A Last Ode to Old Man Doug

Old Man Doug Be Calm
Courtesy of Carolyn Magner Mason

Shortly after we moved in, Doug, both blind and deaf and occasionally daft, did an entirely unexpected thing. Frankly, I didn’t know he had it in him. It was a warm afternoon, and the cable guy was working on the TV when I came downstairs looking for my little sidekick. That’s when I saw he had left the back door ajar and Doug had sauntered on out. The little sneak. I had only been in the new neighborhood for a few days, but that didn’t stop me from running, shrieking like a madwoman, down the street.

“Doug, Doug!” I shouted, and then, because this is a town where dogs are a big deal, people started coming out of their houses, cars pulled over, and suddenly, a group effort was mounted.

I didn’t even know my own way around yet, but motorists hung out the window, yelling things like, “Brown dog running toward Route One!”

I found him standing stock still in the middle of traffic. Cars screeched to a stop, and I dashed into the road and scooped him up. “Bad dog,” I yelled into his occluded ears, but he just snuggled into my arms and let out a big sigh.

It appeared he was headed south.

A week later he escaped for a second time. One sunny afternoon we loaded a bunch of boxes into our car and headed off to the recycling center. Seldom did I ever leave the house without kissing the old guy goodbye. This time I yelled up the stairs that I’d see him in a minute.

About an hour later, we saw a woman walking down the street with two dogs on a leash.

“Can you believe there’s another dog that looks so much like our fellow?” exclaimed my husband. He pulled the car over to get a better look.

Yes. It was Doug, and the Good Samaritan who found him trotting down the busy street was not amused. In fact, she stiffly told us that she had taken him to the local vet and discovered he was not microchipped. Again, he’d been headed south.

Credit: Carolyn Mason
Doug chases waves at the beach in his younger years.

The next day, I took him and his 18 years of medical records to the local vet and had him chipped. The vet, who recognized what a fine dog Doug was (and acknowledged his handsomeness), reminded me that dogs have to adjust, just like their owners. But she felt like his waning appetite and increasing fragility was still minor compared with how spry he was for his age. And she did not accuse me of being a negligent owner at all. “Everything takes time,” she said gently.

So really, I thought I had time.

Meanwhile, he was our instant connection to this new town. Everywhere I went, people with dogs or people who love dogs would stop and exclaim over my little guy. While most people are attracted to puppies, I was amazed at how many people truly appreciate the quality and dignity of a senior dog. His age created immediate rapport as people told me their own old dog stories. And even if the walks gradually became too much, I would bend down, scoop up all 19 pounds of him, and carry him home. Sometimes, those encounters were the only human ones I had all day. Doug was doing pretty well.

And then, it got cold.

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