What can we learn from our dogs? If we are careful and pay close attention, we witness unconditional love, lack of prejudice, and joy at daily life.
Kleiner was 8 months old when we adopted him in 1999. He spent the first part of his life with us in Ashburnham, Massachusetts. He liked to watch our little dog Lucy (1998-2012) get up on the window sill, bark at the maintenance men, and fall off. He marveled at poodle-terrier Tyson (1987-2003) when he peed on the floor. But even though Kleiner had poor role models, he never learned any bad habits.
In 2000 he moved with us to Oxford, Mississippi and was the third dog for a time, and then the second dog after Tyson died. Lucy died in 2012 and Kleiner became the senior dog and our pack expanded to four with the addition of Jojo (just before Lucy’s death), Polly, and Peanut. He embodied this role well, though we are sure he would have preferred to return to his halcyon days.
Kleiner spent many summers in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, where he learned to swim in Rust Pond. He played ball almost every day for 15 of his 17.5 years — in the pond, in the snow, in the heat. When our eldest child was little, we all called Kleiner ‘Leila’ and then ‘Konner’ since the consonant blend ‘Kl’ was tough. Our eldest child also made up a song titled, “Kleiner plays ball every day, if it doesn’t rain.” He was so great at ball that other kids used to tell their parents, “I want a dog just like Kleiner.” Kleiner was the only one of our dogs to ever fly in an airplane (he rode with B in the cabin).
Our younger child doesn’t have as many fond memories of Kleiner since Kleiner was already evolving into “Smelly Old Man Dog.” But he does remember that if he didn’t throw the ball fast enough, Kleiner would snatch it out of his hands!
Happy. Optimistic. Playful. This is how we will remember Kleiner.
We said goodbye to Kleiner. I was a mess as I held him in my arms at the vet’s, even though he has been a high maintenance dog (barking for no apparent reason, diapers, up in the middle of the night, pooping in the house, had to be watched like a hawk so the other dogs didn’t completely beat him up) for the past 1+ years. Kleiner completely relaxed as the medicine took effect. I didn’t realize how tense his little body had been for the past two years. He never complained about his pains, he just kept being Kleiner.
I read this anonymous poem as Kleiner moved from our physical world to Dog Heaven.