Editor’s note: This column is being reprinted from Jan. 28, 2009. The days and weeks after losing a beloved pet are heart-wrenching. What’s important is that we remember all the joy they brought to our lives.
She was a gift.
Shadow became a member of our family as a present for our daughter Sally on her seventh birthday.
She was just a pup when I brought her home from John and Janice Fisher’s that July afternoon.
Her name came naturally. A black Labrador, she easily disappeared into the shadows; and she shadowed Sally everywhere.
From the beginning, she had a mind of her own. She’d recognize her name when you called her, but she’d only come to you if she wanted to. She much preferred to run free, and as a puppy she was skillful at slipping out the back door and taking off for a sprint around the neighborhood.
One memorable winter night, she slipped out and started running laps around our garage, with me in pursuit through the snow. I finally caught her with a flying tackle into a snowdrift.
Usually the best way to get her back on a leash was to open a car door and suggest going for a ride. Inevitably, she’d be intrigued by the idea and bound into the car.
She attended obedience classes, but I think it’s safe to say her grades were below average. She had a mind of her own, and obedience wasn’t big on her agenda.
When she was a puppy, we did our best to limit her access to various rooms of the house. At first, she could only be in the kitchen. And at night, she slept on a dog bed in that room.
But when we went to Moldova 11 years ago, all that changed. While we were gone, she stayed with my uncle Stu and aunt Martha Sue at their place out in the country. She roamed so freely — once disappearing for a day — that there was no way she would surrender her freedom when we returned. From then on, every inch of the house was hers.
She was a friendly dog. A walk around the block might bring encounters with Katie or Freckles or Candy or Elsie Mae or Zeus or Gabby. (There have been a lot of dogs in our neighborhood over the years.)
She was a kid magnet and loved seeing Laci and Matthew and Jelica and Paco. Kids she’d never seen before felt comfortable giving her a scritch behind the ears.
She had friends of all ages, routinely stopping at a Jay-Randolph Developmental Center group home on our walks to visit with Jerry and the rest of the gang on the porch.
She was patient with all of them and with all of us. The craziness of Christmas, with a houseful of family, comings and goings at all hours, and clouds of wrapping paper, didn’t faze her a bit.
And if she sometimes didn’t know exactly what was going on, she could always seem to sense when something was in the wind. She’d anticipate Sally’s return visits home from Bloomington; she’d know instinctively when Sally was getting ready to leave.
Inevitably, over the past six months or so, she began to slow down.
The seven-year-old who fell in love with her as a birthday present is now a grad student. Fifteen and a half years have passed since Shadow became a member of our family.
Last Thursday at Dr. Bader’s office, we said goodbye to her. She hadn’t been able to keep down solid food for three days. Her rear legs had stopped functioning entirely. One of her front legs was showing signs of atrophy. When Dr. Bader examined her, he found a mass growing in her abdomen that was the size of a softball. It was tough to say goodbye, but it was the right decision.
Knowing her was a gift.
And we are richer for it.