Southern Delaware, November 2006
.The vet eased his stethescope under Roan's armpit and confirmed, "He's gone." There I was, with my dog on a stretcher on the vet's office floor. The last 8 days were pure punishment, especially on Roan. After a nasty fall last saturday, his arthritis suddenly progressed from moderate to severe, and a painless but terminal nerve disease (degenerative myelopathy) showed up, making him incapable of standing or walking. Five days later (two days ago), he stopped eating and started vomiting, and his blood went anemic from what was probably spleen cancer - also likely fatal on its own. Roan was a maniac and a warrior, and he died just 32 days short of turning 15.
Roan (standing) and duck dog pal Grady zip across the Poquoson Flats
in Southeastern Virginia. August, 2008..
I watched him ease out of this world, his head in my lap. And how could I not? He accompanied me on easily a hundred (two hundred?) one-thousand-mile road trips, countless boat trips in the ice, dark, fog, rain, or blazing heat, and dozens (he would say hundreds) of "on the road" boondoggles (caused by me) that would end most human relationships.
Roan regulates "the hole" at a railroad crossing of the upper Jones Falls
near Baltimore, Maryland. 2009.
We first met when he was 1 year old and I had just met my wife - his owner. His greeting was a shot to my lip, which bled quite a bit. When Amy finally got a job near me in Maryland (and we realized we'd be sharing a tiny apartment at first), we had to leave Roan with her parents in North Carolina. I vividly remember the moment that I promised him that I would come back to get him. I made good on my promise several months later (new rental house in hand).
Roan participates in"Labrador Fight Club" held weekly
in the DU Employees' Parking Lot, 2008
Roan travelled to at least 11 states, Ontario, the Adirondacks, NYC's Central Park, and literally every beach from Delaware to northern Georgia. He saw the eastern continental divide, hiked his namesake (Roan Mountain on the NC/TN border) and once hiked Antietam with me - nearly drowning that afternoon in Antietam Creek. He chased a freight train in Trexler Village, PA. He saved a few duck hunts, nearly ruined a few more, and was just fired up to be alive. He was a good dog.
Folly Beach, SC April, 2009.
Roan, a breeder's "throw-out" because he was a lab-chessie cross, was the first and only dog I've owned without parental supervision. He and I didn't always agree on who was in charge (there's the Chessie genes). He was fearlessly loyal....to everybody (there's the lab genes). He taught me a lot about the importance of being firm but patient. Of maintaining order but being quick to forgive. Of being a consistent and unflinching friend. I think he was still trying to teach me how to be compassionate under duress - an area where I fail horribly - when he died today.
Lewes, DE June, 2008
.I lost my composure for only the second time when the vet told me to take my time, and to simply turn the light off when I decided to leave. The thought of leaving him there in the dark - forever - was an emotional dealbreaker. I stayed seated on the floor and wept next to Roan. I closed his eyelids for him and thanked him for being a great friend. I am really sad that his journey is over, but I had to make good on another promise I made to him long ago - to never let him suffer. The staff at the vet's office - the best in the state and generally recognized as one of the best in the country - cared for him like the giant he was over his last few weeks. They were compassionate and professional, which is a rare thing anymore.
Fighting for sleeping space in my grandfather's room
(actually my dad's bedroom growing up)
in our family's NYC house. 2006.
On the way home, still in shock, I thought of a Mojo Nixon song (about the death of rockabilly maniac (and Mojo's friend) Country Dick Montana) that Roan would have approved of, especially if Mojo was feeding Roan beer and pizza at the same time.
Bye old pal. Thanks for sticking around for so long.