Elemental to our daily happiness - like the air we breathe - Murphy was our water for the past five months. He provided us with a constant fountain of adventures, and he lived for the water itself. He drank it by the gallon, jumped from high cliffs to swim in it despite our efforts and every single day he refreshed our daily routines by completely throwing them off.
Silky thick locks of golden fur coating his soft physique, Murphy first entered my world while I was in Italy during the late summer of 2010. I'd heard mention of his arrival in an email from my mom where she wrote of their recent visit to the Tri-County Humane Society. I couldn't get home soon enough.
Since our perfect childhood dog, Sophie, had passed a couple of years before, we all secretly wished my parents would get another dog. Finally, he had come. A whole lot of him. Much bigger than a puppy (but with the same maturity level) Murphy's long, smiling head was the size of a small horse. He had deep set, dark brown eyes and an ever-expressive brow.
Soon after arriving home, we were relaxed downstairs for a movie with Murphy at our feet. My parents said he experienced a seizure prior to my return home that may have been caused by overexercising, but no one knew for sure. That night, he had another one. We calmly surrounded his jolting limbs and protected his head from the hard surface of the media center. It was hard to watch. After a couple of minutes it was over. The twinkle in his eyes was gone briefly, and for the next fifteen minutes he paid no attention to people as he panted and shifted from one room to the next.
Murphy liked jewelry. He chomped up six or more pairs of my earrings, a necklace, and a ring, spitting them into pieces. Once he was trying to get the earrings I hid on a table and he knocked over a commemorative shot glass that shattered as it fell. My mom and ran over to him just as he started trying to ingest a huge piece of glass that she carefully yanked out.
Another time, he found a couple packs of Sport Beans and a strawberry powder drink mix from the Interbike show. After breaking in, he smeared the crystallized chunks all over our carpet. Minutes later, he found the chunks that had sunk between the carpet threads, and proceeded to eat the carpet itself.
As much as he was difficult at times, little Murph made up for by never whining, growling, and rarely a bark. He could care less about other dogs. While at the dog park, he'd spring to the far end and try to get down to the water to play alone. He never even jumped up onto anything. In fact, he was only beginning to learn how to go around glass doors to get inside, and how to jump into cars.
Typically, I'd wake up in the morning after my parents had gone to work. I would plug away at blogging for Designer Pages and anxiously await my late afternoons spent with Murphy. Running shoes laced, we galloped the two miles down Beaver Island Trail to St Cloud State. Smurphy would stop and grab random sticks - some far too big for his body - and carry them for miles. Sometimes he ate leaves that had fallen. He'd dart in front of me in pursuit of them and purposely make me trip over him as people passed. I'd let out a playful shriek, blush, and reach down to apologize for my knee to his ribs, but it always seemed like he relished those moments, examining my face to make sure I wasn't angry with him for demanding love. Of course I wasn't. Sometimes I'd just sit there with him for awhile. Even lay down on random grassy lawns and roll around on our backs together.
One night at dusk Murphy and I made our way back home from a walk. There was something happening in my mom's vegetable garden behind the house. Three deer eating all of her beans and herbs? NOT okay. This was his chance to shine! I knelt down next to Murphy and gave him a pep talk before asking our bundle of love to do the unthinkable: chase them away. From 100 meters back, we began to sprint. "Get them, Murphy! Run like the wind!!" I yelled.
Just as the twinge of what it might be like to realize you're the owner of a hopeless "hunting dog" set in, our dog spotted the deer and magically began after them. I cheered. Shouting from behind, I realized something: His soft golden body wasn't chasing them at all. He was imitating them, trying for that same spring in his step, and would look back at me every couple seconds to make I was saw him doing it. After zig-zagging, he got to the water after they'd ascended into the island brush. I called to him. No response. Once I got to the river bank, I noticed he had waded in and was literally squatting in the shallow water's mud about 10 feet away. Fifteen minutes and a shattered sense of companionship for not getting him out myself, my mom and I stood there together. Waving sticks and throwing tennis balls, he watched us act like idiots. Eventually, we waded in knee-deep to pull him out.
This was a dog who more than loved the water. He lived for it. But in the weeks to follow, Murphy's seizures continued, and got worse.
Epilepsy, we thought.
Since acupuncture didn't seem to work, we opted for the heavy duty, two-a-day phenobarbitol meds. They made him tired. Constantly hungry too, eating more carpeting, gnawing on countertops, t-shirts, more earrings, and even added a USB key that contained my Fulbright documents.
After being in Minneapolis for a week, I returned on Sunday night to St. Cloud. Yesterday, on Monday afternoon, Murphy had 3 seizures in 5 hours. Each seemed worse than the one before. It's a horrible thing to witness. During the final seizure yesterday, his entire body spun in circles around the room. I jumped between him and the bed frame, dresser, and closet with a pillow in my hands to cushion his fall, but at this point I knew it was more than epilepsy.
A brain tumor, we reasoned. All of his symptoms matched.
Twenty minutes after the third seizure, he jumped into the car without help, and took his final trip to the vet.
Murphy is gone now.
And there's something about the unconditional love he had offered me in such a short time that felt like a solid, unwavering force. As if I could no wrong. It cannot be compared to human friends, as wonderful as they may be. In my life, Murphy has been much more than a sweet dog... he was my gale wind showing us all how to live a new, beautiful day each morning.
I'll never forget Murphy. He's probably watching us from a little river somewhere, wading in water with jewelry and rawhide aplenty.