So Long, Angus

I could never remember
That seething, steady leveling of the marshes
Til age had brought me to the sea

–Hart Crane, “Repose of Rivers

Ya stare, ya glare, ya constantly compare me
But ya can’t get near me

–Shock G, “The Humpty Dance

Hart Crane’s incredible poem “Repose of Rivers” shows how memory makes up knowing and how we can’t know what something really means until it’s run its course, and even then it could go anywhere. As rapper Shock G so eloquently puts it in “The Humpty Dance,” staring and glaring at and constantly comparing things still probably misses the essence of the comparable.

About a year ago, Angus was diagnosed with bladder cancer. What I remember about that moment when the vet told us he had a month or so to live was just praying he’d live long enough for one last chukar hunt with us. He lived through — and well past — one of his best seasons ever.

Since Angus died on June 12 I’ve been trying to understand lots of things and it seems that the harder I try or the more I think about them the more elusive these things become and maybe it’s because they (or I?) haven’t run their course. Angus has, but — news flash — I’m not him. I’m left without him to help me understand what he meant to me. It feels strange not to understand, but that’s where I am with it. I’ve barely grieved in the three months since we put him out of his pain. How can you grieve something you don’t know yet? I’m feeling old, but age, I guess, hasn’t yet deposited me beyond the dykes. I’m grateful but uncomfortable with the process.

Being left with Peat naturally encourages the comparisons. When Peat came on the scene five years ago, my relationship with Angus permanently diminished. Peat was a cross between Ray Liotta and Pee Wee Herman, while Angus was Olivier. Peat was a Saturday morning cartoon, and Angus a Vermeer or Van Gogh. Peat was a riddle on the back of a Cheerios box and Angus Keats. Peat was “Jimmy Cracked Corn” and Angus was Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde.” There’s a photo in the video (see below) of me and Angus sleeping, with his head on my neck just after my hernia surgery; when Peat came, Angus never struck that pose again. Thinking about this reminds me that I began grieving Angus’s death the day we got him, and Peat added a new dimension to the loss-that-was-to-come.

But the wedge Peat drove between Angus and me opened the door for Leslie and Angus to grow closer, and they did. He’d follow her around the house and in the field: he pointed and retrieved her first two chukar, which the video shows. Balance matters.

I miss him terribly, and I feel remorse for how I allowed Peat to come between us. I adore the little bastard, and I’m sure when he passes — if I’m lucky enough to outlive him — I’ll regret feeling anything but sheer joy at the grace he’s bombed us with, but I still struggle with how Angus took the foot of the bed after Peat came. What will Bloom, our next puppy, do to my bond with Peat? We all compare our dogs to one another, don’t we? Don’t we?

Enjoy the video. I know it’s long. Angus outlived several camcorders and cameras, a few computers, and it was agonizing going through hundreds of hours of videos and thousands of photos; I had to leave so many things out.

How much I would have bartered! The black gorge
And all the singular nestings in the hills
Where beavers learn stitch and tooth…

9 Replies to “So Long, Angus”

  1. Very nice tribute for Angus. I’m sure it was difficult to compile. When out on the cheat grass hills this fall, both of you will involuntarily glance around looking for the old warrior. or maybe even call for him to fetch a down bird.

    Looking forward to seeing you guys in October.

  2. Yes Bob, we do compare our dogs. Thankfully we have expanding minds and hearts to accept new dogs. I’m so glad to have known Angus and hope to meet Bloom soon!

  3. Bob, When the Las Vegas shooting took place (“I wonder where this guy is going with this?” I heard you think), I read an article which attributed the illness of the shooter to how much we men in America are lonely, with no friends and how we don’t play games any more. It stuck with me because I saw myself in that. The loneliness. The dogs do help fill some of that hole. But not all of it. And that’s sad. I loved your writing and again: I could see myself in it.
    Got a lot to do. The God damn “To do list” never gets any shorter. As if I’m born just to tick them off the list only to wake up and find a new one. But felt like I wanted to drop a line or two.
    If I didn’t have my bird dog, I don’t know how I could cope with life.

    1. Bahman, thank you for contributing something new and useful to this ongoing story. Loneliness is the supreme irony as we “progress” away from one another with all our communication devices and platforms. I’m with you: without dogs, things would be far more dire. Thank you for connecting. Stay good. 🙂

  4. I follow your thoughts and feelings. Abby my 10 yr old has always been my ‘mistress’ and Bodie, now 15 mo, came along and changed everything. Bodie demands my attention at all times it seems and Abby has somewhat been pushed to the side, or at least not front and center. Been a bit of struggle for both my wife and I but finally the emotions and dog attention are starting to find a balance, but it will never be like it was btw Abby and I. Appreciate how you put it into words and their emotion. Cheers.

  5. One of the hardest things in life ,to say good bye to your gundog ,
    We have done four times so far , you are the happiest when you get a puppy and the saddest when you part from them .
    The last one still brings tears to my ayes .

Chirp away

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