Journalism professors can expound for an entire lecture series on the essential elements of a successful column.
Over the course of my long run in this space, I’ve tried to adhere to a simple basic tenet: Be true to yourself. Don’t try to be anyone you’re not. Readers will always appreciate that basic honesty.
One of the finest compliments I’ve ever received came from a reader who said, “When I read your column, it’s like I can hear you talking to me.”
And so, today, you’ll read about what’s been on my mind for the past week. Not the fabulous story of the 2021 World Series champions, or Georgia steamrolling another hapless foe. You won’t even read about Dan Mullen’s travails.
Today this space is set aside to remember Titan. He was put to rest last week after a lengthy and courageous battle against cancer. He was 12.
Titan was my daughter Caroline’s dog. I have never seen a pair so devoted to each other. Titan’s favorite place in the universe was right beside his mom. If she left the room, you’d immediately hear the clickety-clack of his paws trotting out of the room after her. Always at a trot, never walking.
So make no mistake. Titan was Caroline’s dog. But he belonged to all of us.
Titan was the first pit bull I had ever been around, and he was the sweetest, most affectionate dog I have ever had the privilege of knowing and loving.
I first got to know Titan when he came home for Christmas break with Caroline in 2009. He was not quite three months old. We had a small gathering for New Year’s Day bowl watching, and Titan decided to liven up the proceedings by running laps through the house.
On his third lap, as he sped by me, I grabbed him by the midsection and said, “Son, you need to settle down a little bit.” I lifted him up, and all four legs kept running. He spent the better part of the Rose Bowl sitting contentedly on my lap.
Titan soon became well known throughout the Athens area, and even had his own Facebook page. My favorite photo was of him standing behind the bar at a famous local watering hole, front paws on the counter, big smile on his face, with the caption, “What’s your poison?”
Titan hated the rain. He’d get to the door on a rainy day, stop, and look up at you as if to say, “You know the rules. Stop the rain and I’ll go out. Not before.”
He didn’t even like the windshield wipers associated with the rain. Driving back from Athens after some apartment painting, Titan stood on the console between Caroline and me. After I was forced to turn on the wipers, we saw his head following the blades. Suddenly, before either of us could act, he leapt at the windshield in a futile attempt to snare them.
Titan was solidly built, and when he chewed something, you could see the muscles in his big head at work. Give him a chew toy guaranteed to be indestructible, and he’d have it destroyed within an hour.
He was tough on footballs, too. One Thanksgiving we were tossing around a brand-new ball out in the yard. One pass was dropped; Titan pounced on the loose ball, followed immediately by a loud, ‘Pop!’ and extended hissing. Game over.
Thanksgiving was Titan’s favorite holiday. I always brine the turkey, and it’s a major operation to get the “big chicken” unwrapped and into the cooler. This operation was never conducted without Titan’s close supervision. He also supervised the carving and clean-up.
Pitties are notoriously poor runners, but Titan loved to run with his mom. They’d take off from the house, Titan 10 yards ahead at the end of his leash. They’d return about a half an hour later, Titan still at the end of his leash, this time ten yards behind.
Caroline couldn’t enjoy a hot bubble bath without Titan. He’d work the door until it would pop open, and he’d charge in and stick his snout into the bubbles. Then he’d look at Caroline resembling a wire fox terrier or Pere Noel.
Caroline and Titan lived with me and my wife for several years after they had completed their studies in Athens. He’s served as a loyal mascot at our office for the past six-and-a-half years. Even the “non-dog people” who ventured in appreciated Titan’s aura that endeared him to everyone.
In March, 2020, when the pandemic nixed Caroline and Ryan’s Athens wedding, we quickly arranged a backyard ceremony. Titan, led by his Aunt Mea, served as the perfect ring-bearer, resplendent in his favorite Georgia Bulldog bow tie.
Titan is the reason we have our Gabby, a pit bull mix we rescued on New Year’s Eve six years ago. And now, every time I look at Gabby, I remember Titan.
And of course, Titan is the reason Caroline and Ryan got another pit bull pup a year ago. Teddy is as loveable and affectionate as his big brother, and as exuberant as was young Titan.
Three-and-a-half years ago, doctors at UGA’s College of Veterinary medicine diagnosed Titan’s cancer. They gave him three months to live. Thank goodness they know more about football than canine cancer over there.
Caroline researched, compiled a notebook, used a holistic approach, and gave Titan over three more years of love.
It was terrible saying goodbye to him last week. As I gave him his soft Wellness snacks, Caroline said, “You can finish the bag.” It was like taking a knife to the heart.
Watching him trot across the parking lot for the final time, I realized, fortunately, that the only thing harder than saying goodbye would be never having said hello.
After he’d been put to rest, Ryan drew Caroline a nice bubble bath. She settled in the tub, and noticed a shadow outside the door. Suddenly it burst open, and in trotted Teddy.
He was remembering Titan.