On April 7, 1999, a pup was born in Cambridge, Minnesota. This, soon to be 85-pound dog, was destined for greatness – a dog that would eclipse more screen-ready mongrels such as Rin Tin Tin or Lassie. A Weimaraner, to be exact, that would not only succeed at dogness and other sundry pet duties, but would reach out through the blind chasm of interspecies relations to touch the very heart of all humans he met.
His name was Husker and he was the greatest dog who ever lived.
Janet and I had been married for a matter of months – after knowing each other a matter of months – and were in the swing of wanting some shared responsibility that mimicked a family unit. We shopped some litters of pups, when we found ourselves in the Cities over Memorial Day weekend. We decided to poke around there to see what we could see, when lo and behold – Weimaraner pups.
Husker was little. He was sweet. He was mellow. He was $325.
I remember his blue eyes and his confused, yet happy face as he ran though the grass outside of a Minneapolis Target. We were there for some pet supply basics and thrilled to be parents. He grew up quickly on the Eastside of Milwaukee, running through the forests along the banks of the river. That was when he saved that drowning man.
We weren’t really impressed though – considering his obvious greatness – until he built his own doghouse. It was a modern French farmhouse inspired by an article in Dwell magazine about plywood kitchens. We really took notice when he landed his first job as county clerk and opened an Etsy store specializing in upcycled, cuff-style bracelets made from tree bark. Yes, bark – the joke was not lost on us.
After he got his masters at Loyola and founded the website, Kickstarter, he began to hit his stride. He had a period developing robotic surgery and creating better water filtration systems for third world countries, all the while getting Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren elected (assistant finance director).
Between ghostwriting a now famous E.L. James novel and designing a Korean War memorial for the town of Lincoln, Nebraska, he hardly had time to catch Frisbees or wrestle in front of the television. But we understood because he was the greatest dog that ever lived.
A few weeks ago, however, he died.
As a 13-year old, he was still spry and active, but arthritis and incontinence were taking their fair share. It was horrific and sad, albeit peaceful when we said our goodbyes. And my memories of him may have been romanticized or embellished. But I loved him with the enthusiasm of a thousand owners. The very enthusiasm that I apply to many aspects of my life – work included.
This past weekend, to fill the cavernous void left by our profound puppy, we purchased a hamster.
The kids named him “Chubbs,” and he’s okay.
He’s small, and spends hours on his wheel, but he’s no Husker. He’s just a hamster – just another in the long line of small, Syrian rodents. And sure, he’s cute, but so far his watercolor technique is crude at best. He’s reading at a 2nd grade level and can’t even speak clear English. But this morning, I did notice his HTML5 code becoming more eloquent. We’ll see.