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He was my North, my South, my East and West

On Saturday morning, our family dog, my dearest, sweetest buddy Butch passed away quietly while sleeping on the kitchen floor after his morning walk.

He was 10 and a half years old, which isn't that old as far as dogs go, but for his breed, the American Bulldog, it was on the long side.

I am so grateful that he went peacefully, without pain, and seemingly in great spirits. He was a very good dog right until the very end.

And though I'd been trying to prepare myself for the inevitability of what Walt Whitman called "the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding Death" for about a year now, and especially so since his tumor and consequent splenectomy last October, nevertheless his passing has brought on a level of bereavement I was not at all able to anticipate.

I'm astounded at just how badly I feel. I'm battered by a relentless tide of melancholy that just keeps cresting and crashing down upon at me.

This morning as I sit here writing, my sorrow is especially heavy, for he was always here as I prepared the daily strip, waiting patiently lying down on the Persian rug in front of my desk, or if he or his bladder wasn't in a waiting mood, nuzzling his snout under my forearms and lifting my hands from the keyboard with his strong, muscled neck.

And it was on our morning walks that nearly all of the Soxaholix strips were conceived, in the dark, beneath the stars, a dog and a man each in their own little worlds but cleaved together, inseparably as one. Often I'd work aloud the dialog parts between Mike, Bill, Doug et al, while Butch went about his own important daily ritual of sniffing and marking, sniffing and marking.

And he was with me, literally right beside me, pressed against my leg or head in my lap, for every Red Sox moment since Spring of 2000. Through three different places we called home, he was there, listening to the radio broadcast or watching TV, from Jurassic Carl, thru Kerrigan, and thru the improbable comeback in Oakland in 03 and the eventual game 7 ALCS heartbreak later, thru the Schilling Thanksgiving and every moment of the drama of 2004, he was there with me.

He was always right there with me.

So my heart is heavy this morning, and I cannot write a strip. It just hurts too much. Everything. And I don't know how long this tremendous ache and emptiness will last.

For now I have become like the speaker in Auden's "Funeral Blues" —

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

– Hart

 

Comments

My condolences, H.B.


In the words of Carl Sandberg:


Let an epitaph read:
He loved the straight eyes of dogs and the strong heads of men.

So sorry to hear of your loss. I am sure that he will live forever in your loving memory.

My condolences on the passing of your Butch, quite the handsome fellow. I lost my heart dog 4 years ago and I still miss her but I treasure our memories. May your memories with Butch help you through the coming weeks.

Dang.

I am sitting in the London office trying not to let my coworkers see me cry silently and saltily, reading this incredibly moving eulogy for your beloved Butch. As someone who in random perverse moments can bring herself to flowing tears contemplating the 'someday' loss of her 4 years young and spry Tess, I only have a narrow glimpse into your pain, but I can imagine its deep, affective, leeching pervasiveness. I know all pet owners grieve with you, and am so profoundly sorry for your loss, hb.


"People have been trying to understand dogs ever since the beginning of time. One never knows what they'll do. You can read every day where a dog saved the life of a drowning child, or lay down his life for his master. Some people call this loyalty. I don't. I may be wrong, but I call it love--the deepest kind of love." - Where the Red Fern Grows, one of the best man and his dog books ever written.

As ever, can't put it better than Natalie. :-(

a beautiful tribute - so sorry for your loss.

Thanks for sharing this incredibly important moment in your life with us! Take care!

Just three weeks ago I lost my Black Labrador, Tucker, who passed away sleeping as well. He was 14 years old which of course was good for his breed as well, but I'll always miss his personality. If it wasn't for the fur and everything, you'd swear he was human. He was a good dog and I'm sure Butch was too. My condolences.

So deeply deeply sorry for your loss. It is brutally unfair that dogs do not live longer. They are the best of us. I am going to go hug my "first-born" Henry now.

I've been reading the strip forever but never posted till now. I am truly sorry for your loss.

