So many memories
A tribute to Thor
By Mitch Mode
Special to the Star Journal
Thor died. That’s all one needs to know. Two words tell all. Thor, our big boy, our gentle soul, our sweet goofy dog is gone.
But with dogs as with people the story is never writ in two words, is never told of the time at the end, rather is scribed in the span that came before, the lifetime in which a legacy is built and memories bloom.
Dogs take our hearts as spiders build a web; a strand at a time, expanding, encompassing. By the end our hearts are bound up by their time with us.
I could have written that we lost Thor. But no, we lost Thor those times he went running crazy after deer while we hunted grouse. We lost him on a morning he got out of the yard and went racing around the south side of town. We lost him to the shadowy thickets, home of grouse and woodcock. We lost him on a day in March in the place the deer wintered and I found his prints mixed with the prints of wolves. We lost him over the years. But he always came back.
He came back after chasing deer. He came back that morning, heavy with skunk smell. He came out of the dark thickets in grouse cover and he came back after running in the territory of wolves. He was lost; but he came back. He always found his way.
He failed of late. He seemed to bear a burden of age and sadness, the weight a dog could heft when younger and fit but now in the aging times could no longer carry. He was fading. We knew it and he may have known it as well.
I was reading at days end last week and he lay on his bed next to the couch and watched me across the room. When he was born his eyes were blue, turned amber golden as he grew, now were faded. That evening he watched me as I read. He’d not been doing well. He’d become finicky in his eating, taking food one day, turning his nose at it the next. Then he stopped eating altogether. I read until 10:00 and then turned off the lights. But on a whim I took a spare blanket and stretched out on the couch next to him, reached my hand out and rubbed his head. He usually slept upstairs with us but this night we were going to leave him downstairs. I wanted to be with him.
Then in the darkness the tip-tap of tiny feet; Fenway came down the stairs and jumped up on the couch with me. Thor was Fenway’s best friend. Fenway adored Thor. Fenway had been troubled as Thor failed. Now he wanted to be with me and with Thor.
We slept, the three of us, but with Fenway on the couch I could not sleep well and at midnight, with Thor breathing easy, I eased off the couch and went upstairs. Fenway followed.
When I came down the next morning, Thor had died.
I made coffee and sat with Thor and the memories started to come, bright rays of light in the darkness of that January morning.
He was at his best when he ran, a long-legged runner, silky-smooth, running like a river flowing uphill, smooth and powerful, ageless and timeless, the elemental grace of a dog running forever young and beautiful. I remembered.
I remembered his kind eyes and his mild disposition. Everyone liked Thor (we could not say the same of Riika who was too intense and aloof for many, nor of Fenway who in spite of his closeness to Thor shares more of Riika’s personality).
I sipped my hot coffee. I let my mind go to times with Thor. He was a talented hunter who was lackadaisical about hunting. He loved it, but he did not live for the hunt. Riika hunted with intensity; Thor did not.
But there was a November day when we left Riika home and went, just the two of us. He was so proud to be the chosen one on that afternoon, he and I together. We took four grouse that day and Thor flushed them all and found them all and in the truck on the way home sat tall as if he was the most special dog in the world And for me, he was.
He was independent, bracketed as he was by the high octane intensity of Riika the elder and, in his own way, the diminutive Fenway who, as they say, punches above his weight. Thor chose the middle ground, showing no initiative to match the fiery heat of Riika, nor the overachiever in Fen.
Smart? You figure it out. Is a dog smart that learns to open the refrigerator and take food from the shelves? Thor did that. We had to replace the ‘fridge. Clever? He’d steal loaves of bread off the counter so we put them up too high for him, on top of the refrigerator. He figured to pull open the oven door and use that as a step-up to get on top of the stove and from there stand tall and pull the bread down. At 65 pounds, he broke the oven door. We had to buy a new stove.
So many memories.
There is a place we hunted, a rise of the land with a grove of young, graceful birch trees. It is a beautiful place. It never held grouse but we’d go there regardless. It was our chapel. I’d lean my shotgun against a tree. Thor and Riika would rest. In that place I remember him best, my handsome dog in the soft golden light of morning with sun dappling the leaves. So beautiful he was. So perfect.
Our house is emptier today; our lives as well. There is a void that Thor used to fill. It’s empty now. We need to readjust.
It’s going to take some time.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander. Call 715-362-5800.