A note from Blue's adopted Family:

I wasn't looking or ready for a new dog when I first saw his face on the AMRONE Website. Nine months after losing Novah, I had forwarded to them his tribute accompanied by some pictures. I was just checking to see if they had been posted. One glance and I was lost. Something about that sad, honest, questioning, gentle old soul, black masked face; I wanted to tell him that no matter what had happened to him before, now it would all be OK. I wanted to make him smile. Fortunately over the next 4 years, I often succeeded. God I loved seeing him smile.

Never more so than when "free ranging". We would let him loose out the backyard gate. He would trot, off-leash, with a sly, joyful look on his face as if to say: "try and catch me now". He would make a lumbering loop or 2 in the back yard, then sneak next door, constantly looking back to make sure I was following in casual pursuit. Or when running along the wooded path, coming back from "Rome Point". He loved that place mostly because it was a de-facto dog-park. We would leisurely stroll until another dog would appear in the distance. He would then relentlessly drag me until he was allowed to say hello, usually howling his greeting. We would arrive at paths end, "the point", have some treats and start the return trip. Somewhere along the way the idea would pop into his head that it was time to run. It was then I partially understood the joy mushers must feel when being pulled along effortlessly by strong, fast, 4-legged creatures, in their element, doing what they were created to do. On those runs I am not sure whose smile was bigger, his or mine. Or when the mood hit and he would start to run in circles in his back yard, fenced-in area. I guess it was just because he could. It was however, clearly a show and only performed when people were outside with him, watching. He would deliberately side-swipe all those in his path, including my cat Homer who would hiss and snarl his displeasure. Often he would end up in the outdoor shower for a several second intermission and then charge out again with a huge smile on his face reminding us that the game was not yet over. Or when wrestling with my cat, Henry. We called it "Fight Club". Despite his small size Henry was a formidable opponent, often taking Blue down. He would leap back up with a slightly embarrassed look on his face as if to say, "Awh Pop, you know I let him win". Watching Blue gnaw on the scruff of Henry's neck, sometimes dragging him across the floor, without ever closing his jaw in a full clench was the truest picture of his gentle nature and playful spirit.

Not often but there were times when he clearly seemed unhappy, worried, concerned or maybe just perplexed. Like when the Maple tree fell on his head. It was a gray, blustery Saturday in the fall, after a near-miss from a hurricane. I let him outside to his fenced-in side deck, which leads by ramp to his fenced-in back yard run. I am a worry-wart and the thought went through my head: "it's pretty windy, I hope a branch doesn't fall and hit him." Two seconds later I heard a stomach piercing crack, followed by an earthshaking thud. The kitchen went dark as the windows were blacked-out. I ran out to the side deck praying he was still on it. He wasn't. He had gone down the ramp, which was now crushed beyond recognition. All I could see was his entire fenced-in area completely blanketed by the huge maple tree which now lay on its side. I was in tears as I attempted to climb over huge limbs slowly making my way down the destroyed ramp. I remember thinking that if by some miracle he was still alive, he must be pinned and in pain. I climbed faster. Still only way down and after what seemed like hours but was likely only 30 seconds or so, his furry head popped up from a very small v-shaped gap just beyond where the main trunk divided into two, still very large limbs. He had been lying in the 1 spot in the back yard where he could have survived the fall. As best I could tell he was completely untouched. He had a look on his face that said either: "Pop, what the F-k was that?" or "Pop, I didn't do it, I swear". Or when we were at the pet-friendly, almost pet-centric, ski-out, Stowe Mountain Lodge. I was taking him for a walk out back, early in the morning. We had arrived the afternoon before and I had not yet skied. A couple of inches of fresh powder had fallen overnight. I was excited. Blue was excited. He loved the place and they loved him. The mostly female concierges were fighting over who would get to walk him during the day while I was on the slopes. Dogs were everywhere. Mostly boutique, accessory dogs. Blued loved all dogs, but especially small ones. He spotted a Bichon twenty feet away. The race was on. He charged with me in tow. He hit a large patch of ice hidden under an inch of powder. He crossed it easily in 4-wheel (paw) drive. I didn't. My legs flew out from under me until they were parallel with the ground, like something out of a cartoon. Only after I looked down (or it seemed that way) did I then fall to the ice, landing squarely on my right side, hands unable to provide a break to the fall as I was still clutching on to his leash, petrified that I would lose my dog in the wilderness of the Stowe Mountain Inn back yard patio. The crack that I heard upon landing rivaled the one made by my Maple Tree just before it fell over in my yard. This time it was ribs breaking (7 of them to be exact) and 1 lung collapsing. Lets just say the pain was pretty bad. Blue stopped his pursuit for a nano-second, looked back for an instant with only the slightest concern, saw me still breathing and his expression then changed to one of exasperation. "C'mon Pop, stop being such a baby. Tough it out." He then turned back around, easily pulled away from my grasp and resumed his chase. I returned from the hospital to the lodge 8 hours later, not knowing what had become of him. I opened the door to my room. His head lifted up briefly from the pillow on my bed. He looked annoyed and a little disappointed. "Oh, It's only you". He had been walked numerous times to near exhaustion, fed, petted and belly-rubbed to within an inch of his life, and stuffed with treats until he couldn't eat another bite, all by the army of hotel concierges who fought over which one would get to hang out with him next. I found out later that a hotel board meeting was terminated early so that Blue could have an hour private audience with the Lodge CEO who had recently lost his own Mal and was instantly and hopelessly charmed. I was stuck there for 4 days unable to ski or drive home. By the end of the week there was not a hotel staff person or guest who didn't know him by name or who did not say hello to him when we passed in the halls.

