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Walking With Rosey

by on February 11, 2010 7:00 AM

Today I didn’t take my daily morning walk. For the first time in more than 14 years I do not have my dog Rosey waking me up for the walk.

Rosey passed from us yesterday afternoon, and I never realized how sad I would be about all of it. She was the first dog in my life — a great dog.

There are those who wonder how people can get so attached to a dog. Until 15 years ago, I was one of those people.

Then my wife and I fell in love with a beagle puppy with a brown patch on her knee who kept wandering off from the rest of her litter mates. In August of 1995 my wife came home from a trip and there was Rosey waiting for her at our townhouse.

Rosey was one of those dogs that always worked her way into everyone’s heart.

More than anything she was always happy to see me, always running to the door to greet me — tail wagging. The author Bern Williams once said, “There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.” After the first loss of the 1995 season I came home and realized how true that was.

When we got Rosey my wife reminded me that a dog’s life span is relatively short. I was just 26 and figured 14 years would be an eternity. I found out yesterday how soon it all flew by. Rosey’s life taught me how precious each day is — even for those of us who believe that life will seemingly go on forever.

What I am most grateful for — beside the joy and happiness she brought my whole family — were the walks. She forced me to get outside early in the morning, in the evening and sometimes late at night.

The walks brought peace and put me in touch with the surrounding natural world. When I lived in Toftrees many of those walks occurred in the woods, the state game land, or along the golf course.

Those walks got me out of bed to see brilliant sunrises, hear the honking of geese as they flew overhead in V formation. I saw rabbits, deer, turkey, pheasants and woodpeckers rapping against trees.

At night I saw sunsets, countless stars above me, brilliant full moons bathing newly fallen snow in blue light. I heard the chilling sound of an owl hooting in the night.

On Tuesday, I decided if Rosey was able to go for a walk I would take her back to where her life with me started. When I got home I felt unsure if I would go — Rosey had a tough day — but something nudged me to bundle up and venture into the snow.

I finally forced myself to face the inevitable — through her old age and health struggles I had to realize that tomorrow was promised to no one.

I put her in the car and drove to Toftrees and parked by the gamelands. It was as if she’d never been sick or in pain. She immediately began to sniff the ground for traces of rabbits and then took off trotting and running free.

As we walked down the snowy path, the tall pines arched overhead like a vaulted cathedral ceiling, I snapped a picture of her walking in front of me through the tunnel of trees and into the evening light beyond. It was as though she was running ahead to cross over before me.

Back home, I put her in one of her favorite chairs. I knew she was struggling when she painfully stared into my eyes for two or three minutes. I knew what she was telling me. I didn’t want to acknowledge it, but I knew.

Her last night with us was just like the first night I brought her home — I did not sleep and neither did Rosey. Tuesday night I tossed and turned knowing as the minutes passed that the next sunrise would likely be her last. I never wanted the night to end so I never fell asleep.

Sure enough morning came and I had to take her out for her walk — knowing it would be the last time.

The morning walks were always the toughest for me. She was always eager to greet the day and rarely allowed time to get up and get into the day before we went. Many days it was pleasant, dry, sunny and warm. But then there were the days when it was cold and windy, or snowing or worse yet rainy and cold.

Rosey showed me how precious each life’s moments are and how quickly they can pass. Just more than 14 years ago I brought her into my home, yesterday afternoon as I carried her out for the last time I wished I could have slowed time down.

This morning it is cold and a bitter wind blows — but God what I would give to have to go outside and brave the elements to walk that little dog.



State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JayPaterno
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