Bill Pierce
Nuts & Bolts

"A Thank You"

This is not really a column, but a thank you note. 

Since the beginning of The Digital Journalist, I have written several columns that included my elderly German shepherd, Marilyn. I received a lot of email after I wrote about her adventures in a doggy intensive care unit, and even more when I wrote about how similar traveling across country with her and traveling on a presidential campaign bus were.  (It was on this trip she discovered that exit 249 on Interstate 70 in Kansas, is Halstead Road, and that the same state has a roadside display of an 800-pound prairie dog.) 

A lot of you commented not only on Marilyn's adventures, but those of your own dogs. And because Marilyn had been seriously ill, some of you talked about the pain of losing your dog. 

In the last year, Marilyn lost the use of her hind legs. Animals have no self pity. Her paralysis did not bother her as long as someone was there to sling a towel under her rump and pick up her hind legs. "Wheelbarrow Dog"  would zoom around the house and then out into the backyard to snooze in the sun. 

But she did panic a little when no one was around to help her. As she had been my companion and nurse when the adventures of photojournalism had laid me low for awhile, Judith, my wife, and I decided Marilyn would never be left alone for longer than an hour or so. 

This immediately established our reputation as antisocial. You could go out to dinner with Judith or me, but not both. If you wanted to see the two of us, you had to come to the house. Of course, Marilyn made even more friends this way. 

A few weeks ago, the paralysis spread to Marilyn's front legs and she could no longer be "Wheelbarrow Dog." She was unhappy, afraid. It was obvious we would have to end her life. 

Arthur Grace, once of The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, and now of the more lucrative movie posters and advertising, had lost two dogs during the last few years. When he heard about Marilyn, he immediately said he would be there when Marilyn was put to sleep. Photojournalism has given me a few good pictures, but, more important, a few good friends. 

I spent Marilyn's last days beside her. She played with her favorite toys and ate all the dog treats in her closet, the last when Arthur arrived. I gave her ear tookies, and snout massage, and sang her favorite song, "The Silly Old Dog Song." The vet administered the lethal injection. Marilyn took two sharp breathes and died. 

I was in tears; I don't think anybody else was doing much better, including the vet. I found out that many people leave their dog with the vet and are not there when the dog is killed. I also found out that some of the more  popular religions do not allow dogs into heaven. If there is a heaven and I  end up there, I will see young Marilyn woofing and running again and playing with her puppy buddies.