Orion's Page

"Old war-horse,
if only your knees could match the spirit in your chest
and your body's strength were planted firm as rock,
but the great leveler, age, has worn you down.
If only some other fighter had your years
and you could march with the younger, fitter men!"

--Agamemnon to Nestor, The Illiad Book 4 lines 360-365
Translation by Robert Fagles

We met Orion when we went to Baypath Humane Society looking for a dog in April of 2000. He was old, about 10, and had been in the shelter for many weeks already after having been found running stray in Hopkinton State Park. Passed over by many because of his age, he had become scrawny and depressed; one of his eyes wouldn't even open all the way, and his tail had lost almost all of its fur. Despite all of these hardships, when we went by his pen at the shelter, he came over, sat with his side pressed against the chain link door so that we could touch him, and made talking noises at us. My heart melted instantly. We took him for a walk, and he was wonderful. He had a funny "butch walk" in which he would throw his shoulders back and forth, and when we stopped, he cuddled up to us, just wanting company. After two more visits, we took him home, to the great delight of the Baypath staff, for whom he had become a favorite. I said at the time that I didn't care if he lived only two weeks, as long as he didn't have to live them in the shelter.
After just weeks in our home, where he had free reign after the second day, Orion was like a new dog. Both of his eyes opened fully and his fur began filling in (except on that ratty tail!). He had the softest ears. We suspected him of sleeping on the beds in our absence, though we rarely caught him; he could hear a mouse running across the kitchen floor, let alone two large humans coming home! He talked to us: "wow-wow-wow" was general contentment; "WOOF-woof" meant it was time to go out; and "bark!" said that something he wanted was out of reach. He had the audacity to become a picky eater, but we decided he deserved it; his favorite treats were from Polka Dog Bakery. He absolutely adored walks, and had them three times a day: morning, afternoon, and night. He especially loved trips to the Ashland Town Forest. Besides fun, these walks were absolutely necessary; he was the most housebroken dog I've ever seen. While at the shelter, he wouldn't even go in the outside part of his cage, and we soon discovered that if we just put him out in the yard, he was content enough to sniff around but didn't really know what he was supposed to do! The neighbors could set their clocks by us, and his sweet nature won all of them, and most of their dogs as well, over to being Orion's friends. Most of all he just loved being with us, and would always try to be in the same room with one or the other (preferably both) of us. We joked that his favorite place to be was "in the way."
After about two years, Orion actually did become an old dog. He got distinguished gray hairs on his muzzle, and over time lost most of his hearing. He spent more time sleeping, especially in his "cave" underneath my computer desk (causing me to find new places for my feet!). But he still loved his walks, and his people; and to our great surprise, he finally grew a new coat of fur over that long, skinny tail!

In January of 2004, Orion passed away due to complications within his digestive system. He didn't seem ready to go, and we certainly weren't ready to lose him. Preston wrote:

"Orion taught me about the stars. Every night he would take me out to look at them. I knew all about them already, but Orion took me out to look at them every night all the same. I learned how the constellations moved from season to season. I learned how it was darkest shortly after the full moon. I learned how the planets wandered across the sky on their own schedule.

Thank you for showing that to me, Orion. Last night I missed that walk. I will always miss that walk."

God bless our good dog. We thank Baypath for keeping him until we could find him, and our lucky stars that we did.

If ever you've thought about adopting an older dog, let us assure you that it is so very worthwhile. He gave us 4 great years and we only wish there could have been more.

We love you, Orion.