Monday, April 16, 2012

Our Big Lug

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...(house, that is)

about six years ago, our two beautiful labs sat at attention in our carpeted kitchen. And can I just ask, what on earth were the former owners thinking--putting carpeting in a KITCHEN?  Good, got that off my chest. Anyway, the nearer, more golden lab is Jemima, our purebred. She was about seven years old in this picture.  We didn't know it then, but it was the last summer of her life. She'd already had some cancer removed from one leg, and before too many more months passed, she'd get sick one Tuesday morning and be dead by that Friday afternoon.
She was a sweetheart, our Jemima-Bean was. Like here, relaxing on Beve's leg. She'd nudge to be petted, NEVER tired of playing ball, buried stuffed animals all over the yard, bouncing straight up and down on all four paws when she was really excited.  I loved my Beanie (as I always called her).

But that other dog in that first picture is our Jackson. This big Lug. He's been part of our pack for a dozen years now, ever since a fortuitous day when J and I picked him up from the home where he'd been living--a home unequipped for who he'd become. He was a little ball of fluff back then. As pure white as an eskimo pup, with fur as soft as down. And wild--oh, my goodness, how wild that puppy was. He ran laps--around our other dogs (we had two then), around the furniture, around our legs, around EVERYTHING. He just ran. Then he'd plop himself down next to Jemima like she was his mama. And she let him.
He was wild for a long time, our Big Lug was. Sometimes we didn't think he was very smart because he never seemed to know his name. But finally we realized he just wasn't interested in answering. Because he is very smart. The summer we moved out of one home, we boarded him with a family about ten miles or so from our old house. My whole family had flown the coop (literally!)--the girls to Mexico, the boys to Germany, so I was staying in a hotel for about a week (yes, I could have stayed with friends, but there was a pool!...) Anyway, one day, the new owner of our house called and said, "There's a big white dog sitting on our porch baying. I think he must be yours."
Sure enough, Jackson had hoofed it cross-country back to where he knew he belonged. He was VERY glad to see me when I got there. And I was VERY sad that I had to take him back to that farm for another few days.

As I write about him, Jackson's slowly making his way down the hallway, scuffing his toenails on our hardwood floors. There's nothing fast about his movements anymore. Our Big Lug, you see, is nearing the end of his days with us.  It's been coming for a while, but in the last week, the signs are more definite. And our Springer, Maica, is always--ALWAYS--on the alert for him, with a definite, piercing bark to let us know if he's stuck outside, or needs help with something else. It's amazing to realize how much she can tell us about his needs.  He sleeps a lot. Moves at the speed of the slowest turtle. Hasn't caught a ball in months. Yesterday, he couldn't stand up to eat the mush I made for him. Today he's a little better. But it's a fool's paradise for any of us to think better is anything but fleeting. He's an old man, our Jackson is.

So tonight, as I listen to him make his way back down the hallway, I am thankful for the gift of this great dog, with fur that has always been as soft as down (I'm not kidding--he has the softest fur you'll ever pet!), and the gentlest, friendliest heart (as long as you don't try to pet his read end. But seriously, who can blame him?). I'm thankful--SOOO thankful to that family who didn't have the space for him, the fenced yard for him, the room for a 110 lb. lab. We did. We do. We have been blessed.

Today is NOT his last day. But that day is coming. And when that day comes...well, I grieve for my pets. Always have, always will. I will grieve for him. Our whole family will. Because we love him. He's part of our pack. But the one who will miss him the most?

...is our Maica.

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