He was special. Our dog Sage was special.
He was actually Alex's dog. Even though Alex's young and busy life meant that it made more sense for Diane and me to take Sage in, Alex's quiet nurturing of him when he was a puppy meant that Alex would be - was - always a part of him.
He was full of special qualities, but his gentleness tops the list. Gentle with his soft but attentive gaze, accepting the biscuits he loved, sniffing out visitors, and negotiating around and deferring to Mary's (my mother-in-law's) cats.
He had a nice bark. He didn't abuse it, but saved it for when Diane came home from school, she and I hugged, or sang Happy Birthday over the phone to our children and grandchildren. He also used it when the mailman delivered the mail, though that bark was not the same.
While very territorial of our house and yard, he was the other extreme - very laissez faire - when out and about.
He almost never complained. Even when hit by a van when a year or so old, frighteningly close to death and, then, weathering months of treatment for his two injured legs, he did not complain. One leg required a pin, the other amputation. He adapted. He could race up our stairs, but only once - unsuccessfully - did he try coming down the steep and uncarpeted wooden stairs on his own. He never tried that again. We carried him down. He accepted it. Not long after he became a three legged dog, he hiked a mountain trail with Alex and us. He loved it. His energy, speed and agility were impressive and joyful for him and us.
He thrived being outside in the woods with his curiosity and most impressive - inquisitive - nose. He was half black labrador and half brittany spaniel (don't ask how that was possible). Perhaps there was a little rabbit in there as well.
Oh yes, his black hairs. He shed - everywhere. But we tolerated this and were more than justly compensated by his extreme loyalty and sympathy. He had an uncanny sense of knowing when we were upset or sick and would quietly stay nearby and keep an eye on us.
And I will never forget his response to Alex's return from the Peace Corps, after being away for over two years. We were sitting on the porch when Alex, in a dramatic entrance orchestrated by our daughter Kiersten, suddenly appeared from around the back of the house and jumped over the rail. Sage had been lying quietly by us. An entrance like this by anyone else would surely have provoked protective behavior. For Alex, he quietly peed - and vigorously wagged his great tail. He knew, after all that time, in a fraction of a second, it was Alex. He was immediately aware, overjoyed and thankful.
He was ten years old, still full of joie de vivre, when he developed severe anemia. We don't know how or why. He was responding to medication when his auto-immune system suddenly and aggressively turned on his all too few healthy red blood cells. His strong body had saved his life when struck by the van, but took it when it turned on itself. It only took about two hours before he lost the stamina to even lift his head. We made the difficult, but clear decision to have him put to sleep. He didn't experience pain. We were both there.
He is at rest. We are not. It will take time.