We’ve known it was coming. 14 years (well, two months shy) is pretty old for an Airedale. It started with cataracts and steadily increasing blindness – it seemed he could see at a distance, but on the trail he was constantly running into trees and stumps. A few months ago Gryphon started wheezing when we’d take him for walks, but he still wanted to go, as long as the walks were slow with plenty of breaks. Then his hind legs began to stiffen and he spent more and more time sleeping. Twice the wheezing attacks were so long and intense that I was convinced it was game over, but he was a tough little guy and each time he pulled through.
Two days ago we moved. I knew the move would be hard on a blind, geriatric dog, but we did everything we could to ease him into the new place, make him comfortable, give him a cool space with a bed to crash on. Yesterday morning he gobbled down his breakfast and then went out to do his business and wander around. We went to work and all day I had an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. When I returned home there was Gryphon. He looked like he was asleep, but he was too still and I knew that he had left us.
I always felt that Gryphon and I were a lot alike. Stubborn, intelligent, willful, defiant, tenacious. On our hikes and bike rides he and I were always at the back of the pack. We weren’t fast, but we were like tractors… strong enough to plow through anything and we could go steady for hours on end. Gryphon was independent… he came for cuddles on his own terms, but when he did, there was nothing that made him happier. We shared a dislike of thunder, although it doesn’t quite panic me the way it did him. Neither of us were fans of the heat but we loved freezing cold temperatures and snow. And he was goofy in the best kind of way – although he was incredibly well behaved, there was always mischief in his eyes.
At a certain point Gryphon’s trainers at Lietash became frustrated with his absolute refusal to progress beyond level 6 in Obedience. When asked to do something Gryphon would sit there, look in you in the eyes, and ask, “Why should I?”. If a treat came out, he would comply in a second, but hold out on the treat and you just got the stare. We decided something fun might help move him along and so we enrolled in agility. Each week at practice when it was his turn to do his run we would let him off the leash and immediately he would do a full lap of the ring, stopping to say hello to every person and dog along the way. Then he would return to the middle and focus on the task at hand. He seemed to love it, and he was fearless. The one time he participated in a mini competition was the only time that he refrained from his greeting lap. Instead, he completed the first couple of obstacles, then made a beeline for the center of the ring, stopped, and had a poop. He didn’t win the competition, but he made everyone there laugh. That’s one thing he was good at.
Gryphon didn’t have a mean bone in his body. More than once he was attacked by bigger dogs, and in response he would never fight back. Instead, he would spin around and whack the offending canine in the chops with his ass – the ultimate “come on, let’s play” move. It usually kept him out of trouble and made almost everyone his friend.
When I first met Troy, he was excited to take my dogs mountain biking. I carefully explained the process for preparation to him. When you get to the trail head, DO NOT let the dogs out of the car until you’re ready to roll away and keep them on a leash until you’re in the woods. Troy drove to Spider Lake and parked at the trail head, which happened to be right next to the subdivision’s show home. As luck would have it, there were people traipsing through the house that day. Troy let the dogs out of the car and Gryphon bolted for the front door of the house, ran inside and tore around in a fit of frenzied excitement, leaving pandemonium in his wake. That was the first time (but not the last) that Troy came home and said, “I guess I should have listened to you after all”.
Gryphon was the kind of dog who could plow through chin-deep snow for hours when we took him on snowshoe expeditions. He could run along behind a mountain bike endlessly as long as there were good mud puddles to waddle in along the way. He was at his happiest when he was dripping black goopy muck from every crevice and I swear he came out of those holes with a big goofy grin on his face every time. He loved people, he loved other dogs, and he loved to have fun. He was the perfect woods companion and he had a part in everything we did, from trail building sessions to canoe rides and camping trips.
Gryphon is buried at our new home, under a big weeping willow. I planted a hosta on his grave, thinking a resilient plant that likes the shade is a perfect companion for our pup. I’ll be able to see his resting spot from the living room and the office and the bedroom. He will always be with us, and I know that there will never be another dog like him, he was truly one of a kind.
Gryphon, wherever you are today, I hope there’s fast, flowy, singletrack, lots of cool mud, and as many treats as your tummy can handle. You’ll be missed terribly and we’ll never forget the absolute joy and incredible companionship you’ve contributed to our lives. Rest peacefully, Bubba. You are loved.