Love them as well as you can while they're here.

12 years ago, I was in an animal shelter looking for a buddy for my other dog. While I was looking in the little pen where the wee dogs were, somebody brought in a little black and white rat dog.

He was scrawny with wonky eyes and an endearing Holstein coat that included a heart shape. He was being returned by a family who said he didn't bark enough.

I named him Putney Swope after the movie because he was a funny little guy and that movie had just made me laugh hard. I had originally thought of naming him Parcifal after a story in a Robert Anton Wilson book I was reading. Parcifal was a Sufi clown who taught people by making them laugh. That name didn't stick because not everybody has a sense of cosmic humor. Robert Anton Wilson died in 2007 on January 11th. And today, I am sad to report, so did little Putney.

By the way, he barked just fine. He had a penchant for inconvenient urination, but an absolutely adorable howl. He couldn't decide if he wanted to be inside or out for hours at a time. He used to push me right out of bed an inch at a time. He ate cat poop when I had cats and his breath smelled like a graveyard. I loved him despite all this. To be fair I was not the caretaker I might have been as often as I'd like to have been.

He had most of his teeth out and he went blind and he got diabetes and got dropped a bunch of weight. He was a ghost. I got the insulin and got pretty good at shots and he put the pounds back on. He howled again and he cussed out the garbage truck and he gave me his gross little kisses and I was happy to see him reanimated. I got hopeful and vowed to make up for being a lazy dog-dad.

And he died anyway because bad and unfair things happen to everybody despite intentions, and I would trade a year of my life to give another to him but there's nowhere to file the damn paperwork.

I miss the sweet little bastard. He couldn't hear me when I apologized with snot all over my face and a shaking voice for not being there at the last moment or making his world a little safer or trying harder a lot earlier. He couldn't feel me hugging him. He wasn't there anymore.

I don't know how you feel about heaven for people but there sure better be one for dogs. If there's not one when I get to wherever you go when you die, I'll build it. Because dogs get a really bad rap but they all earn their way into Paradise for putting up with us for so many thousands of years.

What can I say, Putney Swope? Goodnight and better luck next time, little dude. I'd do it again, and a lot better, and I loved you more than might have been obvious and I'm truly sorry that the end comes to everyone and everything.

I'm gonna choose to believe dog heaven is already there, and I hope he's full of treats and whizzing on the furniture of a much better world.

Putney Alan Swope

Putney Alan Swope