Saying Goodbye to Dinkum

I’m a retired weekly newspaper editor-publisher and have written a personal column for 40 years. This one received more reader response than anything else I have ever written.

Saying Goodbye to Dinkum

I went home from work Tuesday evening for the first time in many, many years without the expectation of seeing Dinkum peering out our front door, patiently waiting for my arrival. She knew my schedule better than I did and hardly ever failed to be at her station just inside the glass-paned door. Sometimes, when I stopped by during the day, she’d be in another part of the house. But in the evenings– hardly ever.

Our daily walks down Wheeler Lane have been a ritual for going on 17 years. The weather or season didn’t matter. I got just as much pleasure — probably more, to tell the truth —slipping into rain gear and slogging toward Cumberland Mountain through a monsoon with her.

As she got older, our walks grew shorter… and slower.
But they continued. Until Tuesday.

I first set eyes on Dink, an Australian shepherd, when she was just a ball of black and white and tan fluff sitting at the bottom of a grocery bag. Julia had asked me to bring in some groceries for her, and when I reached into the back of the van there she was, all big brown trusting eyes and fur, head cocked to one side, looking up at me. Instant love!
We went through obedience school together. She was a good student… made me look good.

So for years when we walked it was without a leash. She would stay alongside me, resisting the temptation to chase after a neighborhood cat or squirrel, always obediently coming to heel. When I let her out into the back yard in the evenings, she would most always come instantly when I called.

That began to change, however, and I learned she was losing her hearing. That’s when we began to walk with the leash.
I always thought Dinkum was a great judge of character.
She used to come to the office with me when she was young. But I had to stop that when she began to bristle at some of our customers– not all of them, just the few whose voices or body signals set off her internal alarm. She’d lift her head, the hair on the back of her neck would stiffen, and she would emit a quiet, throaty growl. After that she stayed home.
Always faithful, never complaining despite a raft of illnesses, Dink has been a constant in our lives.

Allergies plagued her early on, and I learned to give her two shots of allergen a week. She never resisted.
Her thyroid quit working, and for a number of years I’ve stuffed two thyroid pills a day down her throat. No problem.
When arthritis began to attack her hips, two more daily pills were added. The vet said to keep walking her. That was the only thing holding her damaged hips in their sockets. So we walked slowly, her only complaint a groan or two when she got up.

In recent months, I’ve had to lift her up onto her back legs before she could make her unsteady way out the front door and off the slight step into the flower bed and across the yard.
She’d long since been unable to navigate steps.

For years she slept on the floor on my side of the bed. And for awhile I carried her up and down the steps when she could no longer make it on her own. But she got too heavy and had to sleep downstairs, always there by the front door.
It’s grieved us to see her become so fragile as she aged. And we’ve prayed that she would just die quietly in her sleep one night. That wasn’t to be.

Friends who have gone through the same circumstances with their pets have told us we would know when it was time to have her put to sleep. “It’s not something that someone else can tell you,” they’d say. “You’ll just know.”
So Tuesday morning, Dinkum and I walked very slowly down Wheeler Lane for the last time. Then Julia and I took her across the street to the vet, and we cried together as she quietly went to sleep and then slipped out of her pain.
As I write these words, my eyes are filling with tears at the happy memories of my time with Dinkum. Always faithful, trusting, loyal, gentle. Her favorite place was lying at our feet.

Everyone should be so blessed.
I’ll miss her terribly.

But fortunately, the pleas of Julia and our children over the last year overcame my stubbornness, and I have a new puppy. She’s black and white and copper — a miniature Aussie, eager to please. And she has big, brown trusting eyes and cocks her head to one side when I speak to her.

She can never replace Dinkum. I wouldn’t want her to.

But I’m so glad to have Millie, and I’m eager to see what she will teach me as we continue those now quick-stepping daily walks down Wheeler Lane.

Larry from TN