Ed. note: Sunshine died Friday about 2:20. She died peacefully, with her head in my arms, hearing as she drifted off what a wonderful and good dog she was.
Once upon a time, I used to write obituaries. (Most real reporters have. If you haven't, well ...) Sometimes I still do. Big newspapers have ready-to-go obits, works in progress for really important people who, when they die, are going to require a lot of attention – like the pope, the president, etc.
This is one of those obituaries, one I'm writing while my eyes are relatively tear-free. This is for Sunshine, my dog. She has not died, yet, but her time here with me is drawing to a close. I write this in tribute to a really cool dog I've had the privilege of hanging out with for the past six years.
Sunshine, Madame Fuzzy Fanny, Miss Barky-Pants, my sweet pea and fur friend, the honey bear and S-dog ... has had a really good life, I think. She's done things, gone places that most dogs never get to do. For the first year I had her (she was about 6), she was the official newshound of the Journal Gazette's west bureau.
She came to work with me, slept under my desk, snoozed in the bureau kitchen, made me go for a walk in downtown Columbia City every afternoon around 4:30 and wagged her tail whenever I came back to the office.
She covered fires, floods, tornadoes, city councils, school boards, homicides and jury trials. Sources figured out (I told them) she was outside and would often go out and say hi.
The former mayor of Decatur loved her because they had the same hair color. The Bluffton police chief once took her from my car while I was up the street at the courthouse and took her into the police department. When I came to the police department, I saw my dog and the police chief trotting down the hall back to her office. We were looking for treats, she said. Later she told me she had just put her own dog down and could not resist enjoying an afternoon with a dog, any dog. Sunshine was snoozing under her desk while we talked.
Sunshine and I once split an MRE in the back seat of my car at a crime scene in a rural community, waiting for someone to come talk to me late into the night. She watched my back on those early morning Web shifts from hell, including the recent wrenching morning that involved the fruitless search for the little girl.
Sunshine always offered her ears for scratching and belly for rubbing after I had a long day at the courthouse. She listened as I swore and grumbled about my job. Her picture occasionally appeared in The Journal Gazette, and she once wrote a story about a pet fair I dragged her to.
She chewed her rawhides with enthusiasm, rubbed her face with her paws when she was excited and never, ever missed a nap. She buried bones throughout the yard, usually on Sundays, and every neighborhood child stopped by to give her a pet when they saw her dozing on my front porch, her nose and paws hanging over the edge.
She was not a particularly well-behaved dog. She was extremely lazy, and people often mistook it for a desire to please. She really couldn't give much of a crap. If she determined that the cost of moving (committing the sin) was outweighed by the benefit (eating the apple pie on Thanksgiving or the hamburgers on Memorial Day), well then, she'd do it. If not, forget it. She never, ever came when she was called and was horrible on leash.
But she loves me. And I love her. And for some reason that dog was brought into my life to work for my salvation. I have no doubt that she did just that. Should she pass on tonight, and go chase bunnies in the eternal back yard, I know that my life has been so much better because of that really cool dog.
Thanks, old girl.
Rebecca S. Green is courts reporter for The Journal Gazette.