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  • Bill Holmes

Joey’s Story….



“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” Will Rogers

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” Josh Billings

Joey was a great dog!

I first met him when we were following our tradition of visiting my parents house for Thanksgiving in Augusta, GA. My youngest daughter was 9 at the time and I noticed she was infatuated with the neighbor’s dog. Every time she went into the back yard she would run up to the fence and he seemed as excited to see her as she was to see him.

He was a striking dog, with the build of a golden retriever but a brindle coat that looked like it may have been transplanted off a Great Dane or a Mastiff. He also had that “happy face” that some dogs are blessed with that always seem to be smiling at you. I had gone to school with the neighbor, so I asked him about the dog. He told me that someone had dropped him over the fence and had abandoned him! It happened from time to time because they were on a corner lot and people knew he would take care of the dogs. What a good guy!

He told me his name was “Tater” because the first time he picked him up, he was “heavy as a sack of taters”. Awesome!

We left for home and “Tater” was out of my life. For a while.

That next year my father passed away. It was very sudden, and I immediately got in my car and made the trip from Maryland to Georgia to comfort my mom. The plan was for my family to come down for the funeral, and I would stay a few days longer to get my mom settled into her life without my father. My neighbor approached me at the funeral and asked if I wanted “Tater”. He had noticed that my daughter really liked him, and he had more dogs than he wanted to take care of.

I think I said yes because I was so upset over my father that I wanted some happiness to come out of the trip. I told my daughter and she was ecstatic! I thought the name “Tater” was kind of cool, but she wanted to name him Joey. So we did! Two strangers, Joey and myself, climbed into my car for the long drive to Maryland.

He was fantastic! I’m not certain if he had ever even been in a car, but he did great! I even took the slightly longer route of going through Norfolk so we could take the Bay Bridge Tunnel. I remember stopping at the rest area near one of the tunnel entrances so he could go to the bathroom, and he seemed amazed that there was so much water! He was also offended that the seagulls were watching him, so he chased them around until he was exhausted. By the time we got to Maryland, we were best buddies.

He was a great dog. He was always…there. He didn’t need to be the center of attention. He wouldn’t beg to climb in the bed with you or insist that you pay attention to him instead of another dog. He was always by your side, touching your hand, letting you know he was around and things were OK.

About a year after Joey became part of our family, my mom passed away. It was also very sudden, but I was able to rush to Georgia in time to say goodbye. It was a quick funeral and I had to make a return trip to take care of my parent’s house and close out their estate. I dreaded being in that house alone, so I took Joey. He was with me every step of the way, comforting me as I slept in the empty house I grew up in and making the long ride home in a rented U-Haul a pleasant experience. I always felt Joey and I had a special bond because of the connection to my parents.

He was a great dog, and he took everything in stride. He was a calming and steady presence everywhere he went.

Some of my best memories of Joey were when we took our boat somewhere and anchored out for the weekend. After everyone was asleep, I would take all the dogs in to shore for one last walk before bed. Joey loved those trips because everyone else was asleep and he could “hunt” in the dark. He was a hunter at heart!

He never chewed up your shoes, but he loved to carry them around and present them as a gift.

He was gentle with everyone in his family (whether two or four legged) but felt a desire to hunt any animal that he didn’t know.

He always waited at the top of the steps with a happy look on his face when you came home.

He loved to chase sticks but never figured out he was supposed to bring them back.

He loved to swim but treated each encounter with the water as if it was some new and fantastic invention.

He was a great dog.

About five weeks ago we took him to the vet because he had some swelling in his neck. We were told that he had stage 3 Lymphoma and that his prognosis wasn’t good. We were shocked and did everything we could to make sure he was happy and comfortable. He had good days and bad days, but the trajectory was clear.

Today he told us he was ready. Kathryn and I took him to the vet where he laid down on his favorite bed and died quietly in our arms.

I am very sad, but I also know that right now he is smiling up at my mom and dad and they are petting him and telling him he is a great dog.

Bye Joey. You were a great dog.

Coda

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