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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



A wonderful tribute to a great dog. Our Fluffy is getting older and I know I'll feel this way when the time comes. I hugged her extra today after reading your story.

h.b. and all you creepy posters: Today we made the decision to put our beloved dog Pepper down. She was a great dog, but blind, arthritic and recently developed breathing problems. Coincidently, she started heading downhill fast on Monday. A very tough day today. All of your postings, though directed elsewhere, made a hard decision a little easier, and I thank you all.


So sorry to hear you're right where I was earlier in the week. Agree, all the stories and shared feelings really helps.

Steve, sorry to hear your bad news too. Take solace in knowing Pepper will be going to a better place, even though you feel terrible today with the decision you have to make.

Thanks h.b. This is the seventh time I or my Dad (when I was a kid) have gone through this and it seems to get harder each time. All but one have lived 10-15 years, a good long time for them, but it seems much too short for us. I'm not sure I can get back up on that bicycle again.

Hear, hear!!

Or is it, Here, here?

Regahdless, well said, Buck!

Sorry to hear of your loss hb. Hang in there, we'll be here when you're ready.

Steve, as a wise person once told me:

Our pets are a part of us. You could say that every one of us reflects a bit of our lost pets. In other words, I'm a Pepper, he's a Pepper, she's a Pepper, we're a Pepper. Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?

@vermonter - looks like you were correct the first time:
Hear, hear.

LOL. Glad you chose that version instead of the little known Village People B side "I'm Butch, He's Butch, He's Butch and He's Butch. Wouldn't you like to be a little Butch too?"

On Butch's name: I may have missed it, but was this a Hobson's Choice, HB? Terrific name.

The depth of our grief is commensurate with the height of our love.
Keep remembering the joys. It helps a bit.

I've read this post several times over the past few days, and it brings tears to my eyes every time. You have my condolences, and what you wrote reminds me of when my 11 year old Samoyed died three years ago. He was not well his last two years, but his spirit never wavered. Like you, I did my computer work with my dog leaning his head on my knee. Every fifteen minutes or so, he would push against my hand to remind me to scratch his head. After he died, I had a hard time going back to my work--it felt empty and useless. After a week, I finally did go back to work, and eventually the pain lessened and my memories brought smiles instead of tears. It took two years before I could even think of bringing a puppy into our family. I finally was able to, and a new friendship, different but still loving, is forming. I wish you the best and promise you that something more will come of good. Without any coaxing from me, my one year old dog began leaning his head on my knee as I typed.

I'm a grown man getting on in years, and here I am unsuccessfully trying to hold back the tears. I've been through this six times and, sadly, about to go through it again. It hurts like hell, but, though it doesn't seem possible now, it will get better. And when you're ready, there are four-legged friends out there waiting to love and be loved. They'll never be Butch, but they'll be special in their own way. Good luck, my friend.

This week's saddest loss had nothing to do with baseball.

Let's all try to have a nice weekend. And while we may or may not have anything fun to yak about on Monday, we can hope it'll be a brighter one than the last.

Wow. I read your blog pretty often hb and it's great. I love it. I grew up in the Boston area, now live on the West coast, and I think I speak for a lot of readers like myself in saying that my daily read of your blog is by far the closest thing to home I've experienced since moving out here. It's more then just baseball, it's the pulse of a whole region. I've never seen the Boston accent expressed so flawlessly in writing, all the nuances, cultural references, history, and things people from outside of the area have no clue about. Anyways, what you got going is awesome. Take your time for sure, but if it helps, there's a lot of folks waiting for you to get back in the saddle.

thans Kaz, made me smile. And bwf, an earlier dog was named Butch, so that brought a chuckle as well.

HB, I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm not a pet person partially because I can't imagine how I would handle its inevitable death.

I've been reading for years and have never commented. I recently moved from Boston. None of my friends understand my Red Sox-related neuroses at all. Luckily, your strip brilliantly expresses them on a daily basis, and makes me feel like somebody gets me. I hope you feel like coming back soon.

If you're not up to the snark, perhaps you could go with a warmer, fuzzier version of Bill, Mike and Doug? Actually, forget that. That's just the crazy talking.

I'm starting the haikus 'cause I can't wait until tomorrow...

Like a national treasure
flirts with a no-no

Superb post, HB. So sorry for your loss.

I read here often but rarely comment. I am very sorry for your loss.

Glad to see Butch's cameo next to Jack on Lo*t

too soon?

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