(Special thanks to my friend, Johanna Wilk, for doing this drawing. She captured everything he was!)
Today, although my heart aches and I feel a tremendous sense of loss, I am thankful for small everyday miracles and humbled by the spirit, not just the human spirit, but the spirit of all living things.
I lost a friend today, a four-legged friend named Rusty. He was with me and my family for 16 years. My wife picked him out in late autumn 2000 and we picked him up and brought him home to live with us just a few days before Christmas that year. I named him Rusty.
I was his “playtime” buddy, but at night it was my wife that he curled up with. Except for a few vacations here and there, he slept on her arm, by her side, for 16 years. It broke her heart to have to take him in to the vet today but she did not want to see him suffer anymore and I know that took tremendous strength. I could have never done it on my own.
Over these 16 years he was always waiting for me when I came back from vacations or from work, and he would usually greet me with a low, throaty bark that seemed much bigger than the size of his body.
He was there after my operation when they removed a malignant tumor, he was there after I came back from the hospital for a heart condition last November, he was there when I needed someone to hold, he was there with me in the studio when we were recording. I wrote some of my best songs during my long walks with him, and he never once asked for writing credit. When I started writing these blogs he would lay under the desk on my feet, patiently waiting while I struggled with the words.
He was charming, demanding, stubborn and unique, and one of the handsomest dogs I’ve ever seen. I think his biggest desire in life was just to be with us.
He knew how to take up space in the bed he shared with us. He always loved to go against the grain, and by that I mean that if we were vertical, he had to be horizontal. He loved to stretch out on his back. When he played, he played hard. When he slept he took it to another level of enjoyment. I think Rusty perfected the art of living. If not, I’d say he came close.
When he was younger he would wake me up in the morning by licking my face. And then there was that special Dachshund whine when he wanted to go out or get food… the most grating sound on earth. But right now I would give almost anything to hear it again. I would give almost anything to be able to pick him up and hold him next to me, to hear his snoring at night, or get awakened by a full-body shake in the middle of the night.
He was loved by our family and I truly believe he loved us. He was one of the happiest and coolest dogs I’ve ever known. When we were out and other dogs would go crazy barking, being aggressive, Rusty walked around with an air of superiority… not cockiness, just extreme self-confidence and integrity.
He was just a dog; an everyday miracle, but he made me a better man. Now I know many people will doubt a statement like that but it’s true. He taught me respect, unconditional love and eased many of my “angry at the world” attacks. He taught me to live in the now, to enjoy a walk amid the colors of autumn, in the winter snow, the spring rain or the summer sunshine. He taught me to let go, lay in the sun, or take a nap and curl up under the covers. He taught me to take the time to play. Although throughout his life I was caught up in the struggle to make a living, raise kids and deal with my own demons, he never let all that take over. Like a mentor or life coach he demanded his walks, his cuddles, his play time. In return he gave me solace, friendship, affection and love; and most importantly, he made me laugh.
He basically grew up along with my two boys (they were eight when we got him) and there is no doubt in my mind that he helped to raise them. He taught them many of the same things he taught me. They were out with him, walking and playing. They helped to feed him. They learned responsibility for another creature. They learned to love and nurture and he loved and nurtured them in return.
They were with him when he passed and they were wonderful; strong, caring and compassionate. They lost a part of their youth when they lost Rusty, but like me, I know they will cherish the memory of a little wire-haired Dachshund that changed our lives forever.
And that’s why I had to write this, because Rusty made us all better than we were or ever would have been without him.
Godspeed Rust-pup! You are loved and will not be forgotten.