Sebastien’s Opus

I played Mozart for him on the way to the vet.

To be fair, Sebastien never traveled well in the car. He typically whined the whole trip, escalating to a howl as we pulled into the veterinarian’s parking lot. Once we arrived, however, he was compliant and a favorite of the staff during his boarding stays.

Today was different for all of us.

Our daughter Karen raised Sebastien from birth. A Heinz-57 variety of Shepherd, Boxer, Chow, and who knows what else, Sebastien was a golden brown mutt that needed care. His mother died shortly after birthing her litter from sepsis. Karen bottle-fed him until he could survive on puppy chow and he became the Porter family dog.

Sebastien was a sweet dog, if somewhat annoying after being spoiled with treats. His ferocious, deep-throated bark would terrify any stranger who failed to observe the real threat at his back end where his swishing tail could knock over a small child. He loved making new friends.

At twelve years old Sebastien began to slow a step as he approached old age for a medium-sized dog. His right rear leg became withered and nearly useless even after ACL surgery. Still, he soldiered on, giving up only the “fetch-the-ball” games that he loved before losing his mobility.

A few days ago Sebastien began to slow even more, and we noticed that he was panting way too much. X-rays revealed that he had a tumor in his belly that was crowding his organs to the front and back as it grew to the size of a summer watermelon.

We made the decision to euthanize him, as the tumor was dangerously attached to a major blood vessel and probably malignant as well. He had had a good run and was well-loved by his family to the end.

I remember one day years ago when I took Sebastien for a walk. At first, I questioned the type of dog he was, as he showed no interest in chasing a rabbit. On the way back home he totally redeemed himself: he stopped to smell the roses.

Sebastien tended to settle down in the car when I played music. Irish music was great of course, but classical seemed most effective at soothing him down to a few whimpers. Thus on our way to end his journey through life, I played Mozart for him. And for me.

I reflected on the irony in that moment: Sebastien and Mozart, two lives bringing joy to others, both lives ending sooner than we wished. I can’t think of a better way to go out.

Sebastien lived his life as a dog, being loyal and loving and demanding and all that dogs are. His life was an opus that we will long remember.

Goodbye, Sebastien. We miss you.

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