Thursday, December 30, 2004
A Bloo Christmas
Back in May of 2004 our Black Lab mix had to be put down. She was about 14 years old, according to the vet, her systems had shut down and she was very sick. We didn't know her exact age because she came to us on a Thursday afternoon September 7th, 2000. The Lad, 4 at the time, and I were outside clearing ivy out of the side yard and working fast to beat an oncoming storm. There were occasional thunder rumbles and the wind was picking up. Our next door neighbor, Karen, spotted her first. She was scurrying down the sidewalk with her tail between her legs, very upset and afraid of the thunder. Karen asked us if we knew who's dog it was. The Lad immediately called out to her and she sheepishly came toward us and laid down, shaking like a leaf. No tags. The Lad put his hand on her head, looked up at me and said, "Can we call her Belle?"
Just like that. In less than 2 seconds the dog was his. I told him we can call her Belle until her owners come and get her. So we sat out in the front yard with Belle waiting for her owner to drive by looking for her. A day later we put signs up on all the telephone poles in every intersection within a mile of the house and notified the shelters. Two weeks later we took all those signs down and put up "Lost Dog" signs when she escaped from our back yard. We got her back. Soon after that she wore tags with her name and our phone number. In the next year we had met most of our neighbors within a mile of the house when we went to retrieve Belle from her many unauthorized sojourns. So we put her name and our address on her tags. Most people who found Belle doing laps in their pool brought her back without calling. We'll never know how often that occurred.
She slept on the Lad's bed until she couldn't get up there anymore, and despite her deteriorating health she chased a ball into the pool for one last swim the day before I drove her to the vet to end her suffering. What a horrible drive.
The Lad took it pretty hard. When Belle died she had been a part of his life for half of it. Sticks, balls, the pool and the creek. Always willing, always able, and always his.
We waited until now to replace Belle because we wanted the Lad to respect her passing and linger on her memory. One of the most important lessons a pet can give to a child is it's passing. Beyond the responsibility of feeding and caring for a pet, it's passing provides an opportunity to confront the loss of a loved one. Something real and living in their world is gone forever. The experience will hopefully be of great value when he becomes an adult.
At 5:45 AM this Christmas morning I drove to the breeder's house to pick up Bloo. He's 45 pounds of four month old pure Black Lab. We brought him into the Lad's bedroom to wake him up. As we sat on his bed and stirred him awake, Bloo was sniffing about the room, paws thumping and collar tag jingling. He caught a glimpse of something black and fury in the closet door mirror and sat up in his bed with an expression we'll never forget. "A DOG!!! I HAVE A PUPPY!!!"
The giggles and fun haven't stopped. Immediate brothers possessing the same level of maturity and attention spans.
Ten years from now he'll be 19 and Bloo will be 10. Over half his life will have been spent with Bloo at his side. I hope he remembers what Belle taught him, and I hope we're there to recall the Christmas morning when Bloo woke him up. -Wb
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