It's 2:30 a.m. and I just changed out of my soaked, muddy clothes. It's cold - my hair is wet, and so are my eyes.
Starbuck died an hour ago.
At 1:00 this morning, Pat burst into my house, asking me to help her. The back deck had two or three boards out, where the plumbers and landscape crew had been working on her sprinkler system. Sometime during the night, Starbuck had somehow fallen into this narrow area. He was on his back, and one of his rear legs was wedged under the board, across his body. Pooh had awoken her, and she heard Starbuck crying. When he didn't come to the back door, she put on her coat, and found him.
Winter has started, and the rain is pouring down, in a way that it does only in Houston. The only way we could get Starbuck out was to lift him by his legs. He weighs over 80 pounds. We sat him, covered with mud, on the deck, where he sagged into himself. He laid his head on the deck, oblivious to the rain and thunder.
I ran to my place and grabbed a beach towel. In my nightshirt, clinging from the wet, we managed to put Starbuck onto the towel and carry him to the carport. He lay there, panting. He soiled himself. After a bit of discussion and a quick phone call, I moved cars. Pat's Jeep, which still had a flat from earlier today, I pulled into the street. My Honda, pulled behind her crippled car. I unlocked the heavy iron gate that blocks Pat's driveway, and pulled my big company Impala next to Starbuck. Together, we managed to lift the old dog into a clean blanket and then into my backseat. I let Pat drive, as she knew the way, and I sat in the back with his wet muddy head in my lap, listening to his breathing grow more labored. When we got to the emergency vet clinic, Pat ran to the door. It's Houston and it's dark, and you have to be buzzed in. In the back seat, Starbuck lifted his head. I thought he was getting better, but he left out two deep gasps and laid back down, his eyes open and glazed, his breathing very shallow. I called to Pat - she needed to be with her dog, and I could man the doors. After what seemed like endless minutes, two girls strolled out with a gurney. By that time, I knew Starbuck was dead, or nearly so. His tongue was hanging out of the side of his mouth.
The desk clerk brought us blankets, and we waited, weeping, while the mysterious medical personnel worked in the back room. Within a few minutes, the technician came out and took Pat. Her companion of 12 years was gone. In a little bit, I went and sat next to my friend, and together we went to see her old faithful boy. He wasn't the magnificent white Siberian husky, he was a muddy mound of fur under a blanket. Starbuck was gone. I held his paw while Pat cried over his face.
Pat has a flight to Dubai in less than 12 hours. The 18-hour trip is never good for her, but now she will be on a plane, alone, thinking about her dear old dog. Monday, I will call the vet and make arrangements for Starbuck to be cremated. Of all their patients, only Starbuck earned a framed color portrait in their lobby. I will figure out a way to get her tire changed. She won't be back until late January, and I will try to take care of things for her while she is gone. Her other little dog, Pooh, will be lost without her big buddy, but I will give her some extra affection each evening. I'm worried about Pat. She lost her partner of nearly 30 years, three years ago, and is still in mourning. Starbuck was one more link back, and now he is gone.
I felt a need to write this down. It's almost 3 in the morning, and the rain is still pounding down. There is a pile of muddy clothes and blankets and towels, but they will be there tomorrow. I'm going to bed now, but I don't think I will be able to sleep for a while.