My condolences. We had a friend just go through this as well. Hope you feel better soon.

Sorry for your loss. It sounds like he lived a good, full life with caring owners.

Thanks, everyone. The condolences help.


Natalie, I did the same contemplation of 'someday' and bringing myself to tears at various stages of Butch's life. And did so a whole lot the past few months, for he really started to slow down and age quite a bit recently.


This was part of the preparation that I thought would help. Maybe it did, though it's difficult to imagine hurting any more than I do right now.


The most unexpected thing, for me, is how the grief is not just mental but physical as well. I quite literally ache and I'm sick to my stomach.

Sorry for the loss, hb. Man's Best Friend indeed.

That was beautiful HB, just beautiful. My condolences on Butch's passing.

I am very sorry for your loss. Your tribute was beautiful. Rest in Peace, Butch.

chin up, young feller.


doggedly,

lc

h.b., My wife and I have been through your pain twice in the last few years. Once a dog, once a horse (and for my wife the horse may have been even worse). We knew it was coming and it din't help one tiny bit. The heart wrenching is unbelievable - I know. My dearest sympathies. I know it sounds trite, but in awhile you'll think of Butch and smile.

As one dog person to another, please accept my condolences along with everyone else's here. Better thinkers and writers than I have tried to describe that inimitable bond between man and dog, and to little avail. Natalie is right. It is a love and devotion of the deepest sort. Take comfort in the belief firmly held that all dogs DO go to Heaven.

I've been through this twice in my life so far. The second harder than the first. Dogs are the truest of friends. I am very sorry for your loss. You will always miss your friend but it does get easier in weeks and months to come. Although friends can not be replaced, it is always nice to make new ones. You'll know when you're ready for that step, but it does help with the empty feeling in the house...when you're ready.

Just like so many other loved ones, Butch was able to share in 2004 and 2007 with you. At least the Red Sox won it during his generation and he was alive to see it.


For his family hadn't seen a Red Sox World Series victory since his great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather Jebediah Bulldog. 10 generations of Bulldogs between World Series wins and Butch got to see two of them.

You never expect losing a dog to hurt that much, but it always does. About ten years ago when we lost our first, I was twelve. A few weeks before, when I knew she didn't have a lot of time left, I had to go to a funeral for the father of someone I knew, but I had never met the deceased. I spent the time thinking about Millie and ended up weeping. There really is no companion like it. Thanks for that fantastic eulogy Hart.

My condolences. Beautifully put (and many of the comments, too). I'm getting teary-eyed remembering our Spot, who died in 1978.

I know that pain, hb, it's the ache of emptiness: your stomach hurts like someone starved, as though your guts had been hollowed out... and your bones - having lost some intrinsic foundational ballast- ache from trying to keep your body from imploding in on itself. And it's so immediate and sharp with dogs because their love is the simplest, sweetest, the most forgiving, the most generously gifted.

But it will pass. It definitely will. Time, and the beauty of memory, heals. And if one of your stages of grief is to relive all of Butch's best moments in loving detail, know you have a lot of dog-loving readers who will certainly indulge- and enjoy the story-telling. :) Please take care.

I am truly sorry for your loss, hb. I reluctantly became a dog owner 3-1/2 years ago, and it was the most wonderful decision I never made. Clearly Butch was a lucky dog: it's a shame more people couldn't be given as sweet an elegy as that which you've offered up for your pooch.

My deepest Condolences, Hart. It really is just astounding how much dogs mean to us. Even as I write this my own elderly dog is wedged into a wingback chair watching me through drowsy, half-opened eyes. I think what I love most about dogs is the simple fact that in such glib, irony-laden times these goofy animals who eat cat turds and drink out of the toilet never fail to inspire such noble feelings in so many people.


There's a bumper sticker that reads: "Lord help me become the person my dog thinks I am." Funny that we sometimes do become that person thanks to our dogs.

hang in there h.b.

