Rooney, our elegant, black-and-white Borzoi, or Russian wolfhound, is dead. At age five. From bone cancer. A terrible conclusion, by any description.
Not big news, perhaps, but it is to me. He was the most free-spirited, acrobatic, energetic, sunny, enthusiastic, delightful, downright funny dog . Never met a person or fellow canine he did not like. (That generosity did not apply to cats, rabbits or squirrels.)
We named him after Andy Rooney, because of his prominent, white eyebrows, which stood out against his black face. I kept Andy posted with e-mails on his development, even asked his namesake's advice when puppy Rooney chewed my loafers. Andy was no help. Said he raised English bulldogs. Didn't know much about Borzois. So much for canine guidance from the curmudgeon of CBS.
Rooney was the best companion: always game for an adventure, a walk, a boat ride. He used to sit on the aft seat of the runabout, almost like a person would, with his feet on the cockpit sole, thrusting his long, bony nose into the wind. It was comical, except that Rooney had an innate grace that always made him look dignified.
Once, when Susy and I were walking Rooney and Red, our other Borzoi, in an open field near a marina on the Chesapeake Bay, a flock of swallows -- hundreds of them -- began swooping low and fast over the field. Their aerial choreography was stunning to three of us. To Rooney, it was an invitation to dance. He began chasing the birds, leaping at times to see if he could fly. Around and again he raced, in great elliptical loops, exuberant, uninhibited, full of joy. The swallows escaped unharmed, of course, but it was a spectacle.
Rooney survived surgery when a portion of his lung gave way. He recovered and resumed his acrobatic ways. When a squirrel ran up a tree, Rooney would levitate in joyous pursuit. The squirrel always got away, but for Rooney, the pleasure was in the chase.
Three months ago almost to the day, we took Rooney to the vet because of a limp in his left rear leg. Bone cancer was the diagnosis. It was a death warrant. JFK once famously observed that life is unfair. Indeed it is.