Monday, October 15, 2018

A letter to my best friend Sirius Beagle

Dear Siri Beagle

From the first day I brought you home from Stevens Point in 2014 to the walk we took this morning, you have been my best friend. That spans 5218 days, which to a human is 14 years but in the dog world that means you are well over 100 years old.

Every day in between, I have made sure that you have lived the grandest of all lives. Because every 52 days for me, is like an entire year for you, so I wanted you to see the world and experience everything. Often I have put your needs well above my own; that is how much you mean to me.

As a pup, we spent countless hours together where learned to obey, listen and do several tricks. I don’t know if it is a beagle trait, but the way you lay down by pushing your face onto the carpet and then flopping your butt down before happily accepting a treat as a reward is priceless. You are super smart which means that you are very stubborn! Sometimes I think that you were training me, and not the other way around.

I named you after the Harry Potter series, with your full name being Prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius Beagle. You were Siri before Steve Jobs and Apple ever thought of the name Siri. You were the first.

You’ve had dozens of nicknames over the years, including Prissy Paw because of the way you sat as a puppy, with a slight bend in your front right leg. For awhile I called you Abby when I wanted to talk about you but didn’t want to use your name because you were wake up. But you have always been Siri Beagle.

We’ve been on hundreds of miles of walks together in the neighborhood. Your personal best distance is 11 miles when you were a younger pup. But you really love being a beagle and running on single track trails. Your nose drops to the ground and you gallop with the greatest of ease. For the longest time I wasn’t able to keep up with you, but you would always stop and look back, waiting for me to catch up. In those miles I’ve shared my inner thoughts with you on long walks, and together we’ve solved all the worlds problems.

At 100 years old, you are still walking 10-15 miles a week; That is more than most humans. I know you don't know what miles are, but you know the smiles that you get from being outside.

And when I wanted to go on longer walks and you weren’t able to, I started pushing you in a dog stroller, stopping to take you out from time to time. You love being in the dog stroller, holding your head out the front as the wind blows in your face and making your ears flair out like you are an airplane taking off.

The good doctors at Valley Animal Hospital have taken care of you like you were their own since we moved to Huntsville. They welcome you with love when you go there to play and they recognize your howl when I show up for you to come home. I truly believe that it is because of Dr. Wilson MacManus and others that you have had such a long and health life. They have said that for all these years you were the healthiest beagle in all of Huntsville and I truly believe them.

It is a good thing that we have Dr. Mac, because along the way, you had your share of health issues. They started with your incurable allergies as a pup back in Wisconsin when we discovered you were allergic to grass and dust mites which meant you could not go outside or stay inside. Luckily you out grew them!

We were worried that you had ruptured a ligament in your hind leg when you were a few years old, but that was hundreds of miles ago and it healed without surgery.

But you have had a number of surgeries, including the most recent back surgery after some age-related nerve damage that caused your back right leg to stop from working. With the best medical care and the surgeons were able to get you back to running and walking.

After your back surgery, I sat in a cold bathtub with you, so you could work through your rehab. Swimming was non-impact and the icy cold water helped with your pain as you built of the strength in your leg. So, I sat in there with you, holding you just right so your legs would make the swimming motion. You were able to get back on your feet, literally and today you walked 4 miles pain free.

Earlier this year you lost your hearing, but because we spent time training all of those years ago, you still know hand signals. And nothing can take away your sense of smell and you know what your dad smells like. You know when I hold you close.

You were there for me after I had me known knee surgery, with the torn meniscus during Mountain Mist 50km. I was in so much pain in the recovery, that I remember hobbling on crutches for a ¼ mile walk, and crying the entire time that I would never run again. But you walked next to me and gave me hope that I could come back, which I did, qualifying for the Boston Marathon on the final race of my career.

You welcomed a new baby sister when you were just 4 years old yourself. And you served as a great big sister for her. Even when she is a pesky little sister and refuses to lay next to you on the couch, but wants to lay on top of you, you didn’t just tolerate her but you love her back. You even welcomed another sister when Lyla moved six years ago. With Rachel as the mom of all three girls, we formed a family.

We’ve driven across the country together countless times where we spent summers in Michigan. You love to sneak off down the stairs and swim in the Menominee River. You are loved by my parents as my mom refers to you and your sister as her grand doggies. She had pictures of you on her desk at work.

When I wanted to start sharing my thoughts on running with the world, I created a blog, aptly named SiriusUltraRunner, after you. You’ve had your own email address, Facebook page and Twitter account @SiriusBeagle ever since.

When I come home, you have welcomed me lovingly with a bark and a face lick every time. Even if I had to be at work all day and you peed on the floor before I got home, it is hard to be mad at you for very long. Even if I was only gone a few minutes, to you it was like welcoming me home after I had been gone for a week.

So I want you to know that I don’t have a single regret about anything with you in the last 14 years. Everyday I have told you that I love you. I have not once walked past you and not stopped to pet your head. I have given you the best care and shown you the best dog life imaginable.

And now, we face the greatest challenge of your entire life. A recently discovered growth on your right cheek warranted a trip to the vet where they said that they did not like what they saw. We don’t have all the answers yet, but the doctors are being aggressive with your diagnosis. On Thursday we will head to Blue Pearl in Nashville to have the mass looked at by a surgeon and meet with an oncologist. I promise you that they will take good care of you and I will be there with you every step of the way.

Siri you have so many miles left in your legs. You have a million more wags left in your tail. You have enough barks and howls left to drive the neighbors crazy. You are still a vibrant, healthy, active and beautiful little beagle and it is not your time to leave us. You are a tough old girl and will put up a very good fight. Please know that you have a lot of people praying for you.

Please also know that if the time comes when you are in pain, or can no longer have a quality of life, we will have to have a very difficult talk about what will come next.

I know that you may not understand all of what is going on; it is difficult to understand. I tried to explain this to you during our walk on Sunday, but a combination of your loss of hearing and my shaky voice and falling tears, I don’t think that I did a very good job.

But until that day, we will do everything we can to give you the best care known to man’s best friend. Because you are my best friend. You are my daughter. You are my family.

I love you Siri Beagle. Yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever. You will always be my girl.

Your Dad