13 July 2011

Macbeth: 1999-2011

"The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees
Is left this vault to brag of."
--Macbeth, Act II, scene i

Our dear fox-red Labrador Macbeth passed away on Monday after some lingering health problems. He will be deeply missed.

Unlike the gloomy Thane of Cawdor, Mac was full of Falstaffian appetites and good humor. He was a dog with a loud voice who genuinely enjoyed hearing himself bark, was a strong swimmer, and was covered in muscle but as gentle as a lamb. Even when he was just a hamster-sized pup, he was always hungry and anxious to climb behind the couch, under the TV cabinet, or work himself into any inconvenient spot he could find, grunting along the way. He was quick to make friends with strange people and dogs, and as long as you didn't mind some slobber, everyone adored him.

The Roommate brought him home in 1999, after the two Labs owned by her parents had a romantic liaison and whelped a litter of a dozen pups. They were in all shades from white to black, but Mac was the only fox red out of the group. The Roommate had also been the driving force behind the rescue of Wolfgang a year earlier, as well as Mac's mother Goldie being adopted by my parents. In turn, such exposure encouraged my brother and my friend Paul to get dogs after years of living without pets. We all thank her for bringing so many special animals into our lives.

Mac had such a broad personality that he acquired a ton of nicknames over the years. It started with Haystack and El Fuego and Dozer, and developed into Maccy Dog and Mr. Jowls and a host of others that are slightly embarrassing to list here. Like a character in a Dostoyevsky novel, one name was not enough for him.

Over the years I used him for a few shots of wine bottles, in part because he was so photogenic but in part because he'd schnorfle around the table looking for dropped morsels of food or stray ice cubes. Guests at the house got used to that massive head poking up from under an arm or between the legs. And when it was clear that no treats were going to be handed out from the table, he'd groan and flop over on the floor, covering a substantial part of the linoleum.

He was a handsome lad, and remains in our hearts and thoughts forever. Until we meet again, you're a good boy, Mac.


Barbara said...

I'm so sorry Ben. He was lovely.

Benito said...

Thanks Barbara. He was a great dog, and to share a happy memory, we were once at my parents' house and were tossing him a ball to catch and bring back to the couch. On one toss he didn't see the ball come down, and ran around the living room staring at the ceiling for a few minutes, waiting for it to drop somewhere. We all were in pain from laughing so hard.


fredric koeppel said...

a beautifully written tribute and lovely pictures. you will bring a tear to many eyes this morning. and "schnorfle" is a great word.

Allen said...

Very well said and I am proud to have been the guardian of Mac's mother, Goldie. Our four footed children change our lives for the better.

God bless Mac and he runs again.


Grant Parish said...

Dogs are some of the best people I know. Macbeth was surely a loved member of your family. I know you will miss him. Thanks for your tribute which reminds how pets can enrich our lives.

Samantha Dugan said...

Yup, bawling. Lovely Ben.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, you have done him justice in remembrance. "Schnorfle".

I'm at odds in having another dog...maybe some wandering waif will end up at our doorstep and make my angst moot. Hope hope!


Benito said...


I've been thinking about Goldie this week as well. Lots of stories amongst the family dogs at this point.


Thanks for your kind words, and humanity's been better off with dogs by our side for the past 30,000 years.


Plenty of tears have been shed here at the house as well. It's a rough patch made easier by the empathy of friends like you.


I know that can be a tough decision. We've still got our older dog, Wolfgang, who is 13 and a bit senile but otherwise in great shape. He was a scraggly little orphaned mutt when we got him back in 1998. His sad, soulful eyes sealed the deal.


Benito said...

And on Fredric's comment... What a lot of you probably don't know is that aside from his long history of writing about food and wine, Fredric and his wife do a lot of work rescuing dogs and finding them homes, and every time I visit him there's a new batch of dogs running around the backyard. Fredric, I know you've been down this road many times, and I thank you for your kindness.


Rusty Eddy said...

Ben: condolences. I can't imagine what we'll do when our chocolate lab passes one of these days. But you've encouraged me to take lots of pictures of him now. Thanks for a great tribute.

Benito said...


If you ever want to take a picture of a dog with a bottle of wine, put a tiny bit of peanut butter on the back or in the punt. Suddenly the dog becomes very interested in what was previously just a glass bottle.


Michael Hughes said...

I wish I could say something to ease your pain but I know I can't. Hopefully all the wonderful warm wet snout memories will help in some way.

Pat Warren said...

Beautiful, Ben. So many memories of him, Chaney and Goldie. One of my favorite was when, as a young dog, he greeted me with such enthusiasm that I was pushed over on the couch with my glasses licked off my face! Yes, he was a good boy...

Benito said...


Thanks, and I remember when you went through this with your Husky a few years ago. Someone once said that perfectly useless creatures like parrots and turtles live for a hundred years, but awesome dogs are with us for such a short time.


We've all been knocked over by Mac at some point. He once tripped me in the snow and then dragged me for about 30 feet before I let go of the leash. The boy had some enthusiasm.


Big Mike said...

Ben, I would like to add my condolences to the long list. Being in my special position of knowing all of the Carter Family Macbeth was a true Carter, SPECIAL, just like you all. Macbeth will be missed and remembered fondly. Wonderful post, a fitting tribute to a best friend...

Thomas said...


I know how you feel. Been there many times in my life, and still can't forget some of the dogs and cats that made me so happy.

Go seek another dog--it's the best tonic.

Benito said...

Mike & Thomas,

Thank you both so much, and it's amazing how those little critters can work their way into your heart.

We've still got Wolfgang around the house, and there are no plans at the present time for another dog. Things are a little hectic at the moment, but maybe in the future.