Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

One Last Look – Part 3 (A Tribute to Midnight, My Dog)

(Writing this series was so difficult for me.  The “bd” designations count the number of times I had stop for “breakdowns” in the process)

Spoiler Alert: Stories about great dogs never end well ….. (Grab a box of tissues – really)

Midnight and I developed a tremendously strong bond over the 16½ years we were together (bd13).  As a first-time dog owner, I was unaware that this bond was even forming.  Midnight just provided fun, companionship and joy on a daily basis. 

This connection between dog and man is so intense because it is a life-long process.  When humans fall in love, there is that huge emotional jolt at the beginning of the relationship. Eventually the intensity eases to a more stable level.  But the dog/man relationship occurs drip by drip, day by day, and it never stops. And the reason it never stops is that the dog won’t let it.  It is the dog that keeps pursuing you and you naturally keep responding back in the same way.

But if the dog is the one responsible for continuously strengthening the bond, this leads me to a startling revelation: Your dog loves you more than you love your dog.  I will let this one settle in for all you dog people out there.  I repeat: Your dog loves you more than you love your dog (bd14).  Of course, I can’t prove this -- but which of you is happier when you are reunited after an absence? Have you ever vigorously waged your tail in this situation? I rest my case.

There were events over the years that solidified the connection between Midnight and me.  When I was unemployed for months during the Great Recession, we spent more time together.  I didn’t realize how much he helped me through that time.  Many days I felt abandoned by the world, but my dog never gave up on me (bd15), although I’m sure he was sad when I returned to work. (Of course, he was the only one to feel this way)

My daughter who was Midnight’s chief caregiver, eventually moved out of the house.  I thought she would take the dog with her but she knew Midnight would be happier being around more people. He missed her, but I was secretly happy that the dog stayed and that he relied more on me now that his favorite person was gone.

After I began working from home in 2013, Midnight and I spent even more time together (detailed in a previous blog post and in my book Just Make Me A Sammich).  My favorite memory is that I would usually take a break around 3 p.m. and we would go play soccer in the backyard.  If I was late, Midnight would come bounding into my office and jump around, informing me it was time to play (bd16).

Quit staring at that stupid screen and get downstairs so we can play ball! You’re working too hard! It’s playtime.

I knew that Midnight and I had bonded, but I was unaware of how powerful this was until the day I realized he was growing old and wouldn’t be around much longer.  Of course, I knew the dog wouldn’t live forever.  I remember one time when we were staring at each other, thinking about how painful it would be to look into his eyes for the last time. (bd17)

However, now realizing this bond was going to break in the near future caused an intensely, dreadful feeling.  This was going to leave a mark.  I certainly never saw this coming. I felt like I had been tricked.  I’d not wanted this dog, but now I’m firmly attached to it. I now see how this will end and it’s going to hurt like hell. (bd18).  I even complained to God about how unfair this was. As if this was more unfair than anything else in life.

I thought Midnight’s physical condition would continue to quickly deteriorate, but it did not.  This was a slow process that took place for almost two years.  His mobility slowed, his hearing declined and he was going blind.  I took some solace in that there would be no painful last look if the dog was unable to see me. (bd19)

There were a few times when he fell ill, that I thought he was finished. I would summon my daughter to return for her final goodbye, but then he would recover.

It amazed me how much this dog squeezed enjoyment out of the last year of his life.  He still liked to go on walks, he still eagerly begged for snacks, he still wanted his head scratched and he still wanted to be near me every morning
when I read the paper.  In a way, he was an inspiration.  I should live so enthusiastically in old age, if I make that far.

He held onto life with all he had.  Sometimes he would get tremors and would walk aimlessly around the house until they stopped. When the tremors came in the evening and he was too tired to walk, I would lay him on my chest – and the tremors would soon cease.  It felt so good comforting him in this way. (bd20)

I want to believe Midnight’s was determined to live on because he didn’t want the bond to break, either.  If your dog loves you more than you love your dog, then the bond between you is stronger for your dog also. (bd21). The dog doesn’t want to leave you – this is extreme devotion.

Living with an aged dog is not pleasant. You end up making many concessions.  At some point the dog causes you more aggravation than happiness.  Some people would have ended it at this point, but I couldn’t do it.  This dog had provided so much joy over his lifetime that I felt I owed him something back in return.  If he was hanging onto life this firmly, then I’ll hang with you, buddy. I’ll hang with you. (bd22)

I had a lot of time to prepare for that final day, although there is nothing you can really do to soften the blow. As if you could prepare for getting run over by a Mack truck.  But I had imagined how that day would play out, and except for one remarkable moment, it went very much as expected.

