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The Dogs in Our Lives: Part I
Memories Are Forever
Before we know it, a dog becomes a living, breathing, begging, loving, partnering member of our family. He's up and down when we move about. He sleeps when we sleep -- after the pangs of puppyhood pass! He watches for us to return home. He guards our property when we're away. He cocks his head as he watches TV with us. He eats like a human teenager.
Moreover, he wiggles his way into our memory banks, and although we outlive him, he never retreats from our lives.
I am pictured at Hubpages with my "water bug" Newfoundland, Ebony, simply because the picture is the only professional one I ever had done with one of my canine companions. My friends and I went to a training and picture-taking program sponsored by the local pets boarding and veterinarian compound, where a professional photographer was on site.
It was a fun day with lots of pets and people intermingling, and Ebony was chosen to demonstrate a sit-stay routine with the head trainer conducting the program.
That was a couple years into my partnership with Ebony.
My very first day with Ebony was memorable. I took her out to the yard before I had to leave for work and sat with her and gently brushed her coat and talked softly to her about all the good times we would have at the lake, and she listened with contentment.
Before that was the interesting part. I actually picked her up that morning from the vet's, where she'd spent her first night as my pet to be spayed. And I needed to make a couple brief stops before heading home with her. Number one stop was to grab a fast food lunch. I was driving a large van, which had a large dash on which to balance a large sack with my large-sized lunch -- in front of my new large-sized dog.
We were new together, and I didn't give the lunch sack a second thought as I stopped again at the pharmacy to pick up a prepared prescription. I suppose the rest is an easy guess. I returned to the van to find one large, torn, empty lunch sack on the floor beside the driver's seat. Well, at least she looked a bit ashamed when I quietly questioned her as to the whereabouts of my lunch. Then I laughed and petted her, and we were buds for life.
My granddaughter was three when I rescued Ebony, and her first encounter with my new Newfie was unforgettable. It was a hot summer day, so I set out a wading pool in anticipation of my granddaughter's visit, thinking she and Ebony could get acquainted with a bit of water play.
I gave my granddaughter a water ball to throw into the filled wading pool and told her Ebony would try to get it before she did. It worked a couple of times quite nicely -- screaming good fun. Then the ball flew awry onto the sidewalk, and child and dog bolted for it. They reached the ball at the same time, and Ebony nudged granddaughter as she snatched the ball up, while granddaughter stumbled and scraped her knee as she landed under Ebony's chin.
Of course, there were tears on the part of my granddaughter, so I scooped her up and took her inside for a Band-Aid. As I lifted her to the kitchen counter top to examine the cut, I told her Ebony wasn't to blame for her boo-boo, that the dog just had been trying to reach the ball first. Ebony hadn't meant to knock her down, I explained.
My three-year-old granddaughter replied between sobs. "I know, Grandma, but -- sob -- that dog has -- sob -- a really big mouth!"
I certainly could appreciate her point of view. Eye level with a mouth full of teeth, competing for a ball...
There were no hard feelings. Ebony and granddaughter became fast playmates and friends.
Ebony, like most Newfoundlands, was very partial to children all her life. When children got past their initial reaction to seeing her -- "Is that a bear?!" -- they were all about making friends, and Ebony was a willing recipient to their eager petting.
Full grown, Ebony's regal, commanding beauty attracted attention wherever we went. She was stunning.
Like all my dogs, Ebony was a rescue project. I was working a factory second shift when I rescued Ebony and brought her home to stay in May of 1998. The Henry County Humane Society, which had housed Lady Ebb, as the employees called her, told me that she loved being sprayed with a water hose. That was fine news because I loved to go camping beside Lake Erie at East Harbor. Ebony would be my water-wading buddy.
Surprise, however; my new Newfie knew nothing about getting into the water, as in to swim!
It didn't take long for Ebony to catch on to the lore of swimming. One of the best times I ever had with a dog was teaching her how to fetch a stick thrown into the water and spending resultant hours of fun with her. Once acclimated, she found swimming to be the joy of her life. It was difficult calling an end to her day in the water. I was never much of a swimmer, but the water always has spoken to my inner wonder. Its vastness, its power, its challenge was fresh to me every time I went to spend time near it. And Ebony seemed to experience the same thing.
On our final trip to the lake, when she could no longer get about with the agility of youth, Ebony thanked me for bringing her that one last time. After her brief swim, she lay calmly on the hillside in the park across from the lake and gazed at the water, then at me, and back to the water. Several times, Ebony repeated that look back to me with peaceful, resolute eyes that spoke of times remembered and thankfulness.
Remembering that moment forever brings tears to my own eyes, thinking of my once joyous "water bug" finally grounded.
A Dog Cupid
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What companion is more loyal than the dog? They come in all sizes, shapes, and breeds, yet they are common in one art -- loving the human. Creative craftsmen encourage the honoring of the dog's loyal soul.