Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Three Months

TigerBlog knew Petey the dog for most of his life. Even now that he's gone, TB can still hear his unique bark/howl or see him as he turns his head to the side. For that matter, he can still hear his owner, Princeton men's soccer coach Jim Barlow, call him not by his name but instead "Pal," which is what he almost always called him. Unfortunately, Petey passed away recently at the age of 13, which while being a long life for a dog, doesn't make it any easier when the end finally comes.

Today, in a guest TigerBlog, Jim Barlow remembers his "Pal."

August 19th. The date on the calendar that had been circled for so long.

The first day of preseason. Finally, after nine long months of waiting, the season was finally here.

The first day of preseason is usually one of the best days of the year for me. It is filled with the excitement and freshness of a new season, the curiosity of what the incoming freshmen will bring to the team, how the returning players have prepared over the summer. It is the beginning of the best three months of the year.

Each day brings the opportunity to do what you love, to work, to improve. There are games to coach or watch every day. Rivalries are renewed, and rematches are intense.

August 19th had finally arrived.

This year, however, day one of the fall season turned out to be one of my worst days ever. As I was getting ready to leave my house for our second practice session on that rainy Friday evening, my 13- year-old, one-eyed beagle named Pete (he was born blind in one eye) jumped off the couch to get a treat.

He had done this thousands of times over the years, but this time it went horribly wrong. When he hit the carpet, his back right leg snapped in half.

I'm sure most dog owners think of their pet as part of the family, but
Pete ran our house. He traveled everywhere with my wife and me – vacations, family gatherings, sporting events. He became the "mayor" of my grandparents' nursing home, prancing up and down the halls of Meadow Lakes and spending hours cheering up any senior citizen who was sad, lonely, or not feeling well.

When Pete did not travel with us, he kept watch for us from his perch above the window in the guest bedroom, and when his eye would spot our car turning into the driveway, he would sprint down the stairs and howl so loud the entire neighborhood could hear him. Only the gift of his favorite "pupperoni" treats could quiet him down. On days when my wife's illness kept her in bed, Pete refused to leave her side.

He was also a big Princeton Soccer fan, and became an unofficial mascot of the men's soccer team until pets were no longer allowed in the facilities.

I remember when we won the Ivy League title in 1999 and Pete was still a puppy. He sprinted across the field after the final whistle, and though I thought he was running over to see me, in reality he smelled some fried chicken that had been left under the bleachers. He dove right into the bucket of chicken, and I spent the post-game celebration trying to keep him from choking on chicken bones.

Pete didn't care if we won or lost, he was always happy to see me.

His companionship helped me through some of the most difficult times in
Princeton Soccer history, including the deaths of adored members of our Princeton Soccer family Rob Myslik and Vaughn Lujan.

The news from our trusted vet after Pete's injury was not good. His leg broke because he had cancer, and it would need to be amputated. The cancer probably did not start in the leg, so the amputation would not be a cure, but could give Pete some more quality time with us, probably three months.

Three months. The length of our season. For us it was a no brainer and we committed to the surgery. After a few days in the hospital, Pete was back, happy to be home, learning how to walk on three legs, and getting more and more spoiled by us.

We cherished every day with him, every walk in the neighborhood, every happy greeting we received when we walked in the door. We tried not to count the days but instead to make the most of the time we had.

But over time he became weaker and weaker and could no longer support himself on his three legs, and his organs began to shut down as the cancer spread.

On Nov. 4th, the day before we played Penn in the next-to-last game of the season and close to three months after the amputation, we were overwhelmed by sadness as we held Pete and said good-bye as our vet put him to sleep.

Looking back, those three months with him seemed to go so fast.

And so did the fall season. Where did it go? It feels like yesterday that we were sitting in the Zanfrini room for our opening meeting, gearing up for the first practice.

Sadness returned when the final whistle blew on our season in a 2-1 loss to Yale on Saturday. It was not a good year for our team as we dropped eight one-goal games, playing six overtime matches, but we could not find the formula to repeat as Ivy champs and make a third consecutive run to the NCAA playoffs.

Regardless of how the season goes, though, the last game of the year is always depressing. It means there are almost nine months to go until preseason arrives again.

Nine long months.

For fall sport athletes, the season goes so fast. For us, it’s 12 days of preseason, 17 matches crammed into just over ten weeks, and, just like that, it's over. The season has been over for just a few days, and I miss it already.
I’m already counting the days until we can start again.

Next year, however, it will be without one of my closest companions.

During his last three months Petey helped me remember that it's not how much time you have, but what you make of your time.

It’s a great message for Princeton athletes, as your seasons and your time here go so fast.

Rest in peace Petey are missed.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Thanks, Jim, for a moving tribute and for sharing your experiences and wisdom with us. Petey was a great friend.