We're very sorry for your loss, H.B. A companion like that is a special thing. I know it's the furthest thing from your mind now, but there's another great dog who needs a loving master out there.

I can't possibly improve upon your incredibly moving tribute, hb. My own personal struggles of the past few years were not completely resolved until I adopted a hound from TN a couple years ago, and now I can't imagine life without the goofball in it. So, in Butch's honor, I'm going to go rassle me a coonhound and then pee on the neighbor's cat

I love the dog stories you are sharing. I've smiled and chuckled for the first time since that morning.

I am so very sorry about Butch, h.b. A tear literraly fell into my morning coffee as I read your beutiful eulogy. You know that your Soxaholix family will be thinking of you and your loss.


Time will heal but it doesn't feel that way right now.

Wherever in the world Butch is right now, I hope he has an endless supply of Milkbones to eat and butts to sniff.

Wherever you are in your world right now, I hope that knowing Butch is having a grand ol' time brings you a moment of peace.

So sorry for your loss. Take your time.

Hart - My deepest sympathies. Our dogs bring us so much in our home - I am so sorry your own home is now bereft of the joy Butch brought with him. L.J.

Dude.

As a first time dog owner, but long time pet owner, I know how awful this feeling is. That the depth and strength are frightening. They are, afterall, just animals, right? But they are companions, part of the family.

I took my buddy Jack in the woods this weekend. He's about seven, hound/lab mix. It is wonderful to see a hike through his eyes and his nose, but this was a little bittersweet. He tired earlier, and is taking longer to regain his step. He isn't old, but he is getting older, and his muzzle is going from red to white. Best of luck, Hart. Write when it feels like the correct thing to do. Your audience will still be here.

Sorry to hear about your loss h.b. I went through the same thing seventeen years ago, (and will be going through it again very soon I'm afraid). I'd been in the military a long time at that point and dealt with a lot of death, but I was still stunned how much it hurt). Take care - time really does heal all.

Also a first-time poster, also crying in my coffee. When my yellow lab Tucker died, my dad left me a phone message that offered condolences but ended with "so suck it up and get yourself another dog". I thought that was pretty callous, esp coming from my sweet dad. 4 months of tears later, another yellow lab that needed a home came my way. The hole in my heart was filled. My Dad was right. I told this new dog I'd never love her as much as I did Tucker, but we all know how that goes...
Don't expect to feel better soon. Thank you for the laughs and tears you bring all us Soxaholix.

Sorry to hear, hb. It's the hardest thing. I made this poster for my cousin a few months back when he had to put down his dog after a bad case of lyme disease:

http://i115.photobucket.com/albums/n292/tphowes/personal/rory.jpg?t=1274107236

My heart goes out to you h.b.-I'm hurting just thinking of your loss :((

Sorry for your loss hb. Thanks for sharing that beautifully written tribute.

I'm so sorry to hear about Butch. What a handsome boy.

Dogs are amazing creatures -- they give *so* much and ask so little. The sadness is crushing -- we have said good-bye to 3 dogs and it has hurt more each goddamn time -- but it does pass and you will be able to think back on a decade of wonderful memories without totally losing it.

Win it for Butch.

I was 8 when I wept all night at the loss of our dog. And felt so guilty & weird, because I had not cried at all at the loss of grandparents.

HB - I feel your pain and sorrow. The unconditional love that our 4 legged family members give us is precious. We have a 10 year old Great Dane that we adopted in October 2004. She still has spirit, but I know her body is not as strong as it once was. It's sad that they can't live with us forever.

My condolences, HB. I'm a cat person, not a dog person, but I still know exactly what you are going through. Our oldest cat is 16 and in the final stages of renal failure, and I know that no matter how much advance mental preparation I do, the day when he finally goes is going to be incredibly difficult.

Take the time you need to grieve. Our pets are our family, it's a perfectly natural thing.

