Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mortimer: hound changed my life


Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened. Anatole France

I did not want a dog, but with a chance meeting, Mortimer came into my life and, for six years taught me, by example, unconditional love, living in the moment, relishing a good meal, showing affection enthusiastically and without reservation, stating one's preferences, indulging in a good nap, and most of all, the art of being gentle.

On a frigid January 1, 2003, en route to visit a Houston museum, I spied a pathetic dog walking painfully along Texas Highway 6 south of College Station. I had no idea what type of dog he was, only that he looked skinny, sick, sad and almost hairless. Doubling back, I saw him again, stopped, and, quite easily loaded him into the cab of my truck. He sat on the seat with his head hung low, looking out the back window. His skin itched terribly and he was missing most of his hair.


Back home, I fed and watered him, gave him a bath, and set up an appointment with my wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Katherine Wheeler. That evening, in my workshop, he found and climbed in a box that had shipped a computer. By that action, he taught me that cardboard boxes are where he found some shelter from the icy cold. I fixed up a nice warm dog nest until he was comfortable sleeping inside my house.

For many a veterinary visit, Dr. Wheeler warned me, "We have a long way to go with this dog." He had about every worm a dog could have, including heartworm. He had a nasty skin infection that made him itch and flake all over. He was worth every cent of that veterinary care.

But gradually with the combination of good veterinary care and TLC, Mortimer became himself: a comical, fun-loving, baying, sniffing, squirrel-chasing, headstrong, and most of all, gentle, hound. A Treeing Walker Coonhound, to be exact.

He loved eating, walking, and sniffing. I never had to worry about his disposition around children. Although he was probably abused, and most certainly neglected, he was as gentle as could be. He communicated with me, sometimes by actions, sometimes by body language, sometimes by baying, his need for affection. He loved people. He sidled up to other people for affection, leaning against them. He tolerated other dogs. He was afraid of thunder, and sought comfort during thunderstorms at night.

In 2003, Dr. Wheeler estimated his age at 12; he would therefore have been 18 at the time of his death, July 11, 2009. The life expectancy of a Walker Coonhound is 12 years. He lived 150% of his expected lifespan. In those six short years, Mortimer brought me such joy, comfort, and stability. I laughed at his antics, he listened to my problems. He clearly conveyed his joy at simple things: a walk, his dinner, some dog bisquits, a squirrel sighting, the new bed I sewed for him. After a wretched day at work, a few moments of mutual affection dissipated all my stress. Mortimer was my stress-reliever. Mortimer would lean against the legs of anyone who petted him.

The world is a better place for Mortimer having lived in it. Which is about the best thing one could say about a living thing.

Mortimer the day I picked him up from the side of the highway, January 1, 2003.

Checking out squirrels, circa 2005.

The full-body lean!

Mortimer, Oakdale Park Campground, Glen Rose, Texas, May 2009.

Cooper appreciating Mortimer's characteristic hound-dog bay prior to a walk in Hensel Park.

Last walk with Cooper, July 2009.

Rest in peace, my forever friend! I miss you so.