Sunday, March 11, 2012
Goodbye, old friend
Posted by Sean
With tears in my eyes, amid much sadness and grief, I must tell you that Opal passed away yesterday, peacefully in our arms.
The end came swiftly; just a week ago her health and stamina had declined to the point where she would not walk more than a few yards from the bus to do her business, and I had to either carry her or take her on the scooter when we were at B&B Coach. Nevertheless, she did not appear to be in any distress or pain, and she still wagged her tail every morning while Louise fixed breakfast. She was even climbing the stairs three times a day.
We knew, however, that the end was near, and she ate her last meal sometime Thursday, a few bits of wet food. On Friday she made her last excursion down the stairs on her own, and I had to carry her down and up the next few trips. By Saturday morning she was mostly just sleeping, and we could not persuade her to eat or drink, but she was still moving around alright. But when we returned in the afternoon after a short errand in the Mini with Ben, she was too weak to make even the one step from the penthouse to the living room, and we knew she was out of time. We are very grateful to Ben and Karen for lending us the Mini for Opal's final journey.
We can't be sure how old Opal was -- she was a rescue, and was somewhere between one and three years old when Louise got her from the shelter nearly 15 years ago. As far as we could tell, she was a purebred American Eskimo, with all the right hallmarks. She had not been socialized either with people or other dogs as a puppy, which always made her first encounter with strangers of either species a dicey proposition.
Louise already had Opal when we met, and I think it was Opal who gave me the final seal of approval as a dating prospect. Usually, Opal was also right on the money in predicting who we would or would not get along with as a couple, too. I retired a bit before Louise, and Opal and I bonded when I became the primary dog-walker in the family; Louise would often tell people later that I stole her dog.
Our first few car trips with Opal, back and forth between San Jose, California and Sumner, Washington while Odyssey was being converted, did not bode well for her future life aboard. She was so carsick on the first trip that we had to get her "happy pills" at the vet to calm her nerves. By the time Odyssey was complete, however, she had grown completely accustomed to the road, and didn't need any pills at all. She adapted to the bus in just a day or two.
Opal has marked her territory in 54 states -- 48 in the U.S. and six in Mexico. She was a very well-traveled dog. Not only did she travel well in the bus, but she traversed Mexico by train
and loved to ride on Louise's scooter
Whenever I had to drive the bus without Louise aboard, Opal would take her place on the passenger seat, leading us to observe that "Dog is my copilot."
Opal had a long, full life, and while it was hard to watch her decline in her later years, we will always remember her younger, more vibrant days, playing with her favorite toy
Even as little as a year ago, Opal could still be excited by new discoveries, such as when Louise briefly became foster-mom to Rudy the kitten
Opal hated being photographed, and would often turn her head away if she saw a camera. She finally deigned to look at least in the right general direction for our friend and photographer Carol at Fire Lake:
Photo: Carol Dwyer Photography
While we've been reminiscing about the good times, and going through happy photos today, we already miss her terribly. For nearly 14 years I've started and ended each day walking with Opal; the emptiness was palpable when I came to bed and later got up without a dog to walk. No one was in the kitchen wagging as Louise fixed her breakfast, perking her ears up as the spoon clanked against the bowl -- one of the few sounds she could still hear toward the end.
There is a void in our lives now that will not soon shrink, nor ever disappear. But life goes on aboard Odyssey, and George and Angel have been good company in our grief these last 19 hours. In the morning, I have work to do, and it will be good to have my mind occupied.
Opening photo by Karen Nace