May 18, 2023

The ‘Boys’ are back together


             In human years, Andy was 105.

             The silver-haired schnauzer was 22 pounds of energy and joy.

For 15 years, Andy knew he was special. Spoiled, perhaps, but special.

Andy came in a package with his charcoal-gray brother, Amos.

I went to buy a single pup but came home with two. They answered to their names, but I could say “Boys,” and their ears lifted. “Boys, load up!” put them into jackrabbit mode. They could spring waist-high into my pickup truck. They loved going to the office—or anywhere—with me.

I would snap my fingers, and they knew what that meant. Andy would leap into his leather wingchair in my office, and Amos would sail into his chair. They’d curl up and snooze for four hours, occasionally lifting their heads to make sure I was still behind my desk. But if I stood up and put on my suit coat or they heard the jingle of my computer shutting down, the schnauzer brothers were on full alert.

If a dog is truly a man’s best friend, I had two loyal four-legged buddies. Pam declared they could hear my truck before I ever turned in the gate. Amos and Andy didn’t wear watches, but they knew their routines. If I was reading a book, watching TV or pecking on my laptop, they were likely curled up by or on my feet.

But at 9:30 in the evening, they’d look up as if to say, “All right, you know it’s time for our walk.” When they were satisfied that I had acknowledged them, they trotted over to the door.

Amos died two years ago, just the way I would prefer. One morning he didn’t wake up.

Andy lived longer but flirted with death several times. The first close call was in 2012. The “Boys” and I were in Jesup. Andy had apparently gulped down something very bad, and it was hammering his liver. My longtime friend and veterinarian, Dr. Beau Hall, and his partner, Dr. David Barwick, were doing everything they could, but it was clear that Andy was in trouble, deep trouble. They advised that I might want to hurry back to Athens to the University of Georgia’s veterinarian hospital. However, Andy might not live through the four-hour trip.

There were three options: Stay, go to UGA or euthanasia.

Suddenly, David’s dad, Wallace Barwick, appeared. Wallace sensed the seriousness of the moment, and he asked, “Would you mind if I prayed over Andy?” I nodded, and we bowed our heads as Wallace laid his hands on Andy and talked to God. That resolved my dilemma on Day 3 of the crisis. Andy was staying. Day 4 showed hope. And by Day 14, Andy was ready to leap into my truck and head home.

A few years later, Andy was the very first emergency patient at UGA’s new $98 million veterinarian hospital. Again, he flirted with death but bounced back. The last several months were rugged for my silver-haired friend. He had long since given up on jumping in my truck or even my lap. Andy was feeling every bit of his 105 “human years.” He was having trouble walking. If he fell, Andy couldn’t get up. He was losing his vision.

His favorite pastime was sleeping, preferably in my lap with his head on my arm. And then Andy’s plumbing went awry. After an “accident,” he’d look at you as if to say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that.”

Andy had been a proud dog. On a leash, he’d prance as if he was competing in the Westminster. Trips to the vet provided no hope. The time had come.

The comforting thought is that Amos and Andy are back together, buried by the black-board fence, on a hill, in the pasture.

When I drive by—on the way to the mule barn—I can say, “Hey, Boys.”

And smile.