Monday, October 8, 2012
When he was little he was afraid of dogs, any dog, so when a police officer found several lab mix puppies running loose in the street and brought them down to the station rather than call the warden; his dad,who was working at the time, decided to bring one of the puppies home, think that taking care of a dog would reduce the fear factor. It worked.
We named her Diana Nightshade, but called her Shade. She was a good wattchdog and fiercely devoted to her children, especially when they were out in "her" yard playing. No one dared venture near the outside of the fence even when the kids were outside. Once she even refused to let my father in law in the back yard when the kids were playing.
When the kids weren't outside she occupied herself with chasing cats, squirrels and birds that were dumb enough to come in the yard and with digging holes. Most Labs love to dig and Shade could have gotten government highway funding for some of hers. One time she dug so much under the doghouse that it fell into the hole. A friend of ours drew the kids a cartoon that showed the dog house going down like the titanic while those dratted squirrels stood about with violins playing "Nearer My God to Thee."
Every day she lived for the moment when the car would pull in the driveway and the kids would get out of the cars. If we would come earlier without kids, or if one of the kids would stay late for something and not arrive at the proper time, she would be visibly disappointed.
Other pets came and went from our lives, a succession of cats, fish, lizards, snakes, tarantulas, and even another dog, but we had Shade for over 12 years. After her tumor began showing visibly we started keeping her in the house all the time because kids would go up to the fence and make fun of her. For a dog who had always had the run of the yard (at least to the end of her leash, she was a master escape artist), she adapted to confinement remarkably well,other than the obsessive attention paid our meals. She remained a happy dog though with a good appetite though she had gone very grey and sometimes needed help up the steps into the house.
The Boy had, in his pragmatic way, come to terms with what was happening. I was relieved she didn't die when we were away in Gettysburg. The symbolism of leaving his boyhood behind would have been too much for me, if not him. His sister, younger and more visibly sensitive, who had never known a house that Shade was not in, was having a harder time. For months we had made a point of saying goodbye to the dog whenever we would be gone for any length of time. (I always used to tell her she was in charge until I got back).
Saturday I was up long before the rest, as usual, and she was up with me looking for a trip outside and some food. There seemed to be nothing wrong with her appetite. (The other dog we once had stopped eating several days before the end). The Girl and I went out to spend the day at Grandma's, the Boy and his dad to visit friends. When they came back in the afternoon she was gone.
The boy took care of his friend as she deserved, burying her in the yard she so loved to excavate, in a spot he had chosen some time before. I was still out with his sister when he called wanting to know when we'd be home. On being told I wasn't sure he said call me before you come home, a bit unusual for him, but I didn't think much about it. When we got home he and his dad were waiting in the kitchen for us, they of course wanted to tell the Girl before she went in the living room and found Shade was gone.
So I have drunk my coffee and eaten my breakfast alone the last 2 days, and there's an empty spot I trip over when I go to the front door. Most families have more than one of the animals they like, but one or two usually stand out. I think she will always be The Dog.