Even bona fide lovers of all dogs like myself only get one or two soul dogs in their lifetime, and Argo was mine. He was my reward to myself when I graduated from grad school in Ann Arbor, a exercise in commitment for a 29 year old person who suspected she wasn’t ever going to be able to quite settle down. We moved together from Ann Arbor, to DC, to Baltimore, to Boulder, to Denver, to Kalamazoo and back to Denver again, so I’m not sure I ever really learned that lesson, but Argo was the one thing it was easy for me to commit to. He was named after Argos, the dog from the Odyssey who waited for Odysseus to come home from his long journey. I’ve been on some journeys of my own, but he has been my most loyal companion and the one true constant in my life – through new cities and jobs and houses and boyfriends and all of life’s joys and inevitable losses. 15 years is both a long time and not anywhere long enough, and perhaps the sweet spot for maximum heartbreak.
I met Argo at the Huron Valley Humane Society when he was 9 months old. He took one look at me and peed all over himself and we were in love. Four days later he got spooked on a walk and ran away – miles away from my house and over multiple bridges and highways. I posted signs and had a whole army of people scouring the woods and parks of Ann Arbor for him until I was sure he was gone forever. Almost a week later my roommates, Erin and Jason, called me crying in the middle of the night, saying he was howling at the door and was home. His paws were bloody and he had chewed off his collar, but he was home. He had been gone for longer than we knew each other but I guess he knew where he belonged and hasn’t been voluntarily farther than 20 feet away from me ever since. I’m so glad he picked me.
Argo was a deeply empathic creature and a natural therapy dog. His intense dislike of wheelchairs prevented him from passing the exam and becoming a professional, but he was quite the freelancer. He was my devoted practice health assessment patient in nursing school, and the only time he wasn’t by my side was when there was someone else around who was hurting or sad or suffering and he would try to awkwardly lay on top of or lean on them – uncomfortable but oddly soothing, like a thunder shirt. He was lying next to my grandmother’s bed when she died and immediately crawled in bed with me to wake me up and let me know she was gone. I took him several times to one of my nursing school rotations at a mental health center in Baltimore, where he made lots of friends with people who could relate to his anxious shyness. I will never forget one patient there who I never heard speak a word, but who drew a picture of Argo for me every time we visited.
He did the same kind of caretaking for our sweet friend, Scout, who died less than a year ago, also with the help of Caring Pathways. It has been a long, sweet goodbye ever since, and I hope I have given him the same comfort he gave so many others. Thanks to this pandemic for giving me the time and space to boil him chicken and rice and carry him around and wipe off his drool and give him the best ending I could for this last 6 months or so, but it was finally time so we said goodbye today.
Argo lived with me in 10 different houses in three different states and the District of Columbia, and traveled to 11 more. He has fetched sticks out of Lake Michigan and the Atlantic Ocean and climbed Mts. Quandary, Yale and Bierstadt. He liked car rides, cheese, wearing women’s clothing and being told how handsome he was. He tried to befriend skunks, turtles, horses, coyotes and prairie dogs with varying levels of success. In spite of his adventurous spirit, his greatest joy was snuggling on the couch, which we have been doing a lot of, recently. He would like you to know that in his younger years he was heart-stoppingly handsome, looked like a tiger, and was very, very, very fast. Rest easy, sweet boy.