Distance plays no part in grief. Bill and Trisha Stevenson live in Washington state and I live in Kentucky. I've never really met them except for our online chats but when they lost their dog, Porter, last week, I cried right along with them. Porter was about 14 years old and I had been hearing about her for the last 3 or 4 of those years. Most of our pets are very special to us, but when Bill sent to me the tribute he had written for Porter, I just had to share it with you. Porter was a very special pet. Bill owns a bicycle frame shop and biking plays a big part in their lives. Biking played a big part in Porter's life, too. Here's Bill's story...
I lost my dog today. I guess you could say I'm not handling it so well. We called her Porter because Marnie Halsted found her near the town of Porter on Jim Brown’s birthday ride almost exactly fourteen years ago. I'll never forget Marnie bringing her into the frame shop on Franklin. She was a nearly starved puppy that someone had dumped in the Capital Forest along with her brother and sister. (I hope there is a special Hell for someone who would do something like that.) Marnie handed Porter to my wife Trisha; Porter laid her head on Trisha's shoulder and audibly sighed. Those of us who witnessed the event had little question that the Stevensons had a new dog. Some of you may remember her, she grew up in the frame shop.
Recently, she'd gotten old, fat, lumpy, and gray. As a foundling we never really knew what breed of dog she was. My guess was Lab and maybe Pit Bull, mixed with an alpha female personality. She didn't socialize well with other dogs but was sweet with most people. I was deeply hurt when a friend said she looked like the dog in Triplets of Bellville. I still saw her as she was as a young dog, sleek, muscular and powerful. I thought she was the most beautiful dog in the world. She was perfect in every way. Not the old lady she'd become. When she was young like many Lab mixes she required regular strenuous exercise. I often said my theory of dog raising was that a happy dog was a tired dog. Her exercise of choice was Frisbee, at which she was awesome. Someone once asked me how I taught her to catch. My answer was: how do you stop her? She was possessed, running full speed and jumping high into the air at the last possible second. We had to play at least four or five times every day. I loved it. So did she, I think.
And Mountain Biking. Earlier today I was trying to think of the best times we ever had together. There were lots. Lately they were mostly long walks, but the year she was two we started Mountain Biking. I built up a one speed for myself, thinking it would keep me from getting too far ahead on the climbs. Like any number of best laid plans this one quickly went south, from the first time we rode together she trashed me on every climb. Sometimes coming back to see what was taking me so long. We usually rode from the same place, a loop, but starting and finishing on the same piece of trail. The finish was slightly down hill. This was not ideal for a dog, they don't have a big chainring, but Porter really liked to be the first one back to the van. And my one speed didn't have a big chainring either but I can spin. We were pretty equally matched. She really hated to lose. She'd pout all the way back to town if she lost. After a couple of years riding together we found ourselves in a familiar situation, she'd trounced me on the uphill, but I'd managed to catch her on the descent, and we were maybe a thousand meters from the van. I started to wind it up. She went faster. I answered, pulling up even. Again she accelerated. Again I managed to match her speed; we were both topped out or nearly so. Suddenly, I felt the trail narrow. At first I thought she was inadvertently veering my way but then I looked over, she was even with my front wheel. She looked over, just brushing the front tire, gave it just a nudge and then she was gone. “Shoulder checked” in a sprint by a dog.
So that's how I'm going to remember you, Porter. A black streak with an attitude and a smile on your face. Rest in peace, sweet dog, I'll miss you, in fact I already do, a lot.
I promised Trisha I wouldn't cry when I put this article together. I didn't really, because how can one cry with the image of a black streak with an attitude and a smile on her face?
What a beautiful tribute, Bill. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.