of two weeks ago, we said goodbye to one of the most loving
and passionate members any family could hope to have the joy
of sharing life with. Travis passed away, setting off waves
of tears and e-mails and phone calls and expressions of sympathy
that came in truly unexpected numbers. Our little boy made quite
an impression on alot of people.
just two years ago, I sat down to remember my best friend...
Lady. After more than thirteen years of love and devotion to
us, I described her as the piece that made our group a family.
She drew us together, protected us, and cared for us in ways
we probably never will understand how much we needed.
made us a family… and she certainly did… then it is no stretch
to say that Travis took our house and made it a home.
is designed to keep you dry. Kitchen… bathrooms… and all the
standard stuff that looks so cut and dry on paper, but sum up
what you purchase. You buy a house.
is warm without heat. It’s a place of comfort, filled with vivid
memories and endless dreams.
is that special place that just feels right, for reasons unexplained
(and in many ways unexplainable).
might not even be a house you own… just a place you rent… perhaps
just a place you live. And actually, I’d like to think that
many friends consider themselves at home when they visit us.
is where the driveway is a crushed stone that makes that unmistakable
sound when the car tires begin turning as you pull in. It has
a big bay window out front, in the middle of the living room.
Up against that window is a sofa. And in a home… as you arrive
back from your journey, the moment those tires and stone meet
to cause even the slightest of sounds, a furry brown head pops
into view in that window… paws extended over the back cushions…
shaking uncontrollably because of the manically waving tail…
staring at you and watching every step you make toward the door.
And when you move out of the view from that window, that guy
leaps from the sofa to race to the door, so that the moment
you open it there is no possible way not to feel welcomed… no
possible way not to feel appreciated… no possible way not to
a home. And that was Travis.
around my birthday in 1999… and in my mind I even recall it
being on my birthday, though today I can’t be sure of that…
that we drove off to select our new puppy. He left absolutely
no room for doubt. We met a few puppies that day, but as the
others bounced around… playing with each other and just being
distracted by the world… only one dove on top of Jay, played
consistently with him and Justin, and refused not to be selected
as the newest addition to our family. We really didn’t pick
Travis… he made it absolutely clear from the very first moment
we saw him that he had picked us and would not be denied.
does, a debate began over what name to give our new friend.
Had been going on for days already. Lasted almost the entire
way home. Eventually a Jimmy Buffet lyric came to mind… “Travis
McGee’s still in Cedar Key”… and our boy was named after the
John MacDonald character. South Park was a favorite at the time,
and in the midst of settling the great name debate, we decided
to add Beefcake as a middle name. So there you have it…
sister, upon hearing this, came up with a slightly different
name for him. She started calling him Meatloaf. It actually
fit. And given his desire to never miss a meal… and to try and
get us to add a few extra meals along the way… he eventually
looked the part too. His tendency to pop up unexpectedly… at
any moment… like a creature in a scary movie jumping out of
the darkness… earned him the nickname Travis Monster. And the
fact is, you could actually call him anything you wanted and
he would be grateful for the attention.
sure how Lady would react to him at first. Tolerant would probably
be the best description. A few loud growls and several snaps
along the way established the pecking order… but something funny
took place. Travis didn’t care if Lady wanted to be the boss.
He just wanted an invitation to the party. He quickly scooped
up tennis balls from the floor and jumped in front of, around,
over and on top of Lady… demanding the same acceptance from
her that his introduction earned from us. They became inseparable
friends over the years. As amazingly different in personality
as you could possibly imagine, and yet every so often you’d
find them curled up against each other… and there was no missing
the connection. Separated as individuals… united as family…
our house a home.
quite apparent to us that he had a lust for living and experiencing
anything he could be a part of. If it could be tasted… he wanted
to eat it. If it could be explored… he wanted to crawl around
it. And… if it could be torn apart so that he could see what
should have known what was coming in the future when we saw
what he did to the tomato. Not a real tomato mind you… but one
of those red pin cushions that look like one. We came home to
find a trail of sawdust one evening. From the kitchen… down
the hall… to the doors of the bedrooms… did you know how much
sawdust goes into one of those things? Alot. He must have been
entertained for quite some time shredding that fabric and spreading
those pins around.
one mark inside his mouth. No cuts. No blood. No pins in his
tummy. It was the start of a pattern for him.
