?-Jan. 2, 2019
When Peanut was acquired from the Animal Protective League nearly 11 years ago, she had no name.
We didn’t know her age. The vet thought three. She seemed to have a bit of puppy in her. She’d fetch balls and play and lick. Oh, how she loved to lick, as if the whole world wanted nothing more than pug kisses, the more the better, and delivered from head to foot, with special attention paid to nether regions when the opportunity presented itself.
“We’ll save a lot on peanut butter,” my then significant other deadpanned. And that is how Peanut earned her name.
She outgrew trying to lick where the sun doesn’t shine, and she also stopped giving unwelcome kisses elsewhere. I hit her only once, when nothing else worked – it was either that or watch her chew up the entire carpet. “No!” I barked as I bopped her on the snout, then ignored her for 45 minutes as she followed me around the house, begging for some sign that she still was loved. From that day forward, a stern “No!” always got her attention, if not always her obedience.
Peanut sat on command only if she knew she’d get food. She never came when called. Given the choice of running to a stranger or to me, Peanut always picked the stranger. She came close to dying the day she jumped from my parked car across Wabash Avenue from the Sonic Drive-In during rush hour, prancing across the street as if speeding cars didn’t exist while I waved my arms in panic and folks jammed on brakes.
After making it to the other side, she played hard to get as I chased her around the Sonic parking lot. Can I borrow a French fry, I asked someone who likely thought me insane but nonetheless gave me one. She still wouldn’t come. Only when another person I’d never seen before or since offered her a morsel of something or other, then held her for me, did I get Peanut back.
That was the thing with Peanut. She was a born charmer, and she knew it. She was never happier than when folks she’d never met petted her and cooed in her face, and it happened all the time. When I lived near Washington Park, neighbors would feed her through the backyard fence. The same thing happened when I moved to the north end. When I took her on an airplane, a fellow passenger asked if she could share her cookie with Peanut. Airline employees and TSA agents wanted to pet her.
In October, Peanut plopped to the ground while we were walking through Oak Ridge Cemetery, two hours after I’d taken her to the vet for vaccinations. She wouldn’t get up. I carried her home.
The vet had told me that Peanut’s loss of balance, which had begun a year or so ago, was a progressive neurological condition common in pugs. It wasn’t, thank goodness, painful, but watching your dog’s legs go out from under her hurts nonetheless. She’d also gone blind in one eye. When she went down in the cemetery, I figured it was over. She wouldn’t get up the rest of the afternoon, or during the night, and so I made her comfortable and went to the office the next day, thinking I’d have to put her down when I got home.
But she rallied and was spoiled rotten for the next two months, getting more asparagus (her favorite food) and fires (she loved lying as close as she could to a blazing fireplace) than she’d ever gotten before.
Finally, it was obvious. She went blind in her other eye. She fell down steps she couldn’t see. The only time she moved was in the mornings, when she would stumble around the backyard for a half-hour or so. She did the same thing each evening. Otherwise, she slept, which always had been a favorite pastime. But sleeping because you can’t do anything else is no way to live.
Last Wednesday, I took her in. The folks at Capitol Illini Veterinary Service were angels, rushing us into an exam room, then giving us lots of time alone. Peanut was trembling, a trait that had arisen only recently, when we arrived, but she soon relaxed. Then they took her to another room, I can’t say why. When they brought her back, the odor on her breath was unmistakable.
“Did you give her peanut butter?” I asked. Yes. And Peanut started licking my hand. She was still licking when the end came -- she died with her tongue sticking out. We all should have such a gentle death. And such joy in life.
Contact Bruce Rushton at firstname.lastname@example.org.