The Beginning, The End, The Beginning

February 2, 2015

Or Six Lessons I Learned From Archie

This is a post I’ve dreaded writing for some time. And in some ways, it’s a post I’ve been writing in my head for a long time. As with all endings in life, it is a also a beginning though this does not make the ending any easier or provide any solace.

After eight years, our friend, guardian, teacher and bhuanchara, Archie passed away. He died peacefully with us by his side after a long illness.

It’s been a year since Archie’s passing and my wife and I still miss him terribly. His loss revealed as much about us as it did about him and his role in our lives. Some people have animals. Some animals are pets. We, and Archie, were neither of those. We were not owners. He was not a pet. To say otherwise would be to demean us all. Those who had to good fortune to meet him know that this is not a boastful nor sentimental statement.

At times in one’s life, it may happen that you linger on the idea of death and as you watch the ones you love confront their own mortality, the idea of death can weight more prominently on your psyche. To know is one thing, but it doesn’t take away the shock nor the pain. At best, it can only help to reinforce the love each day. When I say I’ve been writing this post for a long time, it is this lingering upon my psyche to which I’m referring. It is a dark thing to contemplate and my only comfort in those moments was the desire to somehow do Archie justice. To do it right. To explain it all. To make sense of it. To put feeling into words. And so here we go…

Six Lessons I Learned From Archie

  1. When things get stressful, take a nap. Naps make everything better. Things will always look different after you wake up. Archie was a master at recognizing a stressful situation and removing himself from the fray. Consequently, he was much happier.
  2. Sometimes you have to scratch your own back. You can relay on friends and family for some things, but inevitably you’re going to have to make due on your own. Learn to do it and don’t make a big deal when you do it for yourself.
  3. Stretch. If you want to be in top form for whatever the day holds in store for you, it’s best to get the muscles limber. Archie stretched as a statement, as a personal manifesto, as if he was an athlete (he was, in fact, non-sporting).
  4. If you want something, ask for it. Don’t pout in silence. It will get you nowhere. Archie, despite his pride and stubbornness, asked for what he needed. Loudly when necessary.
  5. Always sleep touching the ones you love. It may just be dog biology, but given the 15,000 year relationship between humans and dogs, I give it some credence and respect. The physical connection goes beyond just an early warning system for danger. It’s a way to re-establish bonds after a long day. We are pack animals.
  6. If you want to play, play. Don’t wait for anyone else. They’ll join in when they see you having fun.

The lessons may seem simple. They may seem trite. I think they resonate and that the will stand the test of time, that they speak to a bigger truth, one which we may not always acknowledge in our lives.

Archie as a puppy

For those who haven’t kept with us on our journey, here’s a list of Archie posts.

I started this blog to provide me an opportunity to write more and with Archie’s arrival into our lives, the timing was perfect. There I was with a new puppy who was as curious and adventurous as I was, out and about in the city. We enabled each other. I guess I’ve felt that posting without Archie snoring by my side would somehow be disrespectful. After all, this blog was also his voice in some ways. Our walks (and posts) were a reflection of both our perceptions. So without Archie’s input, this blog would seem half empty. We will have other dogs, but we will never have another Archie. I’ll still have this blog, but it won’t be the same blog.

I’m changing the name of this blog from “a man and his dog on whatever comes our way” to “walking my cigar.” It’s a nod to Gay Talese (as a writer, cigar smoker and as a dog owner) as well as his article of the same name. It’s an article I had an immediate affinity for after reading and as I walk around New York City today, it still echoes with a sense of nostalgia towards a more tolerant (and glamorous) city.

I’ve heard it said that dogs are a reflection of their owners — that how they behave is based on how they were raised — but I’ve never been comfortable with that concept when it came to Archie. I will always know that we learned more from him than he learned from us, that I could never honestly take credit for his behavior and that he was somehow innately gifted with tolerance, calmness, joy and patience. And for that, I am grateful. Thanks buddy.