A few months
later Terry and I went out of state to attend a wedding. If
that Denny’s just outside of Syracuse, New York still exists,
I could walk you right to the table we were at on that morning.
We had called home from a pay phone, and Justin said: “We’re
fine but you’re not going to be too happy with Travis.”
investigation drew to a close, we never did decide for absolute
certain that Lady was not involved. However, the presence of
a chew stick under the sofa leads us to believe the story went
something like this…
not only welcomed you home by staring out that bay window… he
used it for saying goodbye as well. And quite often, when given
a chewie, he would carry it around and not start working on
it until Lady had finished hers. (Kind of a “look what I have
and you don’t” version of the game kids play.) Occasionally,
you could leave by the mud room door, turn around as you neared
the car, and there would be Travis, on top of the couch, tail
wagging, bone in his mouth.
left for our journey to upstate New York, we have a strange
suspicion that Travis dropped his chew stick behind the couch
at some point. And, when unsupervised at a later time, he decided
he wanted it back. Too big to crawl behind the couch as he had
done while exploring as a smaller puppy… he made the next best
choice. He decided to dig through it.
will always hold a special place in my heart. Though it has
long been gone... another story for another time… I can still
almost feel the warm spot on it on those nights when Terry and
I would arrive home from work and find Lady under the coffee
table. New furniture you know… and she wasn’t allowed on it.
But she wasn’t stupid… we weren’t home and it was comfortable…
she knew what the squeaking floorboards and key in the lock
sounds meant… and she just stepped off the couch and quickly
laid down on the floor. If you listened carefully when you reached
the door, you could hear the thud as she moved. And now Travis?
Yeah… he chewed that thing apart.
eight years we have lived in our current house. Lady and Travis
christened it by sliding across the floors and into the stairs
the first time they were inside. Many days were spent lounging
in the backyard, moving from sunny patch to another sunny patch.
Terry called me. A bottle of medication was on the floor.
bottle. No pills nearby.
an emergency number. She was told how to make the dogs throw
up. Lady did… but of course, Travis didn’t. And then he ran.
Wasn’t silly enough to fall for that trick twice. In the end,
Lady had to go to the emergency clinic too. We just couldn’t
take the chance. Another case of Travis getting in trouble and
bringing Lady along for the ride.
Travis deposited the evidence we needed on the ground outside
our vet’s office. He went through eleven straight days of visits
to a vet. He survived while getting fluids through IVs and while
getting fluids subcutaneously so he could come home every night.
He was a great patient through everything he had to endure…
and endure he did. We will be forever convinced that this episode
took a great toll on Travis, a toll that likely cost him a longer
of Travis are scattered around an amazing web of people and
places. I could go on for thousands of words and only capture
a game called British Army. The origin of the name isn’t quite
so clear as the rules of the game. Justin would bring Travis
into his bedroom. Justin would defend the bed from the invading
Travis. Whenever Travis would jump on the bed, Justin would
push him back to the floor.
playing fetch with Travis and Lady. Travis wasn’t that interested
in the fetch part. He’d grab new tennis balls, but the older
ones he kind of ignored. Lady would run for hours after tennis
balls… Travis would run for hours after Lady. And… like a great
cornerback… Travis, in full sprint, would press his body against
hers and try to shove her away from the ball.
