone has a cool bathroom floor for you to lay on and nobody ever turns away when you breathe in their face. Thanks for the love you gave everyone.
The hardest part of death is always that the world never stops. People can give you sympathy. They can let you relax on responsibilities. The world just keeps going though no matter what our mood is. Before I even knew he was gone I had a dream with him in it. I have always hoped that dreams are us entering another world, perhaps even an afterlife. If this was somehow the case, he seemed to be happier, younger, and healthier than ever.