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Tom, RIP

Published: 11/25/2010
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By Maddy Butcher

Most of us are dog lovers, too.
I know this because when I travel barn to barn, dogs nearly always greet me.
So, I hope you, Dear Reader, will indulge me as I eulogize a dog on these horsey pages.
He is Thomas. Tom, for short.
Tom was put down yesterday after a long, love-filled, and productive life.
Some of you may know Tom from past blog entries. I adopted him when my family and I lived in Ireland.

Funny story:

It was a lovely day in the summer of 1996. My three sons (ages, 1, 3, 5)  and I were walking around St. Stephen’s Green in the center of Dublin.
St. Stephen’s is a 10-acre park surrounded by four-lanes of crazy traffic, a commercial district, and a gritty, densely-populated neighborhood.
We were eating cookies and people-watching when this thin, dirty, little mutt bounded up to us. Hungry. Obviously stray. The boys gave him cookies and fell in love with him instantly.
Almost as instantly, I made the decision. We’d take him in.
But how?
One stroller. Three young’uns. A subway ride and 20-minute walk from home.
Add this collarless, leashless dog to the mix?
I imagine more than a few Dubliners were shaking their heads as we made our way home with the new family member:
My oldest, Aidan, was charged with pushing his baby brother, Cormick in the stroller.
Beau, the three-year old, held my hand. I carried Tom on my other hip. Tom was pretty cool with the idea, but still squirmed occasionally.
Cormick was not at all impressed with his brother’s reckless stroller handling – something to do with slamming into each street curb, I think.

As we approached the Tara Street station, I prepped the boys for the possibility of rejection.
“You know, they might not let us on the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) with a dog. That would be really sad, wouldn’t it?”
Sure enough, the ticket-taker took one look at us and shook his head, “Not allowed, ma’am.”
As if conducted by a chorale director, my sons pined in perfect, pathetic pitch, “Nooo! You can’t!” Their pitiful faces would have made any drama coach proud.
The ticket-taker winced and reluctantly waved us through, “But you didn’t get on here!” he yelled after us.

So, Tom came home to our tiny rented house in north Dublin with a cement-walled yard smaller than an American kitchen. Regardless, it was a joy-filled beginning. The boys adored him and he loved them back.
Around the neighborhood, dogs were hardly ever on a leash. Tom was the perfect diplomat. All tail-wagging and pleasantries. One might say he had that Irish gift of gab. A social butterfly. In his 15-odd years, he was never part of any fight.
I had him checked out and neutered by a local vet. We thought he was perhaps part Jack Russell, part Border Collie.
When the kids played in the street (that’s where kids play in Dublin), Tom would try to herd them. When we found fields and parks to run in, Tom would cast big circles around his boys and their friends, keeping them all gathered up.

After several months, we returned to the States and there was no question that Tom would come with us. I shipped him ahead of us and while we resettled, he stayed with my mother, Sally Butcher.

Another funny story:

Tom takes a big, strange and possibly scary trip on a plane. He lands at Logan International Airport and is received by one of the biggest dog lovers ever.
They travel to Maine where he takes up residence with two friendly Labrador ladies, the aforementioned dog lover, and endless woods.
No fences.
No traffic.
Regular meals.

If I were him, I’d be thinking I’d died and gone to heaven.
It’s no wonder then, that when he returned to us, he seemed to give me a less than appreciative look: “You, again? I liked your mother better.”

Tom did end up with my mom in 2001. She really liked him and I was temporarily overwhelmed with single parenthood and three dogs.

They made quite a pair.
As a dog owner, Sally believes an active life is a good life. He excelled at flyball and agility. Competitors would ask her about his breeding. Once she said with a straight face, “He’s an Irish Pub Dog.” That comment had traction, I'll tell ya.
Tom’s specialty in his later years was as a therapy dog.
They have traveled to nursing homes, schools, and hospitals.
She recalled a recent trip to Togus, the Veteran Administration medical center in Augusta:
She and Tom were visiting a vet in the Alzheimer’s unit. After some time with the gentleman, Sally indicated it was time to go.
“That’s ok,” said the patient. “But don’t take the dog.”

My mom told me, “Tom defined what it is to be a therapy dog…He enriched so many lives.”

So this Thanksgiving, we are so very thankful that this little Irish mutt came into our lives.
We lift our glasses and wipe tears. Mom speaks for many us when she says, “It’s tough losing your best friend.”

View Reader Comments:

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11/25/2010 Margy
A sad day for you and your family. Tom was beyond special of that there is no doubt. May your memories of him bring smiles to your hearts and faces.
11/25/2010 Kathie
Oh what a wonderful story and life that lived it. I lift my glass to you for giving him a royal life.
11/25/2010 sonia
I am wiping the tears off my keyboard. Tom was the coolest of the cool dogs. How fortunate you and Tom found each other. May he rest in peace in the green meadows of doggie heaven with a bottomless bin of biscuits.
11/26/2010 Missy
Heaven has gotten another good dog. I'm sure my Banana and Cooper were there to greet him. Thank you for sharing Tom with us.
12/1/2010 mel
Thank you for all the joy you gave us tom, say hello to heidi, spike, nessie and Sullivan all rescue pets
4/26/2011 Tina
Maddy, You did a lovely job capturing Tom's temperament and adventures. He was a lucky dog that day in Stephen's Green although no doubt Sally thinks the luck was all hers. Please let your Mom know that we are very sorry to hear that he has passed. The Butchers gave Tom a great life.
5/10/2011 Conny ,Skip Cross
Thanks for sharing your memories.Our dog Denver gave us unconditional love and many happy moments. Our walks on Collinsbrook and watching you bring in the horses was a treat for Denver and us as well. Thanks again for thinking of us and we look forward to seeing you and the horses with Denvers sister Chelsea.

"There are no problem horses, only problem riders" - Mary Twelveponies