Our beloved dog Kirby died last week. She was a yellow lab mix adopted from the North Shore Animal League 16 years ago. A long life— but not nearly long enough for us. My three sons named her after the baseball player, Kirby Puckett. Never mind that she was a female. To say we’re devastated is an understatement. The house feels empty; someone is missing. Why is the loss of a pet so painful? I guess it’s because she was a member of the family who gave no-strings-attached, unconditional love and loyalty without expecting anything in return.
Why do we call a dog man’s best friend? I feel as though I’ve lost one. Kirby was my partner; we did so much together. For years, I took her on three-mile walks, five days a week. Actually, she walked me; I could barely keep her with her. If she saw a squirrel, she nearly knocked me down. She’d pick up anything (and I mean anything!) and carry it back home; that’s why her breed is called “retriever.” As the years passed and she started to slow down, those walks were reduced to two miles, then one. The week before she died, she barely made it to the corner, inching long— no leash needed.
From May to October, I love to work outside on our front porch (not in the back— I’m from Brooklyn). There I write my radio scripts, newspaper columns and books. All I need is a radio (tuned to WCBS 880!), a pot of coffee and Kirby at my side. She became my co-author. And if I’m lucky enough to get my novel published, she’ll be in the dedication. Every so often she’d wag her tail at a neighbor or bark at a passing dog. The letter carrier, landscaper and sanitation workers all knew her. I –– we —worked hours at a time. It’s lonely now. I’m going to put up a picture to feel her presence.
Perhaps my most memorable image is of her lying in my bed. She jumped up and curled up precisely where I was lying when I went to work.