Saying Goodbye to a Friend Who Loved You | Opinion

While the rest of the punditocracy prepared for Super Tuesday, I was busy saying goodbye to a friend.

It was not easy. In the infinite scheme of things, we had not known each other that long—maybe a decade or so, give or take a year. But our bond was strong. He had a profound impact on my life, much more than anyone might have expected when we met, and I will miss him very much.

We met, oddly, enough, in a shopping center somewhere in Maryland. He was under a chair, terrified of the people and the noise and the activity going on all around him. But he had the most beautiful brown eyes, deep and soulful, the kind you could almost swim in; eyes that made him irresistibly attractive, at least to me.

Why he was there was beyond me. How anyone could have let him go was something I could not comprehend. But there he was, available for adoption. It didn't take me long, despite his skittishness, to decide I would be taking him home.

You've probably guessed by now the friend to whom I'm referring is a dog. And not just any dog. He was Watson, the amazing wonder beagle who, I'm sorry to say, left us Saturday after a brief bout with cancer. He departed this world relatively free of pain, dignity intact, and knowing that he was loved before the illness growing inside him reduced him to a shadow of the friend and companion he had been.

Nothing about him was especially unique. He did not do tricks. He did not hunt or fetch or do any of the things that have made other dogs famous. For a beagle, he was rather chill. When a rabbit would wander into the yard, he'd pretend he didn't see it. When the front door was left open, he'd lift his head, look around to see where the sudden breeze was coming from and, rather than make a dash for freedom as many of his breed might do, seem to shrug. as though what was going on outside could not have mattered less.

He felt safe and secure at home. And he didn't put much effort into winning our approval. He didn't have to. We tried to teach him to sit on command and for a moment we thought he had grasped the concept. Then he began coming into the kitchen and sitting without being told to while looking up expectantly for a treat. "Were we training him or was he training us," I wondered.

His favorite place seemed to be any place I was in the house. If I was in my chair writing, he was nearby on the couch. If I went upstairs, he followed. If I went downstairs to the kitchen for a late-night snack, he followed me there too. And if I took a shower or a bath, I could count on him checking on me at least once.

His sworn enemy was, of course, the postman. I always knew when the mail was about to arrive because he would bay as soon as he parked his truck parked on our street. And he frequently made sure the mail was dead, clamping it between his powerful hound teeth as it came through the mail slot and tossing it to the floor, before stepping on it. Which made for some interesting conversations at the bank as I tried to deposit checks with puncture marks. And he never figured out there were certain things dogs do that should only be done outside, much to the pleasure of the people who clean my carpets.

There's more I could say about him but it's hard to bring him to life on paper. He was unusual, to be sure, but more importantly, he loved me just as much or more as he was loved. It's often said that people who rescue dogs find the dogs turning out to rescue them. I now know that to be true.

Harry Truman famously said that anyone in Washington who wanted a friend should get a dog. He was right, but that's because dogs are in so many ways superior to the humans who care for them and especially to the people who all too often mistreat them.

Our dogs deserve our best as they give us their best. It's all they know how to do. The rescue society that brought us together could not tell me much about him. All they knew was he had been picked up on the street as a stray and saved from a kill shelter. And I'm so very glad for that since it allowed me to bring him home.

Watson was my partner, my little buddy, and fully a member of the family. He trusted me and rewarded me for my care with a measure of devotion I've rarely experienced from a human. I will miss him terribly and will never forget him.

Newsweek contributing editor Peter Roff has written extensively about politics and the American experience for U.S. News and World Report, United Press International, and other publications.He can be reached by email at Follow him on Twitter @PeterRoff

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​

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