This post was written in January 2012 after Rainier died. See this post for his last day.
Dear Family & Friends,
It is with a sad heart that I tell you that Rainier passed away last night. The vet believes that he had a Hemangiosarcoma that burst. He started showing the first signs sometime during the day and was not himself. We took him to the vet around 5pm and he died around 10p. There was nothing the vet could do. We were blessed and grateful to have good friends (also dog owners) Chris & Kristin to help us through the early part of the evening.
The rest of this is just a bunch of memories that I want to write down to have them in one place. If any of you have any memories, I would be glad to hear them. He was a really great dog, but he was just a dog so the only thing he leaves behind is our memories of him. It is kind of long with probably lots of typos (tears make it hard to see sometimes). I am writing this for me, not you and I want to capture as much as I can. Time will go by and memories fade…I don’t want to lose these.
We got Rainier when he was an 8 week old puppy. We had decided when we moved back from Seattle that (thanks to experience with Buster) we were going to get a dog and we wanted a black lab. I started calling around and there weren’t any available. I was eventually calling a dozen shelters every day until we found a litter of 8 week old lab/springer mix puppies up in Pine City. When we got there, the litter was mainly brown and white, curly hair springer looking dogs except for one rollypolly black dog in the back. All the others ones were up against the fence barking, but this one was behind them, kind of barking, but not being real enthusiastic about it. Having never owned a dog, I didn’t know much but I had read that, when there are kids in the house, it is best to avoid the alpha. This little black puppy, seriously cute, was definitely not the alpha of the group. And he was black. So the girls and I chose him. We could not have made a better choice. He was named “Rainier” after the mountain in Seattle.
We all have different memories of Rainier when he was a puppy. One we all remember was him sleeping on the pile of shoes by the back door. He would just climb up on the pile and sleep. He chewed on a couple of the kitchen chair legs. He loved climbing up on the kids lap when they sat on the floor. Initially we tied him up to a tree in the back yard but kids walking by (we were near a school) would tease him. We eventually put a fence in and he seemed to enjoy being outside more.
He became a regular part of our lives. Not having dogs before, I’m sure we didn’t do the best job of raising and training him. He never got all the walks he needed unless he was staying over with someone while we were out of town. It was recommended that we use a kennel and we did that at night and during the day. It seemed to work ok but he liked it when he had the run of the house. He was a good dog who never got into things. We never came home to something destroyed, or if we didn’t I don’t remember it and that is ok with me.
In the Ashland house, he loved to sleep in Kelsey’s bed. Kelsey had a queen size bed (it was also the guest room when people visited) and Rainier would jump up on it at night and they would snuggle in together. Kelsey eventually grew up enough that the bed was big enough for the two of them to sprawl out. Rainier would snuggle tight up against her, she would shift, and Rainier would snuggle closer, eventually leaving Kelsey in a small space up against the wall with Rainier having the bulk of the bed.
Rainier didn’t like hard floors, they were too slippery. He couldn’t sit normally because his paws would slip out in front of him and he would have to constantly backpedal just to sit in one place. He would go from rug to carpet to rug at our house and others. Occasionally he would be at a house with no rugs or carpets and he would stress a little bit before getting over it.
After Kathy & I divorced, I kept Rainier. He was great solace to me during that time and started sleeping up on my bed. Since I weigh a lot more than him, he wasn’t able to push me over but somehow he still had the biggest portion of the bed. I don’t have many specific memories of him at this time but he was there and it was good.
I met Joyce in 2004 and she fell in love with Rainier also. One of her favorite things is a coffee cup with a picture of Rainier and me on it. She still uses it every day. There is something very comforting knowing that. The picture was taken at my work at the time, Minnetronix. In the early days of the company, people could and would bring their dogs in to say hi. Since I lived close to work and once and a while had co-workers watch him for the weekend, Rainier became a favorite of folks there. Sometimes he would be with me for a couple of hours, just hanging in my office, occasionally wandering over to a neighbors cube to say Hi. A couple of cube neighbors (also dog owners) starting keeping treats in their desk drawer and he would always stop by. As the company got bigger and some people starting bringing rambunctious puppies in for the entire day the company had to stop the practice. As Kristin says, Rainier was the perfect gentleman and his behavior at Minnetronix was exactly that.
Life moved on with Rainier being a constant. Kids grew up, moved to a new house, new job, and all things of human life. Rainier was always there. He had a corner of our sunroom that was his with his bed there. He would come out to greet us in the morning and do his routine. out once, eat, out again. We got into the habit of giving him a treat when he came back in, mainly to keep him from wandering off. Sometimes, he would go out 4-5 times, wander down to his area, do nothing, and then come back inside for a treat. Clearly he had figured out how to get treats. Last night, he didn’t want a treat and that was one of the signals that something was very wrong.
Joyce & I have 4 granddaughters and they all love Rainier. The two local ones, Adele & Lola, have become great friends with him. They fed him “bones” (treats) with great enthusiasm. “Grandpa, can I give Rainier a bone?”. When the Milwaukee crew came up, Sonja would take small handfuls of food and put it into his bowl…back and forth…more food. Elsa, the youngest, would crawl towards him whenever possible. Rainier was, again, the perfect gentleman with the girls, tolerating them hanging off of him, enjoying the petting and attention, and especially liked cleaning up the floor underneath them when they ate. I’m fairly certain that some things were dropped just for Rainier.
I mentioned Joyce’s coffee mug earlier. Rainier did not photograph well at all. His eyes would reflect too much or he had a funny look on his face. Fortunately, Joyce was able to get some good pictures this past spring when she took Nissa’s senior pictures and Rainier was in some of them. Nissa was the one of us that sat with Rainier the most. She was the youngest when we got Rainier and doesn’t really remember life without him.
He loved the water. We took him to Door county and some local dog parks on the river and couple of times but he sure did stink after that. He would walk a long the edge and then go out a fetch sticks that we threw. In the summertime, we would have a little kiddie pool out back that he would walk into and just plop down down, cooling off his belly. Sometimes, when he would wander off, he would come back wet and I’m sure that some little kiddie pool somewhere in the neighborhood had a bunch of black dog hair floating in it.
At our current house, there is a part of the backyard that slops down into the alley. We decided that would be a good dog area for him to do his thing. We setup a short little fence (he never was interested in jumping over it) around the area and then a chute up to the back door. He learned quickly to go down there and we gradually made the chute shorter and shorter and then removed it and the fence completely. He was always good about going down there. However, if we weren’t there to let him back inside when he came back up, he would give out a short bark. If we didn’t hear it, he would eventually decide that he was going to go on a walkabout. A half-dozen times we had neighbors bring him back home. Lots more times we had to go out looking for him, shaking the treat bucket to get him to come back home.
Rainier always came out and greeted us when we came home. When we would head out of town, we would take him over to friends’ houses and sometimes it would be the day before we left. Coming home that night and waking up in the morning without him there was always weird. Now it will be normal and that will be a hard adjustment.
Rainier was awesome with kids, always friendly with visitors, and always happy to see us. He will live in a place in our hearts and more than likely come out to see us once and a while. He was a dog and, while I don’t subscribe to the “dogs are people too” thinking, I do think there is a connection that takes place that can be very strong and is very different than connections between people. Rainier, always the Perfect Gentleman, connected with all of us and we all knew that he was a Really Good Dog.
The house seems lonelier today. We will miss him.
written January 2012. updated October 2019 (typos, link to other post)