Thursday, August 1, 2013

Guest writer Susan Smiley - "Requiem For Hercules"

Its 6:30 pm

  Its a overcast,cool night in SE Michigan. Its quiet outside as I type this intro...I am thinking back to when Lori and I first met Susan Smiley. I have blogged about the adventures of Oliver the grey kitty who our old landlady Carolyn Caves helped saved when I first moved here to Michigan.
  After we got Oliver patched up,we took him to a pet shop in Warren to get him adopted out. Lori had to work but she wrote Oliver's story and I was the one who went with him in hopes of finding him a forever home. 
  Alas,we struck out the first day and it wasn't looking good the second day as well. But the pet store owner had a secret weapon,he knew of a woman who loved to rescue the seemingly hopeless cases and so after hours on a Sunday,he called Susan and told her about this wonderful monster of a kitty.
  Susan came down,read the note and fell in love with Oliver. On the not Lori wrote,she gave out our phone number and a gentle invite to whoever adopted Oliver to give us a call. 
  And that is how we met Susan....she called and told us she had adopted Oliver and that he was doing wonderful and when we got a chance,to come visit. 
 It came to pass we drove out to see Susan and discovered she really loved her animals,she has 4 other cats plus Oliver (all rescues) and a very sweet mannered dog named Hercules. Hercules was very friendly and also loved the cats...and developed a very close bond with Oliver.
  Through the years,the cats crossed over....Oliver lived with a awesome life with Susan until his mighty heart gave out and left this world for the next. But Susan being the compassionate person she is,opened her heart to new rescues,hamsters and more cats. The one true constant was that Hercules was beside her,assuring the new arrivals that a safe and loving home was now theirs. 
  So when Susan emailed me last week and said that 17 year old Hercules was dying,I knew I had to give her a chance to share with you how wonderful this beautiful dog and companion was and I asked Susan to write a eulogy for her beloved dog,the sweet and immortal Hercules.

The following is what she wrote. 

Requiem for Hercules
There you were at the shelter;
your home for 10 months.
Your owner moved
left you and the cat behind.

You wagged your tail and smiled
while the other dogs barked and jumped
I knew right away
we were kindred spirits.

I tucked a soft blanket in the back seat of the Jeep
but halfway home you crawled into the front seat
all 100 pounds of you on Chris’ lap
happy to be sprung from your cage and to be loved.

Those early days I worked afternoons at the paper.
I’d come home to find you cuddling with one of my slippers
or the latest paperback book I was reading.
Something to keep you company until I got home.

We took long morning walks and made friends in the neighborhood:
            Ginger, the old chocolate Lab who was a grey then as you are now.
            Winston, the Yorkie who feared all large dogs except you.
            Guinness, the Rottie pup kitty corner from us who is now more than 10 years old
            The black Lab puppy who touched noses with you through the fence and still looks for you when I walk past his house with Nellie.

Kids in the neighborhood loved you too,
thought you were named for the cartoon character “Hercules”.
They petted you, hugged you, scratched your ears.
Once, during my first foray into running, I fell face down on the sidewalk
a sawed-off fence pole my demise.
You looked frantically for help trying to let someone know:
“Mom is down!”
Now it is Nellie who runs with me while you sleep soundly
your arthritic limbs too stiff to travel our old routes.

On hot days we rested halfway through our walk.
The shady corner with the white house
Cool dirt under the lilac and honeysuckles provided your bed
After a couple of minutes, you got up and led us home.

Like me you detested hot weather.
On the steamiest days we walked at midnight; an effort to keep us both cool.
One beastly night we got to the corner of our street
I asked, “Which way do you want to go, Herc?”
You looked left, looked right, turned back to the air conditioned house.
We both had cold drinks and vanilla wafers.

You were always my protector
Wedging yourself between me and a male friend making unwanted advances.
Jumping in bed with me and a new lover
just to make sure everything was on the up and up.
“I’ve got my eye on you!”
the message to my suitor.
During thunderstorms I protected you
Stroking you slowly while whispering, “Everything is all right.”

You loved going up north
laying on the dock watching the ducks, sniffing the crisp, fall air.
Over the years we hiked every inch of the High Country Pathway
            Devil’s Soup Bowl
            Up top of the Rattlesnake Hills
            Through the beech trees covered with bear claw markings
            Around the Dog Lake Flooding marshes
You waded into the Pigeon River, got a drink
then tried to charm a bite of sandwich from a nearby picnicker.

We would come back to the cottage
let the pontoon boat rock us gently to sleep in the afternoon.
At dusk we would look for elk.
I look at the picture of you balancing on a log extending over the lake
not willing to jump into the water
yet wanting to be close to me while I waded, hunting for shells.
You never did catch one of those elusive chipmunks.
Now you chase them in your sleep, feet twitching, soft muffled bark
tells me you are dreaming of the hunt.

I called you Angel Dog because you never did anything bad.
Lori called you “World Class Dog”
because you loved all creatures great and small
so calm, so loving, a gentle giant.
When you stole biscuits from Henry and Max
they pretended not to notice, deferring to the senior dog in the house.

The things you hated:
            Rumble strips
            Hot weather
            Thunder storms
            Me having to go to work and leave you alone

The things you loved:
            Cats – Rolo, Townes, Oliver, Travis, Jacques, Boomba, Scotty and Sukie. You and Townes curled up together was last year’s Christmas card; Peace on Earth.
            Italian sausage
            Biscuits from Sunflour Bakehaus
            Henry, Max, Nellie
            Plush toys – especially the hedgehog and your very first toy; the football.
You methodically pulled the nap out of each toy, removed the stuffing, pulled out the squeaker.
I kept an “emergency hedgehog” in the linen closet just in case.
You loved pizzelle so much that I bought a Cuisinart pizzelle baker.
You would come into the kitchen when you smelled the Italian waffle cookies baking.
I fed them to you warm; powdered sugar on your nose.

I know this week’s batch is the last I will make for you.
I bought this house, got you three months later and can’t imagine not having you within its walls
            your bed empty, toys untouched.
This October I will travel up north without you and think of you
            when I drive over rumble strips, sit on the pontoon boat, walk the trails,.
Your big German Shepherd-Rottie body is close to 17 years old, and it is failing you.
I knew you could not live forever, saw you gradually slowing down
and after this 4th of July, struggling.
I knew it was time to let you go, that you were trying to tell me you were ready
            but it is oh so hard to say good-bye.
But I want to take away your pain, give you peace, allow you to chase chipmunks again.
I know you will be watching over me during thunderstorms
and when I am on the pontoon boat rocking gently to sleep


  1. OMG, Susan, my heart is breaking for you! I hope that your darling Hercules can go to be with God in Heaven, and perhaps visit with Hemingway as well. I know that Hemi will be there waiting for him, as he definitely knew how much you love your dog, and I am sure he is up there, preparing a nice, cozy place for Hercules, where he can greet all his friends who went before him. God bless you and know that I am here if you need you very much!


  2. Herc- you are always the loverboy, charmer, schmoozer- giving love and getting love- sweet sweet boy- I didn't know you as well as I should have but always thru your Susan- rest well, you have earned it- enjoy endless piles of pizzelle, and walks with no pain! xoxoxo to you all!!

  3. Peace to you and Hercules.

  4. The love between you and Hercules was wonderful! Your tribute to him made me cry. Hercules was a lucky pooch to have you and you were just as blessed to have him. Thank you for sharing