Lord Mikhail Andreyevich Putnikov called Misha writes:
My heart has joined the Thousand, for my Friend Runs No More.
Sad alert, you may want to skip the next paragraph.
As many of you may have noticed last night at fighter practice, Tzar has lost a great deal of weight, and was unusually inactive, even for him. He has also clearly lost a great deal of weight, and tired easily. What you could not see is that he has become more and more uninterested in food. I have had difficulty giving him his pain pills wrapped in liverwurst, and he will now not even eat chicken, only raw hamburger. This morning, he even refused his pills wrapped in raw hamburger, though he later eat a little later. I have known this moment would come eventually, and have dreaded the coming of this dark day.
Tzar has always promised himself to me body and soul, and trusted me without question or hesitation to decide every major facet of his life for him. Which is the lesser evil, to betray his trust and look into those warm loving eyes as I drive him off to his death to end his suffering, or to betray his trust by keeping him too long, and watch those self same eyes fade and glaze over with pain until the bitter end makes the final decision for me.
To make the final decision even harder, I suspect that he is hiding much of his pain from me, and his enormous heart still find joy in the simplest of things. But, I can see each day taking a greater toll on him, and fewer things cause his tail to wag and his eyes to twinkle. And I know that for all it will cost me to cut his time short, I can not stand to see my friend suffer so.
So today, at approximately 11:45 AM, I said good bye to my closest, most loyal and trusting and loving friend, with his head cradled in my arm and my other hand stroking his side. Even the Vet and the vet tech were crying. And I cried, too, as I sat there, his head resting on my arm as he had rested his head on me thousands of times before, except that this time, he did not radiate that feeling of love and warmth and sense of security he felt from being close to me. And I knew that I would never see that boundless love again, except in memories, and cried again.
When I first met Tzar, he was less than 5 weeks old, and weighed less than 7 pounds. But from the first moment I held him, he already knew he had already found his master, for he immediately crawled up under my beard and went to sleep, radiating this sense of being safe, being at home. He would do anything he could understand to please me, learning to be house trained with almost no accidents in the house, despite his young age. He never chewed a single sock or shoe (or furniture or side of the house), even when he was teething. He played gently with me, trying to keep his sharp baby teeth from hurting me in the least. He would play roughly with the Irish wolfhound, two weeks older and as far as he was concerned, his litter mate. He even learned to play fetch, though that is hardly a skill his breed is known for. He learned because he knew it made me happy, and he would do almost anything to please me. He took easily to a collar and leash, since he wanted to be by me anyway. And he quickly proved that the leash was unnecessary, even though he was never very good at 'heel'.
As he grew, he learned that his size scared some people, so he learned to approach slowly, and look sadly at people until they petted him. To avoid scaring people with his deep, thunderous voice (and risk not being invited out on later trips), he chose to not bark at all during walks, events, or days out. He found that patience got him many more hugs than eagerness did for the wolfhound, and he cultivated the calm, loving dignity common to his bread. On many occasions, I would see someone walk up to him, run their hand over his head several times, then turn to me and say that they were afraid of 'big dogs'! When he saw a stranger approaching, he saw not a possible danger, but an old friend not yet met.
He loved cats, and would let them eat first from his food bowl. He always tried to say hello to them, and try to 'pet' them in his way, but understood the cold shoulder as no, and never pressed beyond that, just looked sadly at what might have been. He would lie still enough for strange cats to work up the nerve to come up and sniff him, and welcome one of his own sleeping next to him, or even on him. But, when he heard a cat fight, he would immediately run over to it and look distraught, unhappy at the discord, but not knowing how to stop it without offending either of the cats.
He also welcomed other dogs well, too. Only a few times in his entire life did he take exception to another dog, and when another to exception to him, he would hide behind me instead of fighting them, or even barking at them as they barked at him. He would happily play fight with puppies and small dogs, even to the point of lowering his head so they could attack his jowls, or rolling over onto his back so they could attack his throat. And when he attacked in return, he could pin them to the ground with one paw, but had the foresight to 'tent' his paw, so that they would not feel the force pinning them to the ground. Without complaint he suffered children to crawl on him, and women to sleep on him (the lucky dog!) He rarely took offense, and often forgave quickly if he thought no hurt was intended. He lived in a more wonderful world then the rest of us, for he saw the best in each of us, and loved us for what we are. And of me, he saw so much that I would need to be a saint to be half the man he knew me in his heart to be.
He unselfishly gave so very, very much of himself, and asked so very little for himself in return. He followed unquestioningly wherever I led, caring less where we ended up then that he could be there with me. He accepted without complaint what ever was set before him, and did not ever try to steal more. He lived every day of his life the epitome of the Dream the rest of us aspire to in our best moments. I loved him so much I let him closer to my heart than I have allowed anyone else to be. And now I must learn to live without him.
Misha, in memory of Tzar