Elegy for a wiener dog

On March 18, our family dog Rotor, passed away of kidney failure. He was 15.

Christmas 2018 (Rotor was never really great at group pictures)

Something like 8 years ago we got adopted by Rotor the wiener dog. I say adopted because we never seriously sought out a dog, and I was skeptical from the start.

Here’s how I remember it: my dad’s longtime friend Joe called the house out of the blue and asked if we wanted a dog. Joe told us he had agreed to take care of a dog until the original owner could take care of him. Eventually the original family realized they could no longer care for him, and Joe already had two (or maybe it was 3?) dogs at the time.

We never had a pet, and I vividly remember being hesitant to get attached. I remember saying something to the effect of “I’m going to get attached and then he’ll die” or something that walks the line between humorous and morbid. Ultimately, we agreed to “test drive” having a pet for two weeks. He never left.

Rotor knew that he needed to win me over. And boy did he ever. He was there through high school and college and heck, through the latest move to Erie. He didn’t go on walks, but he loved to go for rides in the car and in the golf carts at camp.

Rotor and I the last night I was in Pittsburgh before he passed away.

He was fiercely loyal to wearing a collar. He also always wore a neckerchief, and you knew what room he was in because the tags on his collar would clash together and jingle as he walked.

He had trouble when people would go away and look for them. I remember when I first moved into college and being told he looked for me every night at my bed.

So yes, I ended up getting attached. But I have learned a lot in the eight intervening years. Rotor was well loved because he loved life. Everyone that came by the house he made a point of greeting. In the summers he husked corn, in the winter he burrowed into piles of blankets. On more than one occasion, we found him precariously perched atop a couch in our living room simply because he wanted to look out the window. He loved the summer days when we were able to sit on the porch and watch the world go by.

I learned a lot about perspective from Rotor. Physically, he was about a foot tall, so everything was tall and exciting to him. Stairs were always a challenge, so a boost is always appreciated. Life is short, so you may as well try and find some fun in the everyday. When you’re not having fun, it’s also completely okay to sleep.

Rotor and Baba on the righthand side

He was especially fond of my grandmother, who called him “Wolf.” Shortly after we told everyone Rotor had died, my uncle posted a picture of Rotor with my grandmother who passed away in 2014. I smile thinking that maybe somehow, someway they’ve reconnected.

My parents ordered a little headstone for him, and my brother buried him himself. Those were a rough stretch of days for me: being so far away from the family I both needed and wanted to stand by. At the end of the day, however, I have to appreciate that I’m able to call my family every night.

The most important lesson I learned from Rotor is that sometimes there’s a course of things, and you have to accept them. It’s okay to get attached and it’s important to show unabashed affection. When something is over, it’s okay to be sad about the loss in the moment. There is comfort in acknowledging the nuance to loss: at one point you were blessed, and you should acknowledge that blessing both in the moment and when that moment has passed.

You were given that moment for a reason, even if you didn’t understand it at the time. Rest easy, buddy.

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