Midnight was on my lap as I called my wife to explain the dire situation.  She pleaded with me to let her take care of it because she knew how difficult this task would be for me.  But I adamantly refused.  This was my responsibility.  When the dog had a need, he expected me to take care of it and this would be the final one.  Also, my wife could not come home until afternoon, and I had resolved that Midnight would not suffer one minute longer than necessary. (bd23)

I needed to go upstairs to get the number for the veterinarian and I lifted Midnight off me for the next to last time.  However, I wanted to be very gentle with him so I raised him up higher than normal. And then something incredible occurred.  As I held him up, our faces were about a foot apart. Then he widened his right eye as far as it could stretch. I saw his eyeball move as he struggled to focus in on me. With whatever eyesight he had left, he was trying to see me as well as he could. I may not have wanted a last look, but Midnight sure did. (bd24)

And just like 16-½ years ago when we were feeling the same apprehensive at that first look of “hello”, I know we were sharing the same emotions at this last look of “goodbye”.  And it was “goodbye”, as Midnight started to fade out after that.  (bd25) (bd26) (bd27).

That evening, my wife quickly removed all reminders of the dog from the house because she knew this would help me.  But the next morning when I went outside to get the newspaper, I saw his footprints in the snow.  Midnight had made so many impressions on my life and now he got to make just one more.

The bond between Midnight and me was so strong and so rich, however when a tight bond is torn asunder, a piece of you is ripped away.  It leaves a gaping wound that is intensely painful and takes time to heal.  But the worst part of this, which is so cruel, is that the piece of you that is gone is a good piece.  It is kind, and patient and loving, with all the pure traits in you that a dog brings out. Dogs make us better humans, and when they go, we lose something special within ourselves. (bd29) (bd30) (bd31) (bd32)

The Bible introduces to the concept of unconditional love. It is a concept difficult to comprehend in this life.  One of those things best accepted by faith.  But maybe that’s why God created dogs the way He did.  You get to experience unconditional love every day because it is living under your roof. (bd33)

And $450? I complained about spending $450 for this dog?  It’s the best $450 I ever spent in my life.

I never wanted a dog. In the end, I never wanted a dog more.  Rest in peace, Midnight my faithful friend. Rest in peace.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Strong Bond Develops - Part Two - A Tribute To Midnight, My Dog

(In Part One, my daughter gets a new puppy, which I try to ignore.  The dog however forces me to interact with him.)

The more I was around this dog, the more I liked the dog and the dog sensed this.  He thus responded in positive ways which continued to win me over.  Dogs have this strong, basic nature to bond with humans. And humans have a strong desire to bond with anything that wishes to bond with them. I had read about this dog-bonding thing and I had witnessed it in other people, but I never understood it.  I mean it’s just a dog, right? – wrong.

Even though I was his fourth favorite person in the household, (remember, I’m the heavy) Midnight had a desire to bond with me, and me being a human, could not resist this. I noticed that the dog studied my routines and behavior.  He was making an effort to understand me, and then modify his behavior in order to please me.  In response, I tried to figure out what made the dog happy and please him back.

This is not unlike the process couples go through when they enter a serious relationship with a potential spouse. They learn all they can about the other person and then modify their behavior to please that person.  This is an integral part of the human mating/bonding process.

The major difference is that dogs never stop this bonding process.  They watch you and try to faithfully please you their entire lives. Couples, on the other hand, typically transition from trying to please each other, to just tolerating their partner at some point in the relationship.  What would be a good term for that moment? What would it be? Oh yeah, that’s right, it already has a name! It’s called marriage.

So this “man’s best friend” thing is more than just a cliché. Same thing with the term “faithful friend”. And when you pair an intelligent dog (Schnauzers rated around the 11th smartest breed) with an intelligent human, something special happens.  Over many years, Midnight and I developed a tremendously strong bond by spending time together and sharing many of the following activities (bd5).


I shared many meals and snacks with Midnight over the years, but not voluntarily.  Schnauzers do not beg, that’s beneath them. They expect you to share your food with them based on your great relationship and get offended if you don’t.  They assume its “our meal” and thus you are required to provide them with something. 

