For those of you opening this post and looking for whiskey related commentary, I apologize. This is only tangentially touching the whiskey world. However, it’s my damn website so I can write what I want. And what I want is to pay tribute to an amazing friend that I lost this week.
In early 2005, my wife (then fiancée) and I decided to take the plunge on a getting a dog. I had dogs growing up but college and the early part of my career had left me with little time for the trials of bringing home a puppy. Unlike many people, we approached breed selection in a more analytical manner rather than an emotional one. We were looking for a small, even tempered, playful breed that shed little and would be content in our modest two bedroom townhouse. We settled on a Boston Terrier. They are cute in a less conventional way and really the quickest route to my wife’s heart is unconventional. After the decision was made we found a breeder in Douglasville in short order. We called, found out they had several puppies available, and set up a time.
On the appointed day we drove down from Smyrna to Douglasville with our printed MapQuest directions (no Google Maps app then) and managed to not get lost. We pulled into the small farm and knocked on the door. The breeder took us to the shed where two very rambunctious Boston Terriers were running around outside (the parents). Inside there was a small open topped pen with several squeaking little puppies in it. I got to choose which one would come home with us. I picked a little one who wandered right over to me with an odd little white marking on his nose.
We held him wrapped in a towel all the way home. He burrowed in and slept most of the way. He was so quiet that he gave us no sign of the years to come. Words like “ornery” and “rambunctious” just don’t begin to describe this little dog. I named him “Macallan” because I was fond of the malt and mostly because I wanted to name him after a malt distillery and it seemed like a reasonable name. At least it was reasonable compared to many of the nearly unpronounceable Gaelic names born by other distilleries. If I had known the kind of dog he would be I would’ve chosen Ardbeg or whatever Gaelic is for “hurricane.”
The puppy years were challenging. Macallan was rarely contained if he didn’t want to be. We saw him climbing dog gates like a ladder stacked two high and then jumping from the top to escape. Not only would he sneak out but he would also sneak back in leaving us to wonder how there was a puppy downstairs and poop in the hall upstairs. He cost us thousands of dollars in damage over the years. We had to get new flooring put in the living room because he worked up a little piece of carpet from behind the dog gate and pulled it so that it ran a two inch wide strip straight into the middle of the living room. He chewed up so many of my wife’s shoes that I was worried that she might end his life before it really even got started. He even decided to “mark” my best friend by peeing on him the moment they met. Macallan never did that to anyone else and I always told Matt that he was Macallan’s bitch from that day forward. All this was juxtaposed against the quiet moments laying with him on the bed. His favorite place was laying on my chest sleeping, nose up so that he could feel me breathing.
The middle years saw maturity in terms of obedience and destruction but he didn’t slow down.
There was no toy he wouldn’t destroy. I bought the ones you usually buy for a pit bull, not a 12 pound Boston Terrier. He laid waste to them all. His favorite toy was a soccer ball he would chase endlessly around the backyard. Sometimes he would get it in the corner nose bumping it like a seal. He scrapped and chewed that damn ball until one day he came running toward me with the half deflated ball in his mouth. He’d finally eaten away enough covering to puncture it with his teeth. He ran toward me with it in his mouth, so big that it was blocking his field of view, with such joy as if to say “See Dad! I finally killed the motherf%$#er!” The arrival of our second Boston Terrier named Abby was not well received. Macallan was a people dog not a dog’s dog. The two dogs were just getting to the point of grudging acceptance when we added insult to injury by having the audacity to have kids. But he was always so great with children. He was gentle and patient. Macallan didn’t growl or fuss. He just sat there bearing the brunt of our girls’ “affection.”
His later years still left him with the vigor and playfulness to fetch and play for hours. He was never motivated by food or treats (which made him a pain in the ass to train) but he loved a ball and tug of war like they were the greatest things in the world. A cataract started to set in his right eye around the age of eight. That was made worse by a leaky cornea a year later. But he still would not be slowed down until a blind right turn ran his left eye into a stick in the yard at age 10. The recovery was slow and came with surgery and lots of medication. Still, he prevailed and healed. By then he was completely blind but he managed. As long as we didn’t move around the furniture Macallan made his was around just fine. He couldn’t run and fetch anymore but that made him more snuggly and companionable again like when he was a puppy.
In the last week of his life he started to act out of character. He was bumping into things and endlessly circling the house and the back yard unless we held him. Late on the morning of July 4th he fell over having a seizure in the downstairs hallway. Over the rest of the day the seizures got worse and more frequent. He was in so much pain that night and seeing him that way broke our hearts. Early on the morning of July 5th we took him to the vet for observation. Shortly after 9AM my wife and I were called back to be with him. He died in my arms right before 10AM. He was so tenacious and lived life so aggressively that only a brain tumor could bring him down. He was a great companion and the best four legged friend I could ask for. He was our oldest child and my only boy. I will always remember him sleeping on my chest as a puppy, face up so that he could feel my breathing. I love him more than I can express and his loss hurts so much more than I could have expected. A piece of my heart is gone.