A beautiful tribute. May you soon to remember only the good things and good times he gave you. I've been through this too many times myself and the simple truth is, it was a member of the family. Extreme condolences.

Ave atque valle, Butch.

oh man, sorry h.b.

beautiful tribute, HB. my condolences. butch will certainly live on in these words and all our memories.

Wow h.b., I'm so sorry.

As beautiful and as spare as Yaz's swing.

I am very sorry for your loss.

What is it about these crazy little animals, their brains no larger than a piece of fruit, that we bring into our homes so that we may come to love each other unconditionally with all our hearts? So sorry for your loss, h.b. Butch was lucky to have you.

Hart, I am very sorry to hear about Butch. My dog Daisy passed away at age 15, in the spring of 2005. But I was able to share the joy of the '04 season with her, and it was the best. She knew! Hang in there.

I can’t remember the last time I cried, but this did it. Almost four years ago my girlfriend (whom I would later marry), asked, cajoled, pleaded, and threatened me to get a dog. Her parents were breeding their Jack Russell and she wanted one of the puppies. I have long been a ‘big dog’ person and was horrified at the thought of being the owner of a yippy ankle biter. I was never so wrong in my entire life. As I type this, he is laying by my feet in my office. He is the most loyal, intelligent, and tenacious canine I have ever had the privilege of knowing and it sounds like he and Butch would have gotten along quite well. The thought that this ball obsessed overly furry bundle of energy will someday not grace my life is almost too much to contemplate. I have an ache in my chest just thinking of what you must be feeling. Hang in there H.B.

Hart,
Your words are so moving. I do know the overwhleming and devastating heartbreak of losing a dog. Time will eventually heal your wounds my friend. Until then, maybe there is consolation in the knowledge that Butch was a gift in your life as you were surely one in his. Imagine how many dogs come and go in this world without the generosity, love and caring that Butch received from you. He was a lucky, lucky dog and so are you! Sleep softly Butch - you are well loved.

Sincere condolences my friend, your tribute speaks to all of us who have suffered a similar loss. Mine was three years ago. Although I can’t say that it gets easier; I can say I take comfort in the thought that my old friend will be there waiting for our morning walk, patiently under the stars, just across the river.

First time poster, follower since 04. My sincere condolences on your heartfelt loss.

So sorry. There is no greater friend, no greater loss. Know though, that Butch felt the same kinship to you and loved your friendship just as deeply.

So sorry to hear that.

Hart -

Thanks for reminding us that this, ultimately, is a blog in comic form, and that there is far more to life than this entertainment called baseball we put so much emphasis on.

Take your time getting back to this... do what you have to do. In my Jewish family, we spend seven days sitting shiva... it always seems long enough to want to start to get on with life again. So take however many days you need to. There's no pressure to get back to this... we'll all still be here when you're ready, and I hope that the rhythm of the summer gives the reassuring feeling that life itself rolls on, just as the seasons.

Much love.

So sorry to hear it, h.b. I hope your grief is not too difficult to bear, but know too well that it might be.

Our thoughts are with you and your family. He witnessed two Championship Seasons and much joy. As a Champ in the sky above, he'll be barking and wagging for the boys to bring home another. Sweet dreams Butch. Rest in peace.

I obviously didn't know Butch's personality, but I'm thinking Matsuzaka-san would have had him licking his balls and cleaning his ass with his tongue right about now.

Long time listener, first time caller. My sympathies, H.B. Your fine work keeps the members of this community going. Hope all these responses help keep you going.

Sorry for your loss old chum. My thoughts are with you and your companion. No matter how hard it is now, your life will always be richer because of the love that was shared. And can be shared again.

I hope this is not inappropriate but I wanted to a report a text message exchange between me and a friend after the bottom 9th of tonight's game at Yankee stadium:

Friend: I hope you're not close to any sharp objects.

SDU: Cunts. Go Brooklyn.

