Saturday, June 02, 2007

Requiem for a Scotty

Our 14 year-old Scottish terrier, Edmund Blackadder, passed this week. He had been struggling with a mouth tumor for the last 10 months. He had a pretty full life; born in Lincoln, Illinois, as part of a litter of 9 pups, he enjoyed chasing squirrels in Urbana, taking long walks in South Carolina and Georgia, and being taunted by neighbor cats in Phoenix. We often called him the Worlds Largest Scottish Terrier since he usually weighed in at 44 pounds (breed standard is 24): he wasn’t fat, just big. He was also prone to anxiety problems and allergy problems and spent most of his life as a vegetarian.

Toyoharu Kojima writes (in Tetsu Yamazaki’s Legacy of the Dog [1995, Chronicle Books) about Scotties that “The breed can be extremely stubborn and proud, as though it were a much larger dog. Because of this, the Scottish terrier can only live with someone who truly loves it and is tolerant of its faults.” Ain’t that the truth. They are very independent and stand-offish, only reluctantly submitting to gestures of affection (like scratches or ear rubs) and then skittering away as if embarrassed at their weakness (but glancing back in the corner of their eye, in a very characteristic look, to see what’s coming). This is not to say that they are not affectionate, just in their own Scotty way. Having a Scotty is a unique experience, much more particular and idiosyncratic than just having a dog. It’s much like having a cat, in that you get the feeling that they deign to live with you, or rather it should be more properly put that you live with them rather than them living with you; they will be affectionate, but purely on their terms. It’s a Scotty contradiction: they like to be near you, will follow you around the house, but at a distance. They can be quite playful, full of energy (they are terriers, after all), and keep that puppy energy for years. And Edmund was like that, though he also had a certain gravitas to him which always made him seem an older dog. But he loved the snow in Illinois, playing in the waters of Lake Michigan, and having a good sniff around the block.

A friend from grad school, Linda, once told me a story about the Scotty she had growing up who once ate the book, How to Train Your Scottish Terrier. That sort of sums up the breed. It also brings up the fact that, in particular, Edmund liked the taste of hardbound books and over the years made his way through volumes on Georgia O’Keefe, Artificial Life, a Jasper Fforde mystery, a volume on the DSM, and a self-help book, as well as others. They have large mouths and like to chew on things. Pet toys designed to last months if not years are demolished in minutes.

It’s hard to find an adjective which captures Edmund (feisty, ornery, goofy, psychotic, loud, loyal, determined, headstrong, demanding, playful, and sweet, all come to mind). In any case, Mr. Ed will be sorely missed; he was truly loved.


Jonathan said...

Hey Greg,

Sorry for your loss. We just lost a cat so I know how it feels. They are part of your family for so long.

Me said...

Thanks, Jonathan.