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Quiet Desperation

On to the next big adventure, friend


Smitty looked over his shoulder as he was carried away, and said, “Where am I going now, Dad?”

I said, “I’ve heard it’s a very big adventure.”

I knew why he was asking that question: Before we made eye contact at the MaxFund Animal Adoption Center in 2008, he was frequently moved from place to place and person to person.

And for the first three months, he spent as much time at the Doggie Dude Ranch in Watkins as he did with me, because my father and mother decided they wanted to see what it was like on the other side of the looking glass.

So I went back and forth to Michigan — for their funerals and then to settle their estates.

That summer, I reintroduced myself to Smitty, a smooth-coated, red dachshund, and we became best friends.

I have written about him for years, so I won’t go into his attributes all over again. Whenever Smitty is mentioned, I receive more messages than for anything else I write about.

I wanted to let you know I am working on a novella about Smitty.

(I got serious about this, and took an online novel writing class through the UCLA Extension School.)

There are cute and clever books about dogs all over the place. Mine won’t be either. At least it won’t be cute. Smitty never sat on the top of his doghouse and philosophized.

He never rescued anyone. Except me.

He came along after I retired and before Jennifer. It was a sketchy time in my life. I guess I was meant to have it: Single men who retire often head south, for a number of reasons.

I was heading in that direction, and then a friend sent a photograph of Smitty she had seen on MaxFund’s web site.

I called to find out if Smitty was still available.

“Let me go see.”

A woman put the phone down, and walked away. I could hear her footsteps. Then I could hear her coming back.

“He’s here.”

His name wasn’t Smitty at the time. I thought he needed a new one, to go with his new life.

Displayed near me right now is my father’s World War II flight jacket. In script, on the front right side, it says “Smitty.”

Later on, I called him every name imaginable — names of endearment — even after he was completely deaf.

Is your dog, like mine, a good excuse to stay home?

Would you rather meet the Gundersons for lunch, or stay at home with your dog and watch Hitchcock?

I never put a hat on Smitty. People do things like that, I’ve heard. Dress up their dogs like dolls.

People make jokes about dachshunds all the time, but my friends know better than to try that around me. I make an exception when it comes to cartoonist Gary Larson.

“Give me a hand here, Etta. I got into a nest of wiener dogs over on Fifth and Maple.”

When he was younger, Smitty crawled into sweatshirt sleeves, and fell asleep. Later on, he could sleep anywhere at any time, and napping became one of our favorite things to do together.

If I said, “Let’s nap,” he just looked at me — and smiled.

A few days ago, Smitty went on life’s final big adventure.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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