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Saturday, October 26, 2019

"We're going on an adventure, buddy!"

"We're going on an adventure, buddy!"

For fifteen years now, this is what I've said to Wiley whenever it was time to pile into the car for another road trip. And he's gone everywhere with us, from coast to coast. If you went to Masonic Week back in the last years at the Hotel Washington or when it was at the Hilton in Alexandria, you probably met him.

We picked him out from a goofy puppy photo on the Internet back in 2005. We had just put three elderly dogs to sleep in three months, and suddenly found ourselves dogless for the first time in our entire lives. Alice declared she wanted a poodle, but there were none to be found in the dead of winter in Indiana that year. I had to make a last minute drive to Washington DC to take photos for my first book, Freemasons For Dummies, so I told her "Find a poodle breeder along I-70 or I-64 between here and DC." 

She did.

She found a French couple raising poodles in the wilds of Warsaw, Virginia. They lived so far out in the woods that I joked they must be in the witness protection program. It was already dark when we got there. The wife brought out this curly-haired, squirming pup, and plopped him into Alice's arms, and he was immediately ours. As he wiggled and nibbled on Alice's forefinger, the wife said in a thick accent, "No, no, no! Eee iz trying to dominate!"

Madame, you said a mouthful. He was indeed. And he succeeded.

The poodle was really supposed to be Alice's dog, but that first night, he picked me as his favorite. When it came time to come up with a name, we spent days picking the perfect one. One morning, my editor Tracy called, and the caller ID on the phone simply said the name of the publishing company - "Wiley." It was perfect, and we knew he couldn't be called anything but Wiley after that. In return, a box came from Tracy one day with a copy of every book on raising puppies that they published. I always hated to tell Tracy that reading wasn't his long suit, and he ignored everything in them.

Wiley was a truly French French-poodle, sometimes with the personality of a haughty waiter in a Paris cafe you can't afford, and he had us responding to basic commands pretty quickly. When I sat at the desk, he insisted on being on my shoulder at first, then in my lap, then right under my chair. 

When I was in the hospital one Christmas Eve, he slept in the bed with me and startled the nurses. When we drove, he had a throne more comfortable than our seats. When we stayed in hotels, they had to be dog friendly - or we'd convince the clerk that we'd sooner make a mess on the floor than he would. When we bought the Airstream, the biggest decision was where his perch was going to be. When I had to be gone and he couldn't go along, he'd sit by the front door and whine non-stop for days until I got back. For days.

Wiley came down with Lyme disease eight years ago, and it caused early onset arthritis that aged him prematurely. It dramatically slowed him down, made it hard for him to walk. So he got carried a lot in the last two years. The last six months have been rough as we watched him deteriorate - he went blind and deaf, and finally his hips and back legs failed this week. But he always insisted on being with us at all times, and he was.

We said good-bye to our little French tyrant this weekend, and I can't regret doing it. It was past time, and we were selfish to wait as long as we did. Still and all, it's not fair for us to have to decide their fate for them. They trust us and love us, and we repay that trust and love by ending their lives when we think it's time. There's no way to make that a fair exchange.

Just before the vet came in to administer the second shot that would take him from us, I leaned over and said my final goodbye, and left him with the last words he would ever hear me say.

"We're going on an adventure, buddy!"

He got there before we have, but I'm sure when we follow him, he'll be hogging the bed.

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