Friend: At least HB's dog wasn't around to see it.

The friend is a Mets fan but basically okay.

My condolences, H.B.

Dogs aren't pets; they're family. It is fitting to mourn.

HB - Here's a poem I wrote some years ago when a friend's dog died... my dog is 12 now, and rounding third. As many have suggested, in the end, your pain will be replaced with beautiful memories. With love to you now - LH

Dog Toes


All the ground we counted off together:
The waters
that parted and flew into the sun
as we brought our joy to bear upon them;
the rocks
that couldn’t possibly have minded,
or even noticed, our high summer trespasses;
that mixture of dirt, water and vegetable matter
that tried to detain us each spring
as we marveled in the melting canyons.

The snow,
chest high or licked from between pads, or compacted in tracks,
or simply highlighted, white on black, shaken off
and reapplied through the long dark days…
Snow was underfoot, and pushed aside, and passed through,
a simple, temporary, beautiful obstacle we loved.

My boots are wiped and stored,
My feet scrubbed and toweled.
The floors have been swept free of crumbs of meat and dried grasses,
the paths you wore in the carpets emptied of their loads
of leaf fragments and bits of kibble.

The rain
has washed our sidewalks clean,
and your yards. But if I were to leave
these little bones,
your toes that came through the fire, under the sky for a thousand years
there would be no solution that could rinse our miles from them.

For Beth, Linden and Zeek
November 2002

I'll never forget Sam.

Dear Friend - I literally grieve with you, as every passing of another great Pup recalls the ones lost in this old man's life. It is truly shocking, the weight of the loss. As you wrote, you start to worry and maybe prepare as your friend's muzzle starts to grizzle but nothing prepares you for the kick to the gut and the horrible empty space. It will ease...but it will take tears and time.

Love and Peace,
Littlalex

So sorry to hear. I hope that writing the strip eased some of the pain. When I lost my Golden Retriver 7 years ago, I leaned on the following quote from George Vest for comfort ...

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog. A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer. He will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

My gosh, you have no idea how helpful all these comments and sentiments have been.


Reading them, I often find myself crying and laughing at the same time.


I'm still chuckling over the "At least HB's dog wasn't around to see it" line.


I feel slightly less bereaved today, just slightly. But I'll take slightly. Slightly is fine.


After all slightly is the difference between a long fly-out and a ball that just sneaks over into the bullpen.


Thanks again for all your sympathies.

So very sorry for you. Many of us have been there. Thanks for sharing this difficult moment with us. Hang in there! Sox teach us nothing if not faith.

Very sorry to hear, H.B.

I dread the day that we'll have to say goodbye to my wife's Cocker Spaniel of 11 years, Deja.

And I still remember last October when we had to put our cat, Chester, down. Game 1 of the Red Sox-Angels series was that night and the result of that game meant as little as any game I've ever experienced in my life.

But time healed those wounds and made me think of the good times I spent with Chester. In time, I know you'll do the same in thinking of all the good memories you experienced watching our beloved Red Sox with your best companion.

h.b. I'm so sorry for your loss of Butch. He's now in a place where he can chase rabbits, sniff butts and the Yankees are a perennial .500 team.

So sorry about the loss but he was clearly a lucky dog to have lived with a family that appreciated and loved him.

HB- we lost Fenway, our beloved Irish setter, in January after a long illness. Fenway came to live with us in early 2004 as a rescue dog named Copper. I changed his name, and he helped us cheer the Sox through 6 great seasons.
Think of the good times, and remember all those silly, wonderful things that a dog can do.
Woof

sorry...its a little dusty in here right now. there's a special bond between a man and his dog....my thoughts are with you and your family.

Hey HB, so sorry for your loss. You have given him a beautiful tribute here. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Aw HB I'm so sorry for you loss. It's never easy to lose a family member - no matter how many legs they have! You'll look back on the great memories of Butch and smile, it may just take a little while, trust me, I have been in your shoes. It is truly amazing what an impact these funny creatures can have on our lives. It sucks and I feel your pain, but time will help it fade, but you the love you had for Butch won't go away.

