Looking back on it, I rather suspect that when I signed the animal shelter adoption papers for Quincy the dog on that cold December day in 2017, Quincy would have viewed it more as a “pre-nup” – or a sort of roommate agreement. From the day we found each other until the day we said goodbye a few weeks ago, Quincy always believed it was all about the relationship.
Perhaps it’s because I live without any other human beings. Or that Q. and I went through the Covid shut-down together. Or perhaps because he was already eight years old when we met. But, to him, that relationship dynamic was one of absolute commitment … and one of absolute equality. Not long into it, even I had to admit that it had evolved into a bond where we repeatedly experienced embarrassingly human “old-married-couple” syndrome. A sort of dependent independence.
Right from the beginning, Q. made it clear that there would be no walking on a leash. (Equal partners and all.) And you can’t be made to do so if you lie down in the middle of the street and refuse to budge. Or dig your toenails into the dirt and stand stiff-legged. Not when you weigh over 70 pounds – of pride, determination, and loose skin. He did condescend to wear a harness – but only because he believed it to be “bling.” And so we walked, side-by-side, at whatever pace he decided (stroll was his preference), taking whatever route he chose, stopping as often as he wanted to smell and look at and examine important stuff along the way. Usually, we walked the neighborhood; but sometimes in Hopelands, sometimes the Woods – but those were a struggle, because he never trusted me to know the way home. One of those “spouses” who think you can’t read a map.
Being the more social one of the two of us, he often detoured during our walks to go up to certain neighbors’ houses, to stand on the porch and stare at the door until invited in for a visit. Leaving me to stand at the curb, rough-whispering the “come” command with hands on hips, being totally ignored.
During pre-vaccine Covid days, this was especially problematic when he insisted on visiting a shut-in around the corner. We didn’t dare expose her to anything. So I had to literally drag him by the “bling” across the porch and down the steps and over the lawn back to the street. All the while telling him through clenched teeth that he needed to listen to me at least once in awhile, just to humor me. For the entire rest of the walk, he refused to come closer than ten feet behind me. I’d stop, he’d stop. I’d walk on (now nagging like an old fish-wife), he’d reluctantly come along, careful to keep his perfectly defined distance. And every time I would turn to look at him, he’d give me “the look” or pretend to be doing something else. All the way home. Old married couple, indeed.
To Quincy, obedience training was just a form of couples counseling. He insisted on assigned seating for every sofa and chair in the house. He had his own spot around the conference table during design and production meetings for my books. He thought telephone calls were intrusions by invisible people, and barked loudly and ceaselessly, looking for them from room to room throughout the call. He announced every coming and going to and from my house – just in case I didn’t notice.
But he also delighted in making me laugh, and he was constantly a goofball, always in a good mood. He loved to eat, and believed he could convince me it was meal time earlier and earlier every day. Every deed and occasion was treat-worthy. He was the cat’s personal protector and minion, and she outsmarted him at every turn.
Toward the end, he became even more blatantly the “old man” of the house. Every morning, he would come to see if I was up yet, shuffling down the hall clearing his throat and sinuses, coughing his phlegmy old-man cough – which caused him to simultaneously expel equal amounts of air and sound out the back end. It became his signature tune the last year or so – although, truth be told, he was always a gassy, burpy, drooly kind of dog, which made me laugh and I loved him all the more for it.
All too soon, it was time to let go. His pain was too much, his joy was passed. He retreated into solitude.
And then, on his last day, after his very last earthly breath, he gave me one last, long, noisome, “toot.” And then he was gone.
That was Quincy. And I miss him beyond the moon.