I wrote something similar to this a few years ago when my beloved 9-year old black lab pup Chatham passed on. At the time, I dreaded having to wake to the morning when I would have to say the same sad goodbye to Abby. After all, Abby was one year Chatham’s senior – and when Chatham passed much too early – it made manifest and oh-so-very-real that these dogs and their unbridled love and devotion come with such a short shelf life.
That was 3 years ago when we all gathered around to say goodbye to Chatham and in the moments afterward – I did what I so often do – turning my grief and deeper thoughts into something that would celebrate the life. I let my jumbled thoughts and words coalesce into something more meaningful on “the page”. Time flies and with it goes our emotions – they just get so scattered – so before I could lose sight of those words, I wrapped my arms around them and made damn sure I captured every last feeling I had jostling around inside.
When I wrote a memorial for Chatham, I had her big sis (and surrogate Mom) Abby in mind. After all, Abby was this boy’s first dog.
See – I never had a dog growing up. Always had an inkling that I might want one but never lobbied too hard.
Never having had a dog, I had no idea what that act actually entailed. A boy and his dog just seemed like such a cool, mythic thing – like an Old West gunslinger with his faithful steed. The sight of a boy scampering alongside his bounding companion felt ripped from legend. Iconic – and something I definitely wanted a piece of.
Never having had a dog, I had no idea how much responsibility they add. How you need to be real cognizant of their needs when giving the affirmative to every party invitation that comes your way. And weekend trips require particular sleight of hand to insure someone is nearby to feed them, let them out, and most importantly – spend some quality time just “shooting the breeze”. Human companionship comforts these canines.
Never having had a dog, I had no idea how closely they become part of your life. How they define family. How they look at you, the second you walk through the door with all the love in the world – just grateful that you exist. Beyond grateful actually – a good dog is literally sent to the moon when you darken the doorway.
And then there are those days, where you catch their eye at just the right moment, and you swear they’re about to speak their mind. Silly, I know – but there is an intelligence at work in these pups, the best of the great beasts that share this bountiful Earth with us. And there are times where you just know they are aching to join the conversation. Of course, they’re likely to simply offer up “So, when are we eating?” but it’s intelligent thought all the same.
Never having had a dog, I had no idea how good they could make you feel when it felt like the whole world conspired to bring you down. That sharp intellect is matched only by their massive heart – easily three sizes too big for their small frame. A good dog can lap those tears away. And protect you from the Big Bad Whatever that stalks us at those disparate and desperate times in our lives.
Never having had a dog, I had no idea how quickly all felt right with the world when you caught them, rolled tighter than a ball – asleep and adrift on pleasant puppy dreams; their twitching feet, the only movement betraying their fantasy fox hunt. Spying your pup contentedly snoozing – and knowing that this good life they live is only made possible by your own pure love and devotion – well, that’s all the evidence you need to know that you’re doing something right in this life.
Never having had a dog… I never had to say goodbye to one. I never had to frantically wipe at my tears while also hugging my kids real tight – feeling their watering eyes dampen my shirt – the three of us united in common grief and total undying love.
But that’s exactly where I find myself today – as I say goodbye to Abby – the best little yellow lab pup that ever walked this Earth.
I got a sad message from Andi last night. Abby has had her ups-and-downs in the health department over the last several months; with a major treatment performed earlier this year. Andi thought she bought Abby a couple more years on this Earth – extracting a nasty cancerous mass. Abby rebounded when the Spring blossomed and seemed right on the mend.
Over the last couple of weeks, that sad reminder that all good things must come to an end began to whisper again. She stopped eating. She was losing some senses. Her happiness had dwindled. Lethargy dragged her down. Our once energetic, happy pup who could run for hours in the backyard was now confined to a tightly wound ball wherever she could get comfortable.
Thus, the decision was made to ease her suffering and let her pass on today.
The kids were with me so shortly after I got confirmation from Andi that we needed to do this – I packed them up and we took the drive over to spend some good quality time with her. They are still at the house with her now – making sure her last few hours are filled with the friendly sights of family. After all – from the moment she left her litter – she has been among the best family a guy could ask for.
We walked in the door and Abby actually got up from her resting place – her tail wagging. Andi said that was the first time she had seen that tail thump energetically all day. That we gave her that is something I’ll treasure.
I spent a good portion of time just sitting by her – but knew I had to get back to work. Before doing so – I nestled down on the floor – holding her tight and letting her know just how much I have loved her, how much I know she has loved me and how much color she has added to the pretty cool life I’ve led.
Yellow. It’s a bright, sunny hue. It sparks of warmth and happiness.
Abby brought such “yellow” to my life.
Today is a pale shade but I know that in memory – as long as my days wind on – I will look back and memories of her will beam as bright as the days they were forged.
May you Rest in Peace always,
Abby the Labby.