Pop Culture Gadabout
Monday, August 19, 2013
      ( 8/19/2013 10:05:00 PM ) Bill S.  

DUSTY: Ziggy Stardust (a.k.a. Dusty), our 16-year-old Australian shepherd mix, passed away this morning at Desert Cross Animal Hospital. He’d been a part of our household for 15-1/2 years and will be profoundly missed. A Humane Society adoptee, Dusty was found abandoned as a puppy in a box along an Illinois country highway. The workers at the McLean County Humane Society named him “Bicky” for God knows what reason, but we re-christened him Ziggy Stardust because, as Becky noted, “he’s got David Bowie eyes, only backwards.”

Being predominately Aussie – smart, strong-willed – Dusty had to undergo obedience training with yours truly, though in the end, I think he came out ahead of me in that ‘un. Not too long after we got him, we discovered that the puppy had major hip dysplasia (probably the reason he was dumped by his original owners in the first place) which led to a pricey surgical procedure wherein the joints of his two hind leg bones were reshaped; it enhanced his ability to get around significantly, though in his final years he experienced arthritic pain and would regularly collapse on his hind legs. While his final years weren’t particularly active ones, there still were times most days when he displayed enough puppyish behavior to get us both thinking, “Yeah, we’ve still got some time with the old boy.”

But time’s not forever. Today, after a particularly hard night, I took the old dog in to be put down. It was a hard one for me to do because of all the pets we’ve had, Dusty has had the strongest connection; whenever I was home, he had to know where I was, keeping those striking eyes on me, herding me perhaps. All I know is I just loved to see him, and the feeling seemed mutual.

So I’m remembering Dusty now, those moments we spent together: the time in obedience training; the weekends at Bark Park, Bloomington, IL.’s then unofficial dog park; his role riding shotgun when we moved from Illinois to Arizona, sitting on the floor of the Budget rent-all truck looking up at me; our times out in the yard in Pima, chuckling over his geezerly attempts at “herding” two young non-compliant goats. “Now you know how I felt in obedience class,” I’d think. He could be a very protective pup; he wouldn't let any strangers cross the threshold of our front door unless we escorted them into the house; then he was fine with 'em.

In the end, he went quickly. At the vet's, I was warned that old dogs sometimes look like they're breathing even after they've passed; it can freak some owners out to see this, I'm told. Dusty went quickly and quietly: a sign, I think, that he was ready to let go.

And in the final end, this was the important thing: Ziggy Stardust was a damn good dog.

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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).



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