How do you properly write a eulogy for a dog?
That’s what I pondered for the better part of last week as I tried to process the passing of a family pet. Well, actually companion; this dog was far more than a pet and dear lord, don’t let him hear you describe him as such.
Doc Holiday Brunk was not a pet; he was indeed a companion to his master, a daddy to many, a friend to even more and a light in our every day. Last week however, after living a full day in true Oakdale style, he laid behind the feet of his best friend and went to sleep.
The last three words of that last sentence are truthfully the ones we’ve been pondering the most. In a day and age when we are so used to there being a cause (namely disease or accident) of death, natural causes just lands hard for some reason.
Doc, a chocolate lab, would have been 11 this March. He had lived a full life complete with hunting birds, chasing ladies and fathering puppies. He was the life of every party, known as his owner Jim’s sidekick and the best house alarm anyone could wish for.
While his days of being alert to intruders was beginning to fade, his astute gift for being the morning wake-up call remained fully intact up until the day of his passing. It always brought me deep belly laughs on the weekends when bright and early, between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. Doc would jump down from our bed and begin his day of doing what he did … bossing us. Barking like clockwork to let us know it was time to get up, forget what day of the week it might be, as a ranch dog he let us know we were indeed burning daylight.
His bond to Jim was one to be emulated by all dog owners. He loved him with his whole heart and Jim the same. Reflecting days after his passing I recognized that’s the beautiful thing about sharing life with a dog, a true best friend. Not only do they give you back the love and attention you pour into them, it’s given back times one thousand.
I’ve shared in this space before, I’m a dog girl, have been my whole life. As long as I’ve been out on my own, I’ve shared my life with a four-legged companion, I simply don’t know life any other way.
And while there are other dogs remaining in our family to be loved, just like the loss of a human, there was only one Doc Holiday.
Like any passing, it hit us all real hard, even as I type this my mind keeps reeling, “is this real.” Being the practical one of the family, Jim had spoken of this day coming for a while. I of course being the optimist would simple chuckle, hug Doc and dismiss such talk, often hiding Doc’s ears or reassuring him he wasn’t going anywhere any time soon.
When a pet is such a significant part of your life, it’s a void which is inexplicable. Doc woke with Jim, traveled with Jim, watched TV with Jim, slept with Jim and of course hunted with Jim. He just loved to get the birds and he was a master at it.
So many stories Jim would return with, often telling me first of a retrieve by Doc before an actual count on how many birds they got.
Following his passing, my daughter and I shared the unique place Doc shared in my relationship to his master, her quickly saying, “you two took him more places than us kids.” Laughing at the silliness of such a thing, I quickly realized she was not wrong.
If we went to dinner, Doc rode along. Off to see friends or simply take a ride, Doc went along. Last spring we even went so far as to book a weekend in Monterey complete with a camping trailer to take Doc to the beach for the first time.
Oh the memories, the stories and the laughs; that’s what makes it all so wonderful and magical I now realize. Just like people, each dog has its own personality and in so doing leaves its own mark on our life.
There will never be another like Doc Holiday and while he has left a legacy and his pups hold certain characters of the king, there is only one.
But in keeping with the legend that he is, Doc went out as any true old Oakdale Cowboy would.
Last Monday morning as the day got started, he went hunting with his best friend, retrieved a few birds, then relaxed over coffee. He traveled to town with his best friend and enjoyed a little bit of sandwich for lunch at the H-B Saloon and on his way home he and a couple buddies stopped at the Cow Track to see Charlie and have a final drink.
That was a day in the life of Doc. Not a complaint to be made. Smiles to be had and memories to be left.
Cheers to you my boy. I still hear you when I wake, see your smile in my Charlotte and feel your presence in my heart. Until we meet again, cheers to loving us as only you could. Thank you.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 209-847-3021.