In your 14 years of living you have been the best kind of friend. You are loyal, you are loving, you are dependable, and you are one of the best listeners I have ever known.
You have brightened our lives with your smile, your amazing ability to catch Frisbees, your love for ice cubes, the rope trick, and your mind-boggling ability to understand English.
The little brother to our two daughters, you have herded them up the stairs before bedtime, nipped at their heels when it's time to go to the bus stop, and allowed them to tease you relentlessly without ever (really) complaining.
You've been an amazing guard dog--protecting us even from our friends--and you've patrolled our yard with meticulous skill, chasing away those pesky cats and their attitudes, various invasive gophers and their bothersome hills, and those annoying hangers-on dogs down the street.
When the agressive magpies move in each spring and squawk at you around the perimeter, thinking they own the joint, you give them the what-for.
You've had a steady diet of wasps and bees--your flying jalapenos.
Your love for chasing the garbage cans up and down the driveway twice each Thursday--a trick you learned from your mentor, Odie--remains the highlight of your existence even today. And we love that you love it so well.
Because you see, we love to love you. And it's all because we know how much you love us in return.
That's why it doesn't matter so much that you insist on eating the steer manure mixed in with the soil we used to set the patio stones so the moss would grow. That's why we don't mind too terribly that you eat small rocks, sticks, and who-knows-what-else on your nighttime rounds.
That's why we don't bother too much about the fact that you rub your snout all over the TV room couch, eat our dryer gasket--OK, I know, you were just a puppy then, and it's high time I let that one go--or eat a bunch of grass in an effort to help yourself vomit--which sometimes ends up in our house.
It is, however, exactly why we've been so distressed by your recent decline.
It breaks my heart that you can no longer hear my voice, or anyone's voice, and that your rear legs give out when you try to walk up the stairs.
I worry that you are often incontinent, that you sleep as much as you do, and that sometimes it's all you can do to get yourself up from a sitting position, let alone a lying down one.
It frightens me when I walk past you when you're sleeping and you do not stir. I often watch you, my heartbeat skipping, to see if you're still breathing, like I did today.
We give you your medicine, we massage you at night, we clean up your spills.
Because we love you, Scout, as you love us, and wish that you could stay forever.
I don't know if you'll have another birthday, buddy. We're not even sure you'll last the winter. But since you can't hear me, and because I need to say it, I want to thank you, Scout. You've been the best dog that any family could ever wish to have.
I love you, Scout. May your remaining days, weeks, months--and dare I say--years, treat you with the same kindness with which you have graced our lives.