Sorry to hear. I've been through it myself and it does suck.

I'm so sorry, Hart. Good luck and I hope you feel better.

Every pet should have a human who loves them half as much. I lost my dog suddenly this year, and only wish I'd been able to express my grief this well....Bless you

***where he can chase rabbits, sniff butts and the Yankees are a perennial .500 team***

it's heaven.
they are always .000

Ah, h.b., I never cried because of your strip before - so I did. Then I hugged my 20-year old dog-like cat. Your loving words about Butch are beautiful, we are so sorry for your loss.

hb, forgive this digression in your time of grief but I was called out: I have been madly in love with Jason O for 8 years. Take that as you all will and lets move on...

My condolences as well.
May your recovery be swift and your memories wonderful.

Dave Sta

Natalie, my condolences to you at your time of grief as well.

So sorry to hear about your friends passing. I became a reluctant dog owner 6-years ago. One of the best things to happen in my life. Time will heal.

It's been less than a year that I carried Jordan into the vet for the last time. The mistake I made was not filling out the check for the vet beforehand. Afterwards I could barely see the checkbook and hold the pen. I'm amazed the bank cashed the check; but maybe they're used to getting them from the vet that way on occasion. My sympathies.

This die hard Yankee fan feels your pain. I'm so sorry for your loss. Dogs are wonderful creatures that enrich our lives. He certainly enriched yours.

I'm so very sorry for your loss, HB. I've cried, then laughed (Kaz) then cried again. My four year old just asked me why I was sad, and I told him because a friend of mine is sad. So true.

Sorry for your loss. Here is a quote I like from Mark Levin's book, Rescuing Sprite: "An important lesson dogs teach us...
Career and financial goals are important,
material acquisitions are necessary,
but taking stock in life's little pleasures
is the most satisfying experience of all."

Long time lurker, 1st time poster here
My heartfelt condolances- it was a little over 11 years ago I lost my Australian Shepherd.....a spry, blue eyed troublemaker if there ever was one...to cancer. He was my first and only dog, and while he wasn't there for the Red Sox milestones you mentioned, I remember many a languid summer afternoon where I'd take him for a dip in the pond behind our house when I was growing up in the pioneer valley.

Even though you were expecting it on some level, I hope that you were able to find some sort of solace in authoring your tribute to your good friend Butch and sharing it with visitors here.

*** Update 5/20 ***


I continue to be buoyed by your well-wishes.


And to continue the metaphor started in the original, the relentless cresting and crashing tides of grief have subsided into long, gentle swells. The worst of the storm has passed, and while things are wrecked and blown asunder, the sun is out, the sky is blue, and it's time to start clearing up the debris and rebuilding.


To whit -- spurred partially by some of the comments here, there is initial talk of bringing a new pup into the fold over the summer.


I'm still not in a place where I feel much like revving up Mike, Doug, Bill and the rest into full on snark mode, but one step at a time.


Thanks so much for being here.

When our dachshund (and first child)dies back in 2001 my wife went from never wanting another dog to lets get another dog in about a week. Then a few weeks later she went out to pick up a beagle/dachshund mix from a rescue group, and she came home with two dogs. The 2nd dog got named Fenway.

Once again, as in so many times over the past 5+ years, I am amazed, touched and honored to be a small part of such a group of lovable (and one surly) misfits as have assembled here to comfort one of our own- just as in the past after Natalie's fire, Bob's and Mrs hb's illnesses, celebrating Kaz becoming Dr. Kaz, meeting sdu live and in person, and on and on.... look at the number of 'first time callers' in this thread alone. Quite a nice little community you have assembled here, Mr Brachen. We share in your pain, and we wish you well in your healing. And as always, thank you for the snark and good cheer you bring us regularly.

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