Montauk Life Montauk Life - July 2018 (5) - Page 5

PUBLISHER MESSAGE GOOD BYE, SWEET PRINCE T his is the column I hoped never to write. Yester- day my best friend died. Brando was my 13 year- old black pug. The cutest, smartest, funniest little guy, my constant companion and closest confidant I simply can’t believe he’s not here with me today. I’ll admit, I wasn’t crazy about getting him at first. It was my wife’s idea. After a long line of cats, birds, fish, gerbils, guinea pigs, even frogs, sprinkled through our first 18 years of marriage she wanted a dog. I wasn’t so sure. A dog was a big responsibility. And since my wife’s health was fragile then I knew much of this dog’s care would fall on my shoulders. And I was too busy working to even think about taking care of some dog. So I dug in my heels and found every reason to fight the idea. Until one day Noelle told me she’d found a breeder in Noyac with a litter of pugs. And she didn’t care what I said she was going to buy one. OK, we’re getting a dog whether I want to or not. But a Pug? What kind of a dog is a pug! A runty little thing with a smooched-in face and a piggy tail? What the heck kind of a dog was that, anyway? My fate was sealed the minute I walked into the breeders house. There were a half-dozen puggy pup- pies playing on the kitchen floor. The cutest bunch of rug rats I ever saw. One or two traditional fawns and 3 or 4 blacks, one in particular stood out. Not the biggest, the fastest, the most playful. But when he waddled over to me with those big black eyes and goofy grin and put his tiny paws in my hand I was won. Hook, line and heart that little sausage of a dog was coming home with me. Over the years he grew into a stout, 20 pound little brick of a boy we named Brando. Because my little boy had a swagger to him that you just had to love. He didn’t know he was a runt of a dog. He held his head high, walked proudly and stood his ground with dogs five times his size. He had a heart as big as the outdoors he loved. And he loved me I think even more than I loved him. Brando and I grew older together. As the years went by we shared our lives on long walks through quiet wooded streets. We walked through rain and snow, dark December afternoons and sunny summer nights. I’d tell him about my day, my hopes, my fears, he’d qui- etly plod along looking for the next bush to piss on or mailbox to sniff. And the one thing I always promised him was no matter what, I would always take good care of him. I would protect him against anything. He was my good boy, and I would never let him down. The last few years were hard for Brando. Like many older pugs he developed diabetes. Over time it robbed him of his sight. And when his hearing began to fail he was less able to enjoy life. Oh, we still went on walks, they just get shorter and more cautious. At the end of a block he’d sometimes stop, look-up at me with those still sweet eyes to tell me he’d gone as far as he could. And I’d carry him home in my arms. Happy to help but heart-broken he was coming towards the end of his life. Last week was his 13th birthday. Most pugs are lucky to make 8-9. But Brando’s struggles were becoming more severe. He was losing his usually voracious ap- petite. He was having trouble walking at all. He still loved to lie next to me on the couch, snoring away as Me and Brando we watched TV, but his breath was more labored more pronounced. The next day he had a seizure. He couldn’t stand. We rushed him to our vet fearing the worst. After a bat- tery of tests he concluded pneumonia complicated by a neurological issue common to older dogs. He sent us home with some medicine and a slim hope he might survive. We set him on the couch with his favorite blan- kets and sat with him for the next two days. We did what we could, but watching him suffer, know- ing their was no chance to recover, but selfishly longing for one more day with the dog you loved was too much for us both. We knew what we had to do. And we had to do it that day. We wrapped Brando in his favorite blanket, got into the car and brought him to Dr. Turesky. I told Noelle I could not stay and watch Brando die. But when I was actually there, at that moment, I also knew my promise. To take care of my little boy. To do anything I could to make his life meaningful. As he had done for me. So I stayed, and held his head and looked into his eyes and told him I loved him more than life itself. And I watched him drift away to a place where I hope in whatever small space passes for my heart that he is safe and happy again. That was yesterday. Today I live in a house that feels empty beyond words. I walk by his room softly so as not to wake him. I see his leash on the door and wonder where we’ll walk today. In my heart I know he is gone but I simply can’t accept that. Some of you know how much Brando meant to me, but until today I didn’t fully realize how deeply I loved him. Some of you may think I’m nothing more than a silly old man with a dead dog. Move on. And I will some day. I may even get another dog. But he will not be Brando. I will never look in that dog’s eyes and see the love and trust Brando and I built. My heart is broken and no amount of tears or words will fill it. Not today. My best friend is dead. And I can only thank God I had the privi- lege of having had him these many, precious years. ■ Kirby Marcantonio JULY 2018 | Mont auk Life | 5