I swear, I’ll try to make this funny. I will. The truth is I feel pretty crummy. I said good-bye a couple days ago to a very special friend. A companion. A big goofy dog.
You see, I’ve had this dog since right after my husband and I got married. I’d been wanting a dog for years, but I knew it wouldn’t work in an apartment. But hey – we bought a house, game on. I had grown up with a black Labrador named Lacy. She was the best dog in the whole world. Smart, loving, and satisfactorily quirky. My dad got her (technically for my brother) not long after my parents got divorced. I was 8 at the time. I’m not going to go into details, but we’ll go ahead and call this ‘a difficult time.’ Every time we had visits with my dad, though, I loved the chance to hang out with the little black furball. Lacy passed away when I was 24, at the very ripe (for a large breed) age of 16.
I really wanted another Labrador. They are just really good dogs. I know what many of you (assuming ‘many’ applies to whomever is reading this) will say ‘why not rescue a dog?’ Considered it. Can’t say I’ll never do it because I probably will someday. Let’s just say there are a lot of reasons, and my choice was to get a lab puppy. I had standards. I abhor puppy mills, and won’t support them. I also have no interest in an overbred dog with ‘standards’ I don’t care about, and don’t want to pay for. I wanted a good dog. I wanted a family on a farm who just happened to have a litter of puppies. I promise, I’m going somewhere with this. So, house bought – check. Fence built – sort of check (it was scheduled!). Saw an ad in the paper and talked the hubs into going to look (just to look! I promised). We drove the hour south, and met the family. Daddy dog was laying out in the yard with a cat climbing on him – I thought that just maybe he was kinda laid back. Momma dog was also hanging around, and generally being a sweetheart. Then, the human person said ‘here, I’ll show you the pups.’ She opened the door of the shed, and I saw a hay bale across the entrance. Then. . . . .
Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop
Up came nine little faces. I turned to Matt and muttered ‘oh crap. Let’s go choose.’ There is no turning away from nine puppy faces if you are even sort of considering a puppy. So much for ‘just looking.’ We picked a spunky little chocolate lab, despite planning to get a yellow. We named her Wrigley, because Matt was a big Cubs fan, and being a new wife, I still wanted to show him how cool with that I was. The first time we took her for a walk (the day after we got her – she was 7 weeks old), she made it a block. Then she planted her butt on the ground and looked at us as if to say ‘you want this walk to continue, you will carry me.’ We did.
About a week after we got her, she was conked out on the kitchen floor, so Matt and I decided to make a bowl of popcorn and watch a movie in the living room. We had a split level, so we went down and settled into the Lovesac (Not a product placement – we just have one). All of a sudden, we hear this scrambling. Wrigley woke up, ran under the kitchen table, dove through the railing onto the couch, springboarded onto the floor, then bounced into our laps. She landed in our laps with her face in the popcorn bowl. She ate quite a bit before we recovered and stopped laughing enough to stop her. Popcorn was always a particular favorite of hers – her entire life.
We got her a stuffed chocolate lab toy, that was just her size (for a week), and we called it ‘Dog-Dog’ because my niece who was about 18 months old at the time called dogs that. Wrigley loved Dog-dog and took him everywhere. We have pictures of her sleeping with her head propped on him like a pillow. Then one day at about 4 months old, he must have insulted her mother or something, because we came home to find Dog-dog in little bitty pieces. As it turns out no cloth was safe. That nice blanket we gave her? Ate it. The OTHER blanket we gave her? Ate it. And when I say ‘ate’ I mean ‘consumed’ not ‘chewed up.’ This required me to chase my dog around the yard when she was trying to poop because all that cloth got bound up and we had to pull it out manually. I’m sure the neighbors thought we were super classy.
Speaking of eating things. Wrigley was obsessed with tissues. And Q-tips. Napkins. Toilet paper. You get the idea. She routinely went on treasure hunts through our trash. You would always know she had something because she would take off with it and ‘hide’ (badly). One day, we discovered that our new roll of toilet paper was only a half-roll of toilet paper. How did we know? Because it was half a roll. By width. The roll had around 2 1/2 inches of width left, all the way through. We found some very interesting compact white poops out in the yard shortly after that.
