Sawyer was my 13-year-old black Lab whose arthritis finally got the best of him in 2008. He still managed to take shorter walks as an Ascripton and glucosamine addict, and I wanted to give him one last visit to the beach since his time appeared to be drawing near. When I rented a house on Galveston Island, I believed it would be his last vacation there. But I didn’t realize how dramatic the end would be.
Because Sawyer could not navigate stairs, I purchased a customized canvass carrying bag that allowed me to insert his four legs into separate holes and snap a handle together across his spine—a Sawyer suitcase for toting his reduced 56-pound body wherever his legs could not go. Although he could no longer romp in the surf chasing tennis balls as he had in his youth, Sawyer still seemed to be enjoying himself. He stretched out for hours on the sand and let the Gulf of Mexico waters tickle his paws. A couple of times the old man even stood up and ducked his snout in the foam. I’d swear he was smiling, but it’s hard to tell with Labs who seem to have a permanent smile anyway.
The reverie ended about 9:30 the night of June 24, 2008, after I let him walk down to the water for his nightly whiz before bed. On the way back to the house, I noticed he had veered off the path about a dozen feet to my left and into a knee-high stand of scrub brush. As I motioned him back toward the trail, I saw the first rattlesnake strike. Sawyer looked up with a whimper and sad eyes that said, “Oh, oh. I’m in trouble now, boss.” He crumpled a bit with the second strike. Then I watched a huge rattler bite down on the chest and actually pull him further into the scrub. I thought for a moment I’d have to wade in after the old guy. Then I saw him crawling out and moving back toward the trail. He collapsed in paralysis a few minutes later on the back porch and died on the way to an animal emergency clinic about an hour’s drive from the house. I was with him in the rear of the van when I actually witnessed the life vanish from his body. He still had that Sawyer smile.
If you want to meet Sawyer, I still have a memorial on my web site, “Taylor’s Hole in the Web” at http://home.comcast.net/~gtaylor713. There’s also another section there with more shots of different dogs from around the world called “Leader of the Pack.” Be our guest and let me know what you think.
Sawyer is survived by another old Lab named Shane. He turns 13 in 2009 but is still running around like a puppy. Ever since his old buddy died, however, Shane has refused to stay in my backyard where they both grew up together. Maybe there’s a ghost.
And we had our revenge two months later when Hurricane Ike stormed across the island destroying that house. I turned on the TV and saw film of rattlesnakes running from the storm. I don’t believe they had anywhere to go.
Now, after wagging my tail and scratching out four stars on my review of this book, I need to go see a man about a dog.
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