We did everything together, he and I, but mostly we walked. Big loop and short loop. We usually walked slowly but often even slower. Acting like such a dog, he would sniff EVERYTHING, incessantly and expertly, systematically grid-searching for the long ago dropped of a saltine cracker. We walked in bright sunshine, pouring rain, or in a blizzard with blinding wind and snow. He was completely weather-proof and oblivious. Except in thunder; we never walked in thunder. He could sense its approach and would not budge from the doorstep. If caught out in it, he would head for the nearest house, anybody's house. I guess it is all those walks together that I miss the most. What I would not give for just 1 more.

He was my dog for sure, my Blue Bear and I was clearly his boy however, he had a special relationship with other members of his pack. In fact, his popularity rivaled that of Blemie, Eugene O'Neill's Dalmatian immortalized in: The Last Will And Testament Of An Extremely Distinguished Dog. "But if I should list all those who have loved me, it would force my master to write a book." "Perhaps it is vain of me to boast when I am so near death, which returns all beasts and vanities to dust, but I have always been an extremely lovable dog." So was Blue. Even the Letter Carrier was his close friend. A few days after his death, I was walking back to the house after getting the mail. Her truck pulled up and with tears in her eyes she asked: "He's gone isn't he? I could feel it." I couldn't respond but nodded in agreement and pointed towards his grave. He was Erin's Boo Boo and Whit's Blue Dog. He would softly but incessantly howl when they were around. Often he would attempt to jump up on them. I was never totally sure what that was about. Affection, approval, attention, treat-seeking or possibly "Pop don't you think it is time for them to leave?" Most likely it was Blue's gentle way of reminding them that they were clearly below him in the household pack- order. His dog-walker Kate could not have been a better friend to him. No matter how weak or infirmed he was, she always managed to gently get him outside for pleasure or business. No matter how long it took, she never left him until he was watered, hand-fed until he had to politely refuse any more and comfortable. She dealt with whatever problem, chaos or catastrophe (and there were many) he presented to her; and always without bothering me at work. When she called me mid-day on the Monday before his death to tell me I needed to come home, I knew his time was short.

