Last September Rufus ambled his way into my life. With his long, lanky Basset Hound body, his ground-grazing ears, and his insouciant air he found his way quickly into my heart as well. In part I was looking for someone to take care of–I was getting a little lonely without a dog around–and an older dog seemed like a perfect companion to look after. He turned out to be excellent company. He was relaxed and affectionate, easygoing, and up for an impromptu road trip at any time; I think the gentle rocking of a moving car made for excellent sleeping conditions. Rufus was blind, but that was easy to forget for he was as keen as he was laid back, his four other senses sharp as a tack. All he needed was a once-over of any floor plan–including multiple floors–and he’d have it down well enough to play hide-and-seek with the most mischievous of children.
As comfortable in the Bluegrass as he was in the Adirondacks or the Big Apple, he enjoyed exploring fields in the company of cows and donkeys or feeling the vibrations of approaching racehorses on the Churchill Downs backstretch. In Saratoga Springs he enjoyed his daily promenade down Broadway, and especially liked to sample the home-made biscuits at the specialty dog shops in town. When in the City he relentlessly followed whichever of the myriad scents intrigued his extraordinary nose and pursued zealously, weaving expertly through sidewalk foot traffic. He made friends everywhere he went.
We were on an extended visit to NYC this winter when Rufus fell ill. A bit of lethargy, some loss of appetite, which were then followed by a scorching fever. After initial tests revealed no infections or other possible causes, only one possible diagnosis remained. It had to be either leukemia or lymphoma. The emergency room doctors and oncologists at the Animal Medical Center in New York lived up to their reputation and to the recollections I had from past visits with other pets. They were honest, caring, compassionate, and ethical. They placed the welfare and comfort of Rufus and all their patients first and possessed the utmost respect for both animal and human.
Rufus never came home from their hospital; the leukemia had advance too far. Treatment with chemotherapy was an option, but there was more of a chance that the treatment would kill him than cure him. We said goodbye and I held him when he closed his eyes for the last time. If he was unable to die at home, peacefully in his sleep, I’m grateful he was surrounded by such kindness.
He’s been gone now for several months, and I think about him all the time. His was the most noble soul I have ever known and gave me more peace and joy than I could ever have expected from anyone. Though we only shared five months together, I will continue to follow his lead in life: be easygoing, give love, and smell everything.