By: Keith Kappes
Carter County Times
It was the strangest funeral procession I had ever experienced – a pickup truck, my little SUV, and a tracked skid loader.
The pickup truck carried the remains of Percy, a six-year-old Treeing Walker coon hound that my oldest daughter, her husband, and daughter had rescued at the age of 18 months.
They had shocked our entire family at the time because she and her husband had shown no interest in being dog owners, especially of a breed that can grow to an adult weight of 80 pounds, that makes a long, mournful sound called baying, and loves to chew on about anything.
My daughter and her husband claimed they acquired the dog, whose name reflected his English coon hound heritage, at the request of their daughter who wanted a playmate. Six months later, they rescued Millie, another coon hound of the same breed.
At that point, some of us teased them about going into the dog breeding business. However, that never happened, and the two big dogs became members of their household.
The owners moved to the country so that their big, noisy but loving dogs could get the exercise they needed. Aware of the breed’s normal life expectancy of 12 to 13 years, they were surprised and concerned when Percy began to have problems with his hind legs.
Fearing that he might be showing symptoms of hip dysplasia, a common ailment of larger canines, they consulted two veterinarians. A series of imaging tests produced the heartbreaking diagnosis – Percy had a fast-growing, untreatable malignancy.
More than a week of tears, hugs, messages of condolence from family members and friends led the family to the heartfelt conclusion that they could not let Percy suffer. They arranged to have him put down gently by a vet. A brother stepped up and offered to bury Percy on his farm.
He dug the grave with his skid loader and lowered Percy, wrapped in an old family sleeping bag that had comforted him for years, into his grave on a beautiful, wooded hillside.
Like the other humans present, I cried for the loss of another family member. May he rest in peace.
(Contact Keith at firstname.lastname@example.org).