He had nine lives and therefore made me believe he would live forever. In fact, I often made him promise as much. He broke his promise. He survived the diagnosis of degenerative neuropathy (for almost 3 years), the mass on his spleen (90% of the time malignant but in Blue's case benign), and even the great Maple Tree fall (he died 1 year later almost to the day). His hind leg weakness however, kept progressing. MRI now revealed a myelopathy as well with several badly ruptured discs compressing his spinal cord. When he woke up from the risky surgery I agonized over for weeks before agreeing to, he was completely paralyzed in all 4 limbs. At Tufts in North Grafton, Mass, they were vague trying to explain it (some sort of spinal cord shock or infarct) but were quite clear that his prognosis was dismal. I brought him back to RI so I could be closer to him during what I then assumed would be his last days. After 5 days of hell at Tufts, 10 days of persistent and loving care by Drs. Lauren Marini, Kevin Kirchofer and team at OSVS followed by 10 days in a canine rehab facility (yes, you read that correctly) he finally came home; walking on his own! The next several months were some of his best. He was clearly not in pain any more. He couldn't run but we were back to walking the neighborhood together (our patch) and that was plenty good enough for both he and I. Something happened in late July or early August. One late Sunday night he suddenly couldn't get up. When I picked him up it was as if his feet didn't know where the ground was. Back to OSVS. This time I received what I thought was yet another reprieve when given the diagnosis of "Old Dog Vestibular Disease", akin to vertigo in humans. The poor guy who had been through so much was now very dizzy. It is supposed to be benign, running its course in several weeks. Blue however, never really fully recovered. Blue's weakness progressed to the point where he could not rise up and walk on his own. Many dogs I have known or read about can lead acceptable lives without use of their hind legs. Not Blue. Of that much I am certain.

Blue died in his back yard under his favorite bush at about 6 p.m. on Tuesday evening, October 18th, 2016. He was about a month passed his 11th birthday. I had slept outside with him the night before. I will always cherish that night because he seemed comfortable and I was finally at peace with my decision. We were serenaded by two owls, whoo-ing back and forth to each other for almost the entire night. We talked a lot about life and love. I guess I did most of the talking. I am sure he was thinking "a little less chatter and a little more ear scratching and belly rubbing Pop". He held court all day on Tuesday as a lot of his friends came by to say goodbye and more importantly to offer treats. I cooked sirloin and tenderloin all day. Being me, I will torture myself for months about decisions I made or didn't make in his care but not about that day. He was ready to shed his failing body. I was relieved to be able to end his suffering. He was truly a creature made to run. Being unable to even rise up must have been devastating. The vet and vet techs (again Dr. Lauren Marini and team) who gave me the gift of coming to my house, myself and a couple of Blue's closest friends then shared a very old bottle of wine. I spent the rest of the evening burying him under an ancient Maple tree (about 10 feet away from Novah and within sight of his old buddy Homer). I woke up at 2:30 a.m. from a dream hearing his distressed bark. I went outside to a very bright moon and waves crashing bigger and louder than I have seen in a long time. The wind was blowing and when it gusted I could almost hear him howling. I shoveled for a little while longer and went back to bed.

He was the consummate Malamute and so to the casual observer, my love for him might have appeared to be unrequited. It is true that I was constantly working to earn his affection, respect and trust. I loved him all the more for this and would not have changed 1 hair on his big, furry head. He was edgy, aloof, sometimes obstinate and defiant (all like his father) but a unique, independent, free-thinking, majestic, proud, clever, playful, gentle, big-hearted, and overall extraordinary being that I had the privilege of living with and caring for over the last 4 years.

Now I walk alone. Now for the first time in many years I am without a dog to guide me, to gently but constantly teach me how to give, care for another, be a better man, a better human. There's a big hole in my life that will be hard to fill because for me, since the first time I saw his face, it's always been - All About Blue. I visit his grave daily and talk to him. Among other things, I always remind him of the simple fact that: Here lies a dog who was very much loved and is already dearly missed. I hope that Eugene O'Neill was being truthful when he told of his dog Blemie who promised in writing: "No matter how deep my sleep I shall hear you and not all the power of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail."

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