01 July, 2010

Every Dog Has His Day

a girl and her dog
We are a lucky family. There's really no other way to see it, at least when it comes to dogs.

When I first met my husband he had two dogs, Buddy and Shadow. Buddy, a golden retriever was sweet and was a snuggler, always wanting to put his snout under your hand to encourage you to pet him. Shadow was a border collie, and a princess. She was in charge, and one of the smartest gals I have ever met.

I remember going to Descartes' boat, where he lived, and walking the dogs for him when he got stuck late at work. It was the most frightening thing to take those two beloved animals out to the field, and let them run without their leashes. It wasn't scary because they were in danger, it was a safe place where dogs were allowed off leash. No, it was scary because I knew that if anything had happened to those dogs, my relationship would be over. The dogs were in his life before I was, and I knew that if push came to shove, at least at the time, I was fairly certain they would win.

Buddy and Shadow were our first kids. We cared for them together in our new marriage. I cried when I dropped them off at the kennel for our three and a half week honeymoon. Their presence in our life dictated where we lived (not San Francisco, because in 1999 rents were sky high and no one had to take a couple with dogs, no matter what their income or credit report scores.) I think we actually live on the peninsula because of those dogs...we just kept heading south until we found a decent city that would let us rent with animals, and when it came time to by a home we started with the familiar, which was this neighboring city.

Buddy and Shadow were Jake's first dogs. They loved him, and never flinched as his hands clutched fur, his variable grasp not ever knowing how hard or softly to hold things. They made him laugh. When Buddy got liver cancer we were devastated. We went through several surgeries, each one getting us a few more weeks with him. He passed away at home on the cool of the tile in the hallway when Jake was one.

Shadow moved back on to the foot of the bed, and reigned supreme at our house. We fed her steak and rice with melted cheese. I pulled ticks off of that dog, and she loved my little boy.  Shadow lived until March 20, 2003. I remember the day because or entire house had fallen apart slowly; first a horrible stomach virus swept through, then we had a broken microwave, a broken rice cooker, and a broken computer, then the tub backed up into the sink, the sink drained into the wall, flooding our downstairs, war broke out in Iraq, and then the dog died.  She just closed her eyes, sighed and died in my arms at the vet's office.

Dog free, our house was cleaner, with uncomplicated travel plans, and it was quiet, and clearly we were missing something. It was difficult, but we decided to wait awhile to get any animals. Looking back, we had also decided to wait to get pregnant again. By this time it was increasingly obvious that Jack had significant disabilities. That fall he started early intervention preschool and rode the short bus for the first time. Our plans to have a second child were back-burnered for the foreseeable future while we figured out what kind of life we we were going to have. Jake had intense sleep issues, and some self-injurious behavior, and could barely walk independently, even at three. Our life felt a little bit out of control. Someone used the word "autism". We did genetic testing. We saw neurologists. We went to a million different agencies and doctors, and I started this blog.

Lucy adoring Bilbo (with family friend V.)
Somewhere in there we found out about NorCal Golden Retriever Rescue. We somehow, swiftly and happily became owners of Chandler and Bilbo. They came with the names okay? Chandler Bing and Bilbo Baggins. They had not been mistreated in their previous home, just neglected a bit in a "we have a newborn and a small dog, so we don't want anything big around our little tiny things" way.

Bilbo had a snaggle tooth, Chandler had a block head. They were both a beautiful red, and friendly to all they encountered, unless you were a raccoon or a deer or a black cat in the front yard. Bilbo was a love, patiently standing nearby lest you felt the need to scratch someone's head. Chandler was happy being a pillow, a wrestling bear or when unmonitored children were nearby, a step stool.

They were a great pair, brothers from different litters. They happily curled around each other in the back of our van and rode to Tahoe, or any other place, mostly they played with our children. They were Lucy's first dogs, and they loved her.

Bilbo died last summer, after several procedures to drain the fluid from around his heart. He was 9 years old. After the last big procedure we thought we would have some more time with him, but he passed away only five days later, choosing the same cool spot in the hallway that Buddy chose to spend his last hours.

So then there was Chandler. We thought about getting him a companion, but he was fine being solo. He was so easy going and friendly. He would sprawl across the living room floor, letting Lucy use him as a pillow as she watched TV. He was a joy to travel with, and loved playing in the snow when we went to the Sierra Nevadas. Big and fluffy, the ice would stick to the bottom of his coat when he shoved his nose into piles of fresh powder. He got along with other dogs, little children, puppies, old people, everyone except the black cat and the deer in the front yard, and as he aged he would simply put his head out the dog door to bark at them. He couldn't even be bothered to push his whole body outside to tell them to go away.

He got old fast. In a matter of weeks, he went from a little bit of a slow, chubby, dog to an old man who couldn't see to walk down the stairs at night because his cataracts were so bad. He stopped coming upstairs last week, then he stopped coming down the hall, then he just laid down in our room, at the foot of the bed.
Chandler 2000-2010 

He was a good dog. They were all good dogs. Friendly, loving, good to our children, and guests. We've been lucky, so very blessed by all the good natured doggies in our life. I keep trying to think of these furballs as 'animals' and they keep finding a way into my heart. I can't imagine our life without them

Lucy noted, "We can always get a new dog, but we will always miss Chandler." And we will. Thank you Chandler for being such a lovely, treasured part of our family.
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