He wasn’t even my dog. He lived on my road,
and always walked to the right side with his nose
to the ground, whether he was coming or going.
I met him about five years ago when my dog was just twelve weeks old. His name was Romeo. He was a hound mix and probably about six or seven years old back then.
At that time, I didn’t even know his human counterpart. I’ve always had difficulty referring to the human as the owner or master. I met Laurie as a result of Romeo’s deep brown soulful eyes, polite wag and noble manner. I’m grateful to him for the introduction. I made two friends that day.
Romeo put up with my pup’s juvenile clowning, even though it was clear that he had important hound business to attend to most of the time. He was handsome and doggedly dignified. He was always ready with a friendly greeting. I don’t think that was just because he knew that there were biscuits in my pockets. Actually, he didn’t accept my treats every time he saw me. He would let me know, without the slightest trace of self-consciousness or apology (ah, the beauty of being a dog), that my choice of biscuits wasn’t necessarily to his liking. The four of us — Romeo and Laurie, DJ and myself — took long walks regularly throughout the years. I’m certain my dog considered Romeo his best friend.
During our walks, I learned some things about Romeo: he was a rescue from a local shelter and came to live with the Rubinetti family when he was about two years old; he had epilepsy and needed to take drugs to manage his condition; he once devoured part of a deer that a neighbor had recently brought home from a hunting trip; he didn’t care who won the 2004 presidential election; and, on a summer vacation with his family at a beach house over nine hours away, he was insistent that the only proper way to enjoy the beach was to sit resolutely with your back to the ocean.
Lately, Romeo had been unable to accompany us on our walks. The last day we saw him we were driving down the road. My dog would always get excited at just a glimpse of his favorite pal. But that day was different. Romeo’s rear legs were shaking badly. He had difficulty walking. DJ just sat quietly on the backseat and looked bewildered by his friend’s appearance. He seemed to know that Romeo was different and wouldn’t be around much longer. For awhile, we had been hoping against the inevitability of the cycles of life.
Laurie planned for his last days. I told her that some veterinarians make house calls to euthanize a beloved animal, for the sake of both the animal’s and the family’s comfort. Laurie made the arrangements and also put together a simple, private funeral ceremony for Romeo. Just his immediate family was present. Romeo’s endearing, gentle soul was memorialized in the same way that he lived – without fanfare – instead with loyalty, love and integrity. He was buried under his favorite dogwood tree, where he liked to sit and watch the world go by. It’s only been a few months since Romeo died, and sometimes when I look out, I’m certain that I can still see Mount Joy Road’s elder canine statesman, happily shuffling along with his nose planted firmly to the ground.