Travis taking us for pulls instead of walks. We were always
afraid, as he stretched against the end of the leash and gasped
for breath, that he would pass out and we would be forced to
carry him back to the house.
him getting on his hind legs for access to the counters and
knocking food down to the floor. Loaves of bread… English muffins…
and once (yes, we know) a chocolate cake. And I also remember
him tipping trash cans and pulling dirty laundry out of the
bathroom or basket and into the hall.
one day when I was trying to take a nap. We have a king-sized
bed with a sleigh frame. The footboard is probably over three-feet
high. I had blocked him out so he couldn’t get on the bed, but
he was going to make an attempt. I heard the sound of nails
striking the wood floor at a quickening pace, looked to the
end of the bed, and saw his head and front paws appear. He placed
his paws over the footboard, but only about half of his body
was above it. He didn’t kick… he didn’t fight… he knew he wasn’t
going to make it. Just a massive thud as he hit the bed. And
then, for at least two or three seconds, he just sort of hovered
in the air, staring at me, knowing something wasn’t quite right.
Finally, gravity won that battle.
the way he slept on the bed. He always had to be touching someone.
He’d often crawl against my legs and fall asleep with his head
on my thigh. Just before drifting off he’d take a deep breath
and let loose with a contented sigh to end his day. And while
he started the night at your feet, he was a creeper. If you
woke after two hours he would have moved from your feet to your
knees… after four hours to your hips… and after six hours to
your chest. Fall asleep all night and you’d wake with Travis
comfortably in place with his head on your pillow. On several
mornings I opened my eyes to see his head next to mine, a cheerful
thumping of his tail into the mattress the indication he knew
I was awake.
another game he played with the bed as well. We had a hamper
we used to block the dogs from getting on the bed. Whenever
we went out for the day, he would break into the bedroom, knock
the hamper down, and get on the bed. We got tired of him just
getting up there anyway when we weren’t home, so we moved the
hamper so he wasn’t blocked out. Once we did that, he would
go into the bedroom and go out of his way to knock the hamper
down… usually straying several feet in the opposite direction
from his path to the bed to accomplish this, as if it were a
necessary part of the process.
the way he begged for treats. Every time he came in from outside
he would race to the cabinet where they were stored and look
upon you with the sorriest expression in the world.
the way he slept on his back… often accompanied by a “chasing
the rabbits” dream or, funny enough, a sneeze. (And I’ll never
forget the morning that he and Molly caught the rabbit in our
backyard in the middle of the night.)
how he would race down a flight of stairs, his paws seemingly
not touching a single step.
his head diving into Christmas stockings when Santa brought
presents for him too… and I remember the year he pulled over
him not being a fan of baths… which stood out in huge contrast
to Lady, who occasionally we would find lying down in the tub
with no one around.
And I remember
him getting everything out of every moment he lived… his very
first breath around us to the very last.
been remembering as well. His soft, soft fur… his fondness for
her bras and other clothes… his way of never asking to go out,
but instead waiting until someone was headed in that direction…
inhaling his dinner and occasionally snipping fingertips for
treats (“easy… eaa-ssy… good boy”)… and the messes he made as
a puppy in his kennel, peeing everywhere in apparent anger while
Lady walked around with house privileges he had yet to earn.
one else was around (or in the house) with Terry, he always
made time to climb up on the couch next to her and snuggle up
against her leg. He’d do the same with me, getting on the ottoman
and carve out a place for himself in my seat. He never left
anyone alone… you always had a friend there with you.
goes on, a countless number of other Travis memories will race
through my mind. Some I’ll wish I shared… some just bringing
a smile to my face. And I’ll think about them, and all of these,
and I’ll probably sit there with tears on my cheeks. What I
can only hope though, is that I’ve learned from his example,
and that I try to experience everything in my life with as much
enthusiasm as he had for every one of his experiences and with
as much love as he had for all those around him...
to feel that deep contentment and warmth of being with the people
always there for those I care about even when they just need
someone next to them…
can’t wait for my next adventure…
never stop looking for treats…
I fight for every breath of life I can get.