Big, beautiful, bounding Timber lost his battle with cancer on January 4, 2006. Less than two weeks after his 11th birthday, the pain and suffering inflicted by a particularly virulent cancer stole this otherwise healthy boy from our family.
Timber joined us when he was 19 months old. His life before his adoption was one of neglect, and Timber was scarred by lack of depth perception and mental challenges. For the first seven months with us, he cowered in the corner of our kitchen. Fear was a constant companion that we were never entirely able to alleviate. During those months we had to put him on a leash to walk him through the back door to release him into the yard. He would duck down when planes flew overhead, not able to determine how far or close they were. He was afraid of strange noises. He particularly hated the electronic noise that our camera made. If he saw me take it out, he would head for the hills.
Throughout his life, things that normal dogs do, Timber either didn't do or did much later in life. Timber didn't play with our other dogs for three years. He didn't play with dog toys until he was 5 years old. He didn't bark until he was 7 years old. At ten years, he barked for the first time at the door to the yard to let us know he wanted out. Even then, he rarely barked. He didn't speak "dog" very well either. The other canines in the family were often confused yet tolerant of Timber's exaggerated postures. He was not a fast learner of nuanced things. But he learned the basics well. He knew the sounds in the kitchen that meant it was time to eat. He knew the sound of our cars in the driveway, and was always at the door romping with delight to greet us. And the jingle of the leash eventually became his cue for a good walk.
At first Timber knew nothing of affection. How strange to have a dog that did not want to be patted or scratched on his belly. Petting him became something that went from being merely tolerated to being sought. Many times a day, Timber's giant paw would bat at my leg or fall on my lap: "Come on, Mom, I need a good ear massage - right now!" In the days before his death, Timber sought comfort and affection from me, grabbing my arm with his paw and holding on while I stroked his head or back. I held him today during the final moments of his life, and hope it eased his transition.
All of my dogs have taught me valuable lessons. Timber's lessons were about the virtue of patience and that progress and change are possible no matter how old the dog. I miss his silver face and bright eyes. I miss his "bigness" both in body and heart. I miss his sweet nature. He is resting now in the Memory Garden with GingerBear, Jake and Chloe.
I unabashedly adored Timber. He is gone. He left a message in my soul.
January 4, 2006