Sparky. Good ol' Sparky.
You may remember Sparky. I wrote about him numerous times, and while he never reached Marley-level heights in terms of national popularity, he was definitely a big part of my life, and by extension, my column-writing life.
In recent years, as you may have noticed, not too many Sparky-related columns. I'm sure you can guess why: Kids. Kids have a way of usurping dogs in terms of what you're paying attention to.
I mean, we used to go on vacations with the dog, even though he was (and still can be) a snarling, snapping, bossy little jerk. Even went on what we (very seriously) referred to as a "dogcation,' which was a long weekend in Alexandria, Va. Why Alexandria? Because it's one of the most dog-friendly cities in America, with dogs welcome everywhere, including restaurants and shops. Please note: This is the sole reason we went to Alexandria. We had no business there, no overpowering desire to see Robert E. Lee's boyhood home. We just went because the dog was allowed to bounce in all these places.
The following is somehow even worse: We went to Thailand, and bordered Sparky at some $40 a night dog hotel where video cameras allowed dog owners to log into a computer to see their pups. So dig it: We're on some side street in Bangkok, taking in the wonders of foreign city, and we'd plop down 80 baht to log in and see Sparky sniffing another dog's butt.
So yeah. We were nuts about the dog. (We were also nuts about using every available dime we had on travelling. Looking forward to doing that again in 25 years or so. Anyway ...)
Anyway, Sparky. He's the forgotten man these days.
We adopted him eight years ago, which means he's at least 9 years old, but he's probably at least 12. He's almost 100 percent deaf, and while he's still got some pep in him, he's usually content to nap on the couch. He doesn't even bark at every squirrel anymore.
He's good with the kids, and they love him, but he's just not the center of the universe anymore. The kids came along, our priorities got completely shifted, and we realized he's ... well, he's just a dog.
And then ... a few weeks ago ...
Kids were asleep, my wife was out, and I was watching TV. Sparky was on the floor, and went to jump up on the couch, just like he's done tens of thousands of times in his life. But this time? He couldn't do it. He tried, but just couldn't get it done. He paced for a few minutes, then lied down on the floor. Lethargic. Breathing heavy. He looked and sounded bad. I couldn't get him to sit up, even when I dangled some treats in front of his nose.
So what did I do?
I started bawling. It just exploded out of me. Didn't see it coming. Wasn't like there was a little teardrop, followed by a lip quiver, followed by soft violin music. Nope. I just started bawling. It seemed like this was the beginning of the end, and I fell apart.
I got down on the floor, laid next to him, patted him, caressed him, tried to make him comfortable. It was, I'm sure, a pitiful sight.
I called my wife, told her to come home. I told her Sparky was dying. I told her I was going to call the vet. I told her I was sure they were going to recommend to put him down, save him the misery.
This was horrible. Just horrible.
And then 20 minutes later Sparky stood up,stretched, walked into the kitchen and ...
And he ate his kibble dinner, told me he wanted to go outside by scratching at the door, went outside, barked at the moon, took a whiz, pranced back in, jumped up on the couch, and went to sleep.
My wife was home shortly thereafter, and demanded to know what I'm going to do next time she has a stomachache or something.
"Don't pull the plug on me,' she said. "Please.'
All right fine. So I overreacted. But what's clear enough, though, as a result of this incident: Despite not being the center of my world anymore, Sparky still demands a prime spot in my heart. (Now you can cue the violins.)
And it's also clear there's going to come a day, in the not too distant future, when Sparky will no longer be with us. But he'll always be part of me, part of my family.
Still though: Little bastard for pulling this nonsense. I mean, really. Literally playing dead. Come on.
Jeff Edelstein can be reached at facebook.com/jeffreyedelstein and twitter.com/jeffedelstein.