Marshal Dillon Dingle was supposed to be a temporary puppy.
We were supposed to take him in for a night, during which a friend was preparing for a big and complicated move to a place far away.
He didn’t even have a name, but one thing led to another, and JoHn fell in love with him, and then he did have a name.
And it was a good one.
And, as I have mentioned before, JoHn didn’t put that dang dog down until he weighed sixty pounds.
Puppy Marshal Dillon Dingle joined our pack just a week after I’d said goodbye to my soul dog. I truly would not have kept him permanently, as cute as he was. My heart was broken, and I wasn’t ready. But JoHn was, and he fell in love – pretty much immediately – with the little red and black scamp that Marshal was, and remained.
The other day was as normal as any other day normally is.
There were many ‘outs’, and many ball throwings with Daddy and Blaze. There was even a fun jaunt in to the garage to get wood, where Marshal followed JoHn around, chomping his tennis ball all the while, reminding JoHn that he had it (should JoHn suddenly feel like putting the wood down and throwing the ball… at which time Marshal would happily go get it and bring it right back… chomp chomp chomp).
I can’t remember what we had for dinner that night, but I remember getting it ready while JoHn fed the dogs, and then they had a quick post-dinner ‘out’ before we sat down to eat and watch something on Netflix.
Blaze and Marshal took their places, lying down and dozing while we ate and watched the show. JoHn puttered his way into the kitchen with the dishes at one point, and came back into the room.
When the show was over, he said he was going to head upstairs to read a bit after he took the dogs out one last time. I sat up, getting ready to start turning off the lights. I heard JoHn say ‘Okay guys, c’mon!’ and Blaze was up and JoHn circled back into the vampire room. Marshal generally lies in the doorway between the two rooms when Blaze takes over his chipmunk channel ‘window bed’.
“Lis? There’s something wrong with Marshal.”
JoHn’s voice, nervous.
I used my ‘stay calm’ voice.
“Okay. Okay, I’m coming.”
The memory is in slow motion now.
I’m walking around JoHn’s chair.
I’m heading toward the doorway.
JoHn’s standing over Marshal, who looks absolutely fine, except he isn’t up and wagging his tail and going to get his ball, which my mind doesn’t seem to acknowledge.
I say, “What’s wrong?”
JoHn says he doesn’t know.
I kneel down beside Marshal and touch his head… and it’s cool.
I look to his chest.
It’s not moving.
“But he’s just sleeping.” my heart lies.
“No he isn’t.” my brain tells me. And it is honest, and firm.
My hands work their way all over his body, so still, and I start to cry.
And JoHn starts to cry.
Oh buddy. Oh little man.
And we ask each other what happened and we don’t know what happened and we feel as if we are children again and we need a parent to help us.
He was only six years old.
We were supposed to have so much more time.
Who broke in and stole these years from us? How did they get in?
Why didn’t we see them, or stop them?
We decide we have to call someone, someplace, and JoHn calls the emergency vet’s office and we make plans to bring Marshal to them.
But then we realize that we want someone we know to care for him, for his body. And also we want answers, and we want them from someone we know. So we call the emergency vet back and thank them and say we will wait until morning, and bring Marshal to our vet here.
So we, along with Blaze – who cautiously sniffs him when she comes close – bring soft blankets in and carefully move Marshal onto them. And he still looks like he is sleeping.
And our tears follow us upstairs where we talk and wonder and barely sleep, and Blaze lets out soft coos when we bury our faces in her royal ruff.
The sun rises and I get up first, and Blaze comes to the side of the bed, and I pull on sweats and we head downstairs.
The normal routine has Blaze and Marshal barreling downstairs, taking a right into the kitchen, and then toward the back of the house and out the door.
Blaze hurries down the stairs and, without any hesitation, breaks left. Which is where Marshal is.
I realize that I have been hoping for some sort of zombification of our little man. No, Marshal as a zombie wouldn’t have been a great thing for us, nor the world at large, but I just wanted something – anything – other than him being in the exact same fake sleeping position he’d been in when we’d gone upstairs.
Blaze went to the closed doors between the living room and vampire room, and I opened one for her.
Her tail started wagging in that “Hey! C’mon get up, let’s go!” way. And then she got a little closer and her tail stopped.
My breath caught as my heart fell, and the tears started all over again.
I called her and we went outside and I threw the ball for her and she ran to get it.
And no one chased her.
And no one stole the ball from her.
And no one was a bad boy and tried to grab the ‘chuck it’ out of my hand.
When we went back inside, Blaze checked on Marshal again.
Her tail wagged again as she approached him
And stopped again when she realized he was not getting up, he was not there.
And then she took about five steps away, turned around, and lay down to watch over him.
Because Marshal Dillon Dingle had always been her job.
And he still was.
We did bring Marshal to his vet, and they did the work necessary to search for an answer. He found that Marshal had an undiagnosed issue with his heart which, in some cases, results in sudden death. The evidence was clear, and the vet certain.
Marshal had lied down, as he did every night for so many – but not enough for us – years. He died in his sleep.
We know he didn’t struggle, or cry out, because we would have heard him.
We know he probably never even felt it, because he looked so at peace in his fake sleep.
Those things are good things for our brains to know, very good things.
But our hearts don’t seem to care.
They are just crushed.
He was such a presence in our everydays.
JoHn’s shadow… my morning snuggle buddy…
Blaze’s crazy-making, photobombing, responsibility…
My goofy, silly photography model…
Our beautiful little boy…
I can’t even put words to how much we miss you, little man. You were a great, silly, mischievous, loyal snuggle bug. One for the ages.
I hope you are somewhere with loads and loads of tennis balls to chase until your tongue hangs out the side of your mouth…
and you have a whole heap of sofas to get stuck in.
Thanks for readin’.
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