Here’s the deal Jack, we’re a team. I’m protecting your food from any wild animal that may burst through the door and take it. So, throw me a piece of that delicious roast beef, will ya?  

Where are my chips?

And they will aggressively guard that food as I learned when I stuck my hand in a bag of chips that Midnight and my wife were “sharing”.  My quick reaction resulted in me grabbing no chips, but retaining all five fingers.  Midnight also loved popcorn.  One night he tried to push my wife back into the kitchen so she could tend to the popper instead of watching television. (This event made in into “Dog Gone Funny” in the Marmaduke Sunday comic strip).


We shared affection. I would be seated and Midnight would purposely bump his head into my knee.

Hey, you’re not doing anything. Make yourself useful and scratch my head. C’mon, do you think it’s going to scratch itself?

So, I would scratch his head and he greatly enjoyed this . Often he would nudge his head into my other hand, meaning he wanted me to scratch with both hands.

But Midnight had a strange way of reciprocating. One day I was lying on the floor after wrestling with him. He then started enthusiastically licking my entire shaved head.  I was scared to move, but the scene generated raucous laughter from my wife and daughters. This “head-washing” ritual became standard practice anytime I was on the floor.  I think because Midnight enjoyed me scratching his head, he thought he could return the favor by licking my bald head. I can’t say I really enjoyed it, but I did like the delight it brought to the rest of the family.  Especially when he stuck his tongue in my ear and I would squeal like a little girl.  


And we shared space. Again, the dog expects you concede to his wishes.

You look really comfy in that big ‘ol easy chair. I think I’ll just jump right up on your lap and join you.

He liked sleeping on my lap, but sometimes he would get way too comfortable and refuse to move (and snap) if I tried to get up for any reason.  There were a few times when my wife had to come help me remove the dog in order for my chair to remain dry.

Occasionally he slept in our room at night. He would enthusiastically jump right into the middle of the bed and claim his territory. 

Hey, I’m trying to get comfortable here. I need some more room. So if you could move over to the edge so I could have the entire middle to stretch out in, that would be great.

We mistakenly thought that we could keep him out of the room by closing the door.  But Midnight would not be denied, he would incessantly scratch at the door until we had to open it.

Just wanted to let you know somebody shut door by mistake and I can’t get in. So I’m just going to stay right here and scratch at the door until you realize this and come open it.

And naturally he liked going for walks.

Family Times

We shared being a family (bd6).  Midnight became part of our family and wanted to participate in all activities. He would whimper when we packed for vacation because he could not go along. He liked to play the role of family “protector”. He barked to warn us about the presence of strangers and other animals. He would get agitated if I raised my voice to my daughters (they were teenagers, so higher volumes are often necessary).  One time when my wife and I were having a shouting match from across the room, Midnight strategically positioned himself directly in the middle of us and began barking
loudly and aggressively.

Look I don’t know what all this yelling is about, but you will not use this tone in my house.  So calm it down and start acting like mature adults.

And that ended the argument promptly!


The dog and I played a lot. Midnight’s favorite game was playing “soccer” in our large backyard (bd7). (My dad would have been pleased that my dog had room to run).  I would kick the ball and Midnight (bd8) would wildly sprint after it. He loved to play this game in the winter. Jumping into the mounds of snow, even in frigid temperatures.  Often, he would grab the ball in his mouth and expect me to chase him to get it back.  So I would chase him around the yard, looking like a fool, because it made him happy and his happiness was important to me (bd9).

Over many years, through all this sharing, through all this time spent together, an incredibly strong bond formed between Midnight and I.  My disdain for this dog over time had turned into love. (bd10)

A Favorite Story

And this dog also thought a lot of me. Midnight would always run to the back door, jump wildly, and bark when he wanted go outside to play soccer. But one day it was pouring down rain.  He went to the door, saw the rain, and realized we couldn’t go out and play right now.  He then walked over to me and looked up.  He went back to the door, stared at the rain, and then looked back at me.

I found this amusing and said out loud, “What do you want me to do? Stop the rain?”

And then I realized, Ohhhhhh -- that’s exactly what he expected me to do. (bd11). He was accustomed to me helping him out when he had a problem.  Because of our bond, he expected me to accommodate him.  When my children were small, they thought their father could do some mighty things, but they never thought I was so magnificent that I could stop the rain.  But my dog did! And that made me feel very special. (bd12)

Next: Part Three – One Last Look