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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 22, 2014

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The author will miss the gray snout of this moocher at his knee every night.
The author will miss the gray snout of this moocher at his knee every night.

Farewell to man's best friend

Normally, the copy in this space is devoted to you, readers. But this week, it's all about me.

That's because I am not capable at this moment of thinking about anything other than our family dog, Rosie. A few hours ago, we had to put Rosie down. She was just four months shy of her 17th birthday. She was a part of our family since Rosie, a stray, and I found each other when she was puppy.

Rosie was a mix between an English springer spaniel and a poodle. I guess that made her a springapoo.

I still remember the day Rosie and I met at the animal shelter in the Quad Cities in September 1996. For seven consecutive Friday afternoons, I had stopped in at the animal shelter in East Moline on my way home from work.

On that day, I walked in, and the attendant at the counter said, "I think we found the right dog for you, Mr. Jagler."

I knew the drill. We walked into the back room, and the woman released a dog from one of the cages. The puppy scampered over to me on the slippery cement floor, rolled over on her back and looked up at me with her tail wagging.

"How can you not take this one home?" the attendant said.

Indeed.

The next day, we picked up the dog, and she promptly curled up and fell asleep between our two young sons in the middle seat of my late father's minivan. We named her Rosie, as in Springsteen's Rosalita of musical fame.

In those early years, Rosie was my shadow. She never needed a leash or a tether. She never left my side. I'd ask her if she wanted to "romp and snoop" in the backyard, and she'd make a beeline for the back door.

Rosie began having periodic epileptic seizures and became quite territorial. This is quite common among springers. She did not respond well to strangers, and our close friends often found that amusing.

But Rosie mellowed with age and developed an absolute obsession for my wife, Kristi. In turn, my wife developed quite a fondness for "schnoodling with a poodle" on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I often joked that if Rosie was a comic book character, the words in the bubble caption atop her would say, "I go by Mom." Can't blame Rosie for having such good taste in humans.

But it was time. Over the past two months, Rosie was in congestive heart failure, she was blind and deaf, and she had doggie Alzheimer's, which caused her to pace incessantly all night long, bumping into furniture and walls.

I held her tightly while the veterinarian did his thing with the hypodermic needle today. My tears fell upon her as she took her last breath.

Rosie was a blessing for my family and me. My boys can barely remember life without her. Rosie made me a better father. A better husband. A better son. A better brother. A better co-worker. A better leader. A better human being.

There's an old country song by Tom T. Hall about an old man who reflects that three of the finer things in life are "Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine." I've never tried the latter. But I certainly can vouch for the first two.

Rosalita is dancing a little lighter tonight. Farewell, sweet Rosie. Your love and your loyalty are two of the greatest gifts in my life.

Talkbacks

olderwiser | Sept. 19, 2012 at 11:08 a.m. (report)

Wonderful tribute to Rosie and anyone who has had the pleasure of living with and the pain of saying farewell to a loyal pet. As I can relate, my profile pic has remained as is since 2009. Genuinely supportive thoughts are with you.

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cpelej | Sept. 19, 2012 at 11:04 a.m. (report)

Steve, I'm sorry for your family's loss. We have to make the same decision in the next week (hopefully two) with our labrador Kylie. Her mind and heart are still strong but her legs can hardly hold her up. I know it's time but it's so hard to let her go.

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Shawlalala | Sept. 19, 2012 at 10:08 a.m. (report)

What a touching story about your beloved Rosie. (Great namesake too!) I hope you will find comfort in knowing she is no longer suffering and that you gave her a wonderful home and the opportunity for the long life she had in your family. RIP Rosie!

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Molly | Sept. 18, 2012 at 8:36 p.m. (report)

Sorry for your loss, Steve. I was there, 4 years ago. Those four-legged folk really have a way of burrowing into yer heart.

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