I am sitting in the shop tonight looking at a gaping hole and wondering how to fix it. If it was wood or fiberglass that would be ok but it isn’t. The hole is an empty blue-green dog bed in the corner of the shop, one that used to be filled by my ever present and always faithful dog Archie. His story has been tied to the Idle Hands Workshop from day one.
Archie and I first met at the construction site of the Idle Hands Workshop. The walls and trusses were up and I was sheathing the building in OSB in the summer heat. He was malnourished, dirty, and covered in fleas but curious as to what I was doing. He trotted right up to me and had the look of an abandoned dog. “You are going to need a bath if you’re going to stay here” I said. I bathed, flea sprayed, de-ticked, and fed the little dog and then settled into the house for a nap.
Dogs roaming free is a sad truth were I live so I pulled a piece of scrap plywood out front and spray painted a sign that said “Wiener Dog Found” for all to see. I wasn’t really expecting an owner to appear and I had already made up my mind to keep him so I figured it was time to name him. “You look like an Archibald, Archibald Wiener”. The other two wieners in the house didn’t look too enthused but Archie was happy. Cheryl was out of town so I sent her a grainy picture on my old flip phone to notify her of the new arrival.
Unfortunately later the next day the owner showed up. Turns out he was a legitimate crack head from down the street. I did try to talk him out of the dog but he took him back anyway. Over the summer and into the fall Archie (whom the crack head named Rocker) was a regular guest at the workshop. He would escape from the porch were he was locked up and head over to his future home to come.
November 1st of that year we woke to our neighbor knocking on the door. “There is a wiener dog in the ditch hit by a car, is it yours?” Both of our dogs were accounted for so out we went and found Archie laying there. He had been hit by a car the night before, his back legs were limp and he couldn’t move. The poor thing had spent the cold night on the ground with fire ants biting his belly. I ran for a board to lay him on as Cheryl flicked the ants away. Archie looked up at Cheryl and wagged.
Once we had Archie safe and sound in the house we debated what to do with him. We went to crack heads door but he wasn’t home so we decided to take him to the vet. Dr. Nunn checked him and pronounced him fit minus multiple broken bones, all he needed was some cash to fix him up. Cheryl left a note on crack heads door and it was the next day before he showed up to claim the broken dog. “Who would spend that much on a nine year old dog! I am going to take him out back and shoot him.” said the crack head. “NO, YOU ARE NOT!” Said Cheryl. With those words she gave up her 40th birthday present, a luxury weekend at the Jekyll Island Club which we had been saving up for awhile, for a nine year old, broken and abused dog.
Much like Dr. Nunn had said Archie healed well. We took him to the Veterinary trauma center in Jacksonville where Dr. Ernie bolted him back together. Five titanium plates, several feet of wire holding his ribs together, a box and a half of screws, god only knows how many staples. His x-ray looked like a classic comic book drawing of Wolverine, more metal than dog. Even with all of the extra hardware we were cautioned to not let him fall or bump into anything until the bones healed. Because of that we had to walk with him in the yard stooped over stabilizing his butt while he did his business. No fun at all. To keep an eye on our sizable investment, Archie was never out of our site for the first several months. Wherever we moved in the house we set him up in the corner so he could see us and we could see him.
From the start I was Archie’s man. He would look at me with the purest of love like I have never seen before.
He latched on to me hard and I to him. His two favorite places were in the shop with me, and laying on the couch by my side. A close third was sleeping. That dog liked to sleep! we had beds all around the house including the one I am crying over tonight.
The titanium plates had affected the way he walked giving him a rhythmic, slightly off beat sound to his steps. When I would be working in the shop I would hear the “do do doo da doo” sound of his steps and look up and see him standing there checking on me. Satisfied that I was still in place he would head off to do Archie stuff.
As I look through the pictures of the pathfinder build it was hard for me to find pictures that didn’t have him in the frame.
He would keep track of me during the day and, when it was time to quit working he would walk out and woof at me then start running back to the house with his rhythmic, slightly off beat walk. If I didn’t keep up he would turn around and give me a “hey it’s couch time Big Man!” bark.
Cheryl wasn’t immune to his charms either. His larger than life personality worked his way into her heart as well.
Over the years Cheryl nursed him back to health from malady after malady. When his old belly could no longer handle store bought food she made him fresh food (chicken, rice, and sweet potatoes). When he overheated and flopped over from playing in the sun she fed him fingerfuls of water until he felt better. The metal in his body made him cold so she made sure he was always in his jacket when it was cold outside.
Toward the end of his life he had so many close brushes with death that we started to joke about him having nine lives. He went through two abusive owners, he was hit by a truck, survived congestive heart failure, inability to eat, and heat exhaustion. So you can forgive me for thinking that even though his kidneys were failing that he might, just one last time, dodge the bullet. His last two days were spent the best way we could. He spent one full day on the couch with me. Cheryl tried her best to get him to eat little bites of food off her fingers. Then his last day was in the shop with me. Later at the vets office the blood test had confirmed what I had already knew. His kidneys were gone and there was no saving him. My little man no longer had the strength to stand up and the bright light of his personality was fading. I knew it was time. He went to sleep in my arms knowing he was a good boy and that I was sorry. Seventeen years and one day old my little man died.
All dogs go to heaven they say. I have heard my whole life about streets of gold and angels singing but tonight I realize that is too much for me. When I step into the clearing at the end of my path it isn’t the Pearly Gates I want to see. It is a little blue shop tucked back into the pines, a blue green bed, and the rhythmic, slightly off beat sound of paws on the concrete.