A Eulogy For Snowy

At approximately 4 o’ clock on September 10th, 2009, Snowy Anderson died. He had been diagnosed with cancer of the lungs with accompanying tumors of the liver and kidneys. His last weeks were spent with an overarching sense of dread that the last day was imminent and forthcoming. He was treated with daily steak and all the love and attention we could give each day. He deserved no less, and he gave us no less than his best.

I have known Snowy, originally named Moses, since he was about 8 weeks old. He and his litter were born on a farm where they faced euthanasia, but were thankfully rescued by our neighbor. He was just old enough to be weened off his mother’s teet when we met. He was the runt of his litter, extremely timid and unable to play with the same exuberance as his brothers and sisters. As soon as we met he climbed into my lap and rested for warmth and comfort. I knew immediately that he and I were destined to be together. He spent the rest of the day in my lap, afraid and bewildered as I was. It was not long before we became inseparable.

Despite a few isolated events, Snowy’s puppyhood was as conflict-free as can be hoped for with a new, un-housebroken pet. He chewed on a few things he should not have, and made his business in a few unpopular places, but by and large his love and devotion won our affections. Within a few months of life, he had convinced my mother an ‘inside’ dog was worth having, my father had found a new comrade in arms, and I had found both an escape from my sibling and her offspring, whom had dominated my home, and a friend to whom I could confess my turmoil and frustration. I had my unconditional best friend.

Snowy saved my life. There is no more true a statement I could make about his influence on me in those years. He gave me the strength to continue until I could leave home at 18 and make a life for myself. At that time I foolishly left him behind, citing a larger property and more suitable surroundings as an excuse as to why we’d be happier apart. Soon after I began living away from home, however, I realized my love for Snowy exceeded surroundings and beneficence. We were one, and if I lived somewhere less suitable for a dog than the woods, then so be it. He would be there by my side, accepting and growing with me. We were never separated again.

Whatever path my life took, Snowy’s took as well. And never once did he complain. At no point do I ever recall Snowy showing a lack of excitement for the small things in life. To be taken outside, despite our current environment, to be played with, despite our selection of toys, to be fed, despite our lack of knowledge of fine canine cuisine. He was a master of rolling with the punches, and found joy in every moment of life. No matter how I felt about our current state of affairs, a simple walk around the block could always set me straight. Everything was fine. Everything is good. Throughout my college years, that time of great exploration and realization, Snowy opened a universal pathway for me that I follow to this day: love is everything.

After college Snowy and I lived in Baltimore City. Never had our surroundings been more desolate, our choices more selective, our life more remote. Never did he complain or hint that he was unsatisfied in any way. He could tolerate having his walks be restricted to the grassy knolls of the Canton Safeway, or share his walks with Barracuda, our dogmate in Canton. He never asked for more attention than I could oblige, and never did he seem disheartened by our situation. On the contrary, his unqualified enthusiasm for life seemed strange and otherworldly to me. He could be taken from his habitat and be placed in completely different environments and never betray a hint of dissatisfaction. It was his unconditional love that made all this possible.

There is nothing more moving as the love a dog feels for his owner. I can’t imagine the compromises Snowy had to make to continue living with me as I went from our expansive forest-laden home to the gray, empty sidewalks of Baltimore. Every time I came from, be it from school, work, or a night on the town, did Snowy ever greet me differently. His love and sheer joy at my return would be the strongest emotion I’ve yet encountered. By him I could do no wrong, so long as I returned and was in proximity. For my mere presence, I was rewarded with unimaginable love.

I remember when I would leave Snowy with Jonathan and he would tackle me and smother me in kisses upon my return. I remember the horror of leaving Snowy in a local kennel for a week, and his effort to run back to me before the back door was closed in his face. I remember making faces at him soon after we met, me at the foot of the living room stairs and he at the edge of the kitchen. I remember beyond belief that he made faces back. I remember every time I ever punished him. I regret every single one of them. I remember how he taught himself to stand one paw on his tennis ball at the top of the driveway to prevent it from rolling down. I remember his high pitched yelps and jumps to look both ways in mid air while bounding through the woods chasing deer he would never catch. I remember his interactions with all of my friends and ex-girlfriends, and how his reactions reflected the worthiness of those he met. I remember the first time Snowy met his mother, Lauren. He smothered her in kisses, apparently as a reaction to my affection toward her. I remember the time when he tore his ACL on a patch of ice and he had to wear a cast and cone to prevent chewing his cast, which he did anyway within an hour of leaving the vet’s office. He would spend the next month suctioning his cone to the ground to sniff and explore. From the vacuum noises he would make while sniffing the ground to the ridiculous sight of watching a mobile lampshade feel up my lawn, he provided me with endless entertainment. And he knew it. Never have I met a soul more candid and loving than Snowy’s.

I remember the day Snowy got sick. He refused to leave his bed; I nudged the blanket and pillow combo to the threshold of the door, and still he wouldn’t budge. We took him to the vet and found out he was in the advanced stages of lung and kidney cancer. Never had he betrayed any hint of pain or suffering. We were given an ultimatum; it looked as though we’d lose him the day we had taken him for a simple check-up.

We instead opted to take him home, to spoil him and comfort him, to say our goodbyes. Little did we know we’d be saying our goodbyes for over six weeks. Such was his devotion to us, such was his love that he would fight through the pain of bleeding ulcers and cancer ridden lungs to prove that he could live, and live well. The last six weeks with Snowy were a miracle. He loved us so much that he refused to show anguish. He even held on long enough to see his extended family one last time in good health and in good spirits, so that none of us need worry about him. When at last his time came, he took a moment when he could be alone to leave us. He did not want to burden us with his ails, and never betrayed the fact of his pain to us. Had we been able to spend every waking moment with him, it is uncertain if he would ever elect to end his misery.

In his nearly eleven years on this planet, Snowy taught me the irreplaceable joy of unconditional love. He taught me how to open up to other people. He taught me that I am worth loving. I am grateful for every moment Snowy shared with me and with my loved ones. My only regret is that he could not live to meet my children, so that they too could know his unique love.

Snowy, you saved my life. I truly wish I could have done the same for you. May your spirit come back to us one day. You’ll always have a special place in my heart.