We were very good doggy parents. When my son was about 2 (Wrigley was about 4) we got the news from the vet. She was fat. Like, 96 pounds fat. We were told to put her on a diet until she lost at least 20 pounds. We did. To help her with the fact she was getting less food, I provided her green beans and carrots. She gave me the dirtiest look. I could almost hear her thoughts ‘What is this and why is it in my bowl? Did we get a rabbit? Could I just eat the rabbit?’ She did eat it, because – hey, food!
Once, when she was only a couple years old, we dog-sat for a yorkie. They were a little ‘mis-matched’ in size, but Wrigley was entirely non-aggressive. The yorkie, however, had a little Napoleon syndrome going on. We let them play together in the back yard. Wrigley must have had a little ADHD, because she would look over and her face would say ‘Look! A Dog!’ and she would run over and play. A minute or so later she would wander off, and a few minutes after that ‘Look! A Dog!’ This went on for an hour or so. The Yorkie decided to press his luck and boss Wrigley around. Wrigley took this as an invitation to play, and ‘high-fived’ the smaller dog. By high-five, I mean she squashed her flat. Needless to say, Mr. Yorkie did not choose to boss Wrigley after that. (No pocket-dogs were harmed in the creation of this story).
After we had kids, and she was a few years older, we figured she’d mellow out a bit more. Labs tend to keep their ‘puppy-ness’ until they are around 4. Wrigley did not get that memo, and just a few months ago I found myself reminding her ‘you are an old dog! Stop eating the Legos!’ When she was about 5, she still had a small collection of toys out in the yard. Rubber toys – nothing with any cloth or fur (tennis balls – I’m looking at you. She would gnaw off the fuzz, then – you guessed it – I would have to pull stuff out of her butt). There was a certain rubber dragon she’d had for about 2 years. She completely ignored this thing. It was out in the yard for 2 years!!! All seasons! One day, we came home, and found a small dragon piece. Two days later we, uh, ‘found’ the rest. Matt and I figure it went down like this. Wrigley: ‘Oh, there’s that dragon. I’m gonna get him. No! Nope, he’s looking. Dragons are scary.’ (another day) ‘There that dragon is, today’s the day! No! Not the day, dragon’s are scary.’ (months later) ‘I’ll sneak up on him from behind. No! Nope, I think he’ll hear me.’ (finally, as she accidentally steps on him with her huge feet) ‘I got him! I got him right where I want him. I will eat him. I am brave.’
Fast forward a few years. Last year, Matt and I got a fire bowl for the back yard. We love to sit outside in nice weather, after the kids go to bed, and enjoy a little fire. Wrigley always joined us, though we are convinced she was trying to light herself on fire. I thought animals had an instinctive fear of fire. If so, Wrigley skipped that instinct. We constantly had to rescue her tail – thankfully successfully, as we never once had flaming-dog. In all reality, I could write a whole separate post on lab-tails. Like the time when she was 2 and we had to take her to the emergency vet because she couldn’t sit down – only to find out she had sprained her tail (called Lab-Tail or Swimmer’s Tail) and just needed some doggy Advil.
She was a really good dog. Very sweet, very friendly. She loved attention and would shamelessly play up to anyone who might give her some lovin’. She was a Labrador who didn’t care for swimming. A relatively smart dog who still managed to be a complete idiot sometimes. She loved peanut butter. She did NOT love baths. She loved to be outside and inside. She refused to go into our downstairs for any reason. She was constantly being tormented by squirrels, and never bothered to chase the bunnies or chipmunks out of my garden.
She was the best dog ever. She was my dog. I was not ready for this day. I’m not going to recount what happened – she just got very sick very fast. We promised her when we got her that when that day came, we would make a decision for her, not us. I know that’s what I did on Tuesday. I know it was the right thing to do. I know it was fair and loving. And I still hate it.
The kids want another. Momma needs a little time. If you have a furry friend at home, give them a little extra loving tonight. I may need to borrow a cuddle sometime. These are just some of the memories we have. Each is bittersweet, but will grow a bit sweeter with time.
I’ll try to be funnier later. I have a great story to tell you all about sweatpants.