april 1, 1995 - april 26, 2007
Mozart, our older dog, died on Thursday, April 26, due to complications from an operation to remove a liver tumor. He was twelve years old. Laura and I were with him at the end, scratching his head and back.
Mozart certainly didn’t act his age; I thought of him as a seventy pound puppy. His noble profile and the distinguished tufts of white on his chest, nose, and paws belied the sweet, spastic goof who learned to bark at a higher pitch to avoid setting off his bark collar. He was our clever dog, the one who figured out how to extract his allergy pills from the marshmallows in which we hid them, eating around them and leaving the half-crunched bits of little pink pills on the floor without a scrap of white fluff gone to waste. He was always excited to see us, whether we’d been gone for an hour or a week, and no separation was too short to celebrate with a ten-minute tear around the house. When I would come home from work he’d be waiting at the top of the stairs with his brother, and he’d come racing down to hop all over me. When Laura and I came home together, he’d be pawing at the child gate, putting up a joyous, boisterous racket. He would bounce up and down on his hind legs like a bucking bronco and throw his front paws all over; then he’d let you catch them and dance with him a little.
For the last six years of his life, Mozart was inseparable from his adopted bother Sage. We would take the two of them to the dog park on the weekends; they’d wander around a bit to check out the other dogs, but they’d always stay close to each other and they’d always wander back to Laura and me before too long. They both had brindled coats, and people always asked if they were from the same litter. Nope – different breeds, born six years apart in different states, but you’d never know it from the way they stuck together. They got along great and were each other’s yin and yang, Mozart’s gleeful extroversion balancing Sage’s shy sweetness. The two of them would engage in brotherly tussles of epic proportions, all snarling and flashing teeth, only to drop the posturing in an instant at the first yipe of real pain from either of them.
Mozart’s voracious appetite was legendary; he loved to eat. It was not unusual for him to wolf down his breakfast, lick the bowl clean, and then move in on Sage’s bowl before his more finicky brother had even started to think about eating. A few months ago he got into the trash for some chicken scraps that happened to be mixed in with a decade’s worth of shredded bills and records, leaving the kitchen and living room covered in a blizzard of tiny scraps of paper. Just the Saturday before the operation, he wolfed down a whole loaf of fresh-baked bread that I had carelessly left within reach on the counter, unaware that a mere ziplock bag would not conceal the scent of food from his powerful nose. We came home to find the remains of the ziplock bag on the floor and a very satisfied looking Mozart roving the kitchen without a trace of guilt. We thought he’d be sick for sure, but for once his delicate stomach didn’t revolt.
I knew from the start that Laura and the boys were a package deal; luckily for me, Mozart’s acceptance was immediate. He was a friendly dog, always enthusiastically welcoming new people with a spasm of sniffing and kisses and letting them pet him or scratch his head. If you gave him treats or scratched his back, he’d be your friend for life. During one typically exuberant visit to the vet, the technician told Mozart “It must be exciting to be you.” He was his mother’s precious heathen, a mischievous angel, and that’s how we’ll remember him - wolfing down his food, tussling with his brother in fits of mock savagery, randomly dropping to the ground during a walk to roll ecstatically in the grass. And, best of all, hopping up on the bed on Saturday mornings to wake us up with little butterfly kisses.