Manda, or more formally, Amanda McBlue, was the last alive
of the puppies of 1985, my own personal year of the dog,
my 1776, my 1917, my revolutionary war, my Bolshevik
uprising, after which the old ways dissolved, and new
ways were cobbled together by committees and commisars
as I took up a new and much more communal life.
But enough about me.
Manda was an early hiker, and a favorite one, but
it soon became clear that she suffered from that
malady common to Irish setters, hip dysplasia, and
that she really wasn't physically up to the rigors
of long hikes. So for most of her life we contented
ourselves with walks.
She was, I think, a prime example of the fact
that a dog can just about outlive her ability to be a dog.
In her last years her eyesight became progressively
worse, and arthritis took a devastating toll as well,
all of which made our walks much more circumscribed than
the free-ranging and vigorous rambles of her better
I remember being a little amazed, all those years ago,
at the determination, almost fierceness, with which
Manda and her littermates approached the business of
suckling. Believe me, they were not gentle babes at the
breast. In those days before they even had names or
discernable individual personalities, often I would
observe a toothless and eyeless pup
latch on to a nipple like prey and jerk it
from side to side as if determined to seize every last
drop of the milk of life.
And 15 years later, there was Manda, the last of those
pups still alive, almost blind,
always able to pick up on the subtle cues that I was
about to go out, and up until almost
the very end, waiting at the door with her nose
practically on it ready for it to open. Still
chomping at that teat.