I was told a story once by a professor in college the specifics of which are neither important nor still known to me. It involved a Roman politician who tasked a lieutenant with assassinating a political rival. Upon the lieutenant’s return the politician asked him of the success of the mission, to which the lieutenant lamented, “He has lived.”
The Roman politician became enraged at the news, mistaking the accurate translation of the announcement. What the Roman politician had failed to realize was the distinct and literal wording his hired henchman conveyed. The rival was indeed deceased, cut down by the assassin’s blade, and the lieutenant could have used any number of words to express his triumph. He could have just as easily said, “He is dead.” But he didn’t.
“He has lived,” the lieutenant reported.
Lived, the past tense of live — to continue to have life.
I feel there is such beauty imparted in that wording, that there is a certain inexplicable significance there, too. It suggests someone or something has lived life — not just a series of inner-connected events — but a full life.
So it is with great sadness I report that my Doberman pinscher has lived.
For the past eight years my loyal, dedicated and alleged top-notch guard dog, Silas the Devil Dog, has rested ever so impolitely at my feet each and every week as I wrote this column.
Every column, that is, except this one.
Silas was not a perfect dog. In fact, he was far from it. He never figured out the nuances of a common game of fetch. Every time he retrieved a thrown tennis ball he refused to give it back, which is why I always needed to bring two outside. Nor did he understand the meaning of a peaceful nightly walk through our village, which was an excuse he savored so he could drag me through town as if he was a plow horse. And for some reason each time he ate spaghetti, which was surprisingly often by canine standards, he would vomit on the living room rug.
On the other hand, Silas’ many imperfections are what seemed to make him uncharacteristically perfect, at least to me.
After all, there is no such thing as a bad dog — just bad people.
It is always difficult to say goodbye to a cherished friend, and the human mind does not differentiate between the death of an actual person or a beloved family pet. Something that thought the world of me yesterday, something that thought the sun rose and set on my behind, is not here with me today. I can think of nothing worse than that. Can you?
And there is nothing on Earth that will love you the way a dog does. Dogs give so much of themselves and ask for little in return except our love. A dog will stand by your side to the gates of hell and back. For those that will let one, a dog has a way of teaching you about being human in ways people can’t. Show me something else in life besides a dog that will love you unconditionally.
I will miss the little things about Silas.
Who will lick the butter knife after I make a peanut butter sandwich? Who will obsessively collect fallen tree limbs and sticks and curiously assemble them in piles in the yard? Who will attack cardboard boxes and tear them to shreds for no reason whatsoever? Who will growl at the vacuum cleaner? Who will howl at the fire siren each time it goes off or barrel through the house when the doorbell rings? Who will I play guitar for? Who will want me to secretly feed them spaghetti?
Who will sleep and snore at my feet when I write this column?
I buried Silas in a tranquil horse pasture on a blustery November day. As I stood there and delivered a silent eulogy to my best friend I smiled as tears streaked down my puffy cheeks. I remembered an inspirational quote from (of all people) Dr. Seuss, who once wrote, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
Silas had a wonderful and loving life — and he is finally at peace.
He has lived. He has lived.
Silas has lived.