I didn't think I'd be so sad.....
We inherited Floyd from Tassajara ten years ago. Floyd was then called Madra....a perfectly horrible name for a dog. MAH-drah. Yuk.
Madrah was a Nason dog....part Border Collie and part.....who knows? Tallish, all black with white toes and a white blaze on his chest. There used to be tons of these dogs around. The last one I know is the English guy with the Jaguars across from the Rose's above Calle Cielo. His dog madly runs out in the road challenging cars.....a Nason dog.
Floyd was being banished by Tassajara because he was charging guests. Not money....just rushing up to them in a way that the guests perceived to be aggressive.
Turns out that Nason dogs are supersmart, and super near-sighted. Madrah was just running up to make a new friend....too close and too fast for uptight rich people.
Everyone involved of course missing the lesson that the Buddah would have taught......
So....Madrah had to go. Can't scare the Gooses that lay the Golden Eggs....
An elderly couple in Berkeley wanted to adopt him....with a tiny back yard and no walks. Madrah was the go to guy for days off for the monks, always ready for a ten mile hike up to The Indians or the caves, familiar with every inch of a hundred square miles of back country. Berkeley, no way. We brought him to Buck Mountain instead.
Madrah hated small, cute, furry things: squirrels, kitties, blue jays. He HATED blue jays....was better with squirrels, but I suspect that part of his banishment from Tassajara had to do with his obsession with one of the senior monk's cats.....
Madrah was the project of one of the monks at Tassajara.....Sonia. Sonia eventually followed Madrah in banishment from the mountain. She did teach him some skills: Madrah would bow like a monk on command; Madrah would balance on his back legs for a treat; and Madrah was an inspired vocal tenor.
Part of the Tassajara work day is Work Circle....Every morning after breakfast, and every afternoon after lunch the entire tribe gathers in a giant circle for announcements of news, policy, staffing, etc. The work circle welcomes new guests and workers, says goodbye and thank you to departing workers, discusses work assignments....and recognizes birthdays by singing.
One of the odd side effects of studying statistics is the realization that in any group of 50 people the odds of any two of them having the same birthday are 50-50. Extrapolated out....this means that in any group of 50 or so....there is nearly always a birthday. This is why we only sing "Happy Birthday You Asshole" at The Store....because we, like hookers at The Bunny Farm....don't need to know your name. Our pleasure is supposedly not important....only yours.
For Madrah...with two Work Circles a day....it meant a LOT of Happy Birthday songs. Madrah learned to sing along. Madrah would sit down on his butt and howl like Pavarotti.
The other odd thing about Madrah when he came to us was that he was completely unused to public forms of expression of.....love or affection. If I hugged Amanda for more than a minute or so....Madrah sought to intervene. Not just us....anyone. I think the Tassajara sexual relationship/harassment policy was ingrained in the poor lad at a genetic level. He also didn't know what "Good Dog" was....and we had to teach him to like to be petted.
When Madrah arrived at Buck Mountain we instantly changed his name. My boys renamed him for their favoritie character in their favorite movie: the Brad Pitt part of the stoner in True Romance: Floyd.
Floyd lived nine years with us. He learned to accept and understand human love and affection. Floyd became a fan of the Wolverhampton Wolves......say "Wolverhampton" around Floyd and he would jump up and sing. Any morning a chorus was required for whatever reason, just a few notes of "Happy Birthday" or "Wolverhampton!"....and Floyd was the choirmaster.
But...in our house, Floyd was not the Alpha Dog.....Xabi arrived and Floyd's dark, bitter notes caused him to recede to the background in contrast to Xabi's flamboyant star status. Always there and ready for a hike...and always there and ready to point out which dish had more or less, and which dish had more or less stuff. Floyd was far and away the smartest of the dogs...with the best language skills.....so he was always aware of his decreased position, and his intelligence turned his status into something Dickensian: "Please, Sir....can I have another?"
Still, Floyd never lost his Tassajara upbringing. He was kooky for bread. Especially good bread, and good butter. In his younger years he would race off and bury a particularly good piece on the point of the hairpin opposite our mailbox. Still today you could find a cellar of our better bread efforts buried there.
And good cheese. The sound of the toaster going down for a solitary sandwich at 3am always brought an audience of Floyd. The fancy dogs turned their nose up at the cheese rinds, Floyd was all about it.
Last week he had a stroke, and lost control of his back legs....a little at first, then total. He was such a gentleman that he never lost his bowels in the house....would wait to be carried outside. He fought to the end to show his independence, dragging himself up and down the stairs to be with the pack, even though by comparison we are all idiot knuckleheads.
Amanda made the call that there is a better place waiting for him. "You will come back a monk....a better monk than those guys!" At the word "monk", Floyd's ears popped up.
He spent two bad days in obvious distress. I laced him with Vicodin. We carried him about, but it was clear that our time together was done.
Floyd had never been to the vet. Never had a rabies shot....never seen the inside of scary, sterile, tiled office. We poured the internet for solutions: pistol, heroin hotshot, visiting vet death angel. In the end we decided that he lived such a kind, aware life that a bullet was not the way to go out of it.
In the end, I found some Oxycontin from my friend DJ in a drawer....and we loaded Floyd up with a fatal dose, along with some Xanax, some of Micah's really good bread with good Wisconsin butter and Schoch Family cheese......and drove him to the vet's. We sang "Happy Birthday" and the Wolverhampton Fight Song.....and hope and pray that our efforts love and support in the end were worthy of the dignity of this fine animal.
Jesus apparently said something about how in the end we are judged by how we treat the lowest and most helpless amongst us....
Here is Robinson Jeffers about that....
The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat or coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawn ruins it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.
I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk; but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, but still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance. I gave him the lead gift in the twilight. What fell was relaxed,
Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear
at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.
Robinson Jeffers 1928