Thursday, August 26, 2010

One Old Labrador

Our lab Freckles is exhibiting the signs that her days with us are growing short. She still wags her tail, though, even if her smiles at the back door aren’t as many as they used to be.

Freckles is thirteen, a big number for a lab. She came to us as a gift when she was a pup (pictured left in my daughter’s doll bed), and she’s had a full life. She and her former associate, Sunshine, a rescue dog from the pound who left us last year, had many adventures together.

Their favorite destination was a creek just below our house. In order to get there they excavated under the fence on many occasions. Even though we had someone checking on them every day when we went on vacation, they escaped and various neighbors carted them back and put them in the fence, only to have them escape again. After we returned one year from a trip, my dear neighbor Margaret said, “Those dogs have ridden in everything but an ambulance and a hearse.”

And indeed, they had. Sometimes, I wasn’t sure whether they really wanted to go to the creek or just get a car ride. In any event, no amount of fence electrification seemed to halt their escapades.

Freckles was trained not to retrieve by a devious minded Jack Russell terrier who wanted all the ball fetching for himself. Later, when my son taught our cat to retrieve a ball, we thought it strange to have a cat that would jump two feet in the air for a ball, and a retriever dog who only yawned at the word “Fetch.”

Whenever the dog comes inside, both cats race to greet her. They rub against her snout, and arch their back against her flanks. Sunshine used to find Freckles tolerance of this behavior disgusting, and she’d whisper something to Freckles like, “Have you no self respect as a dog to hang out with these crazy cats?” which always made Freckles remove herself from the affection. With Sunshine gone now, the lab just lies there and enjoys it.

The down side of having a lab is she’s pretty much destroyed every plant I’ve ever put in the ground. This summer, I tried once more to have tomatoes. I put them in pots, and as they developed the green fruit that would surely turn a bright red, I remained hopeful. That is until I saw a couple of tomatoes lying on the ground and turned to see Freckles stripping the vines of both green and red tomatoes. She even eats the leaves.

But then there’s the upside. Freckles has the cutest face and the sweetest disposition ever. Those adoring brown eyes never cease to bring me joy. She’s comforted me through cancer, the loss of my mother, and countless other heartaches. She’s never mad and doesn’t hold a grudge even when she doesn’t get the last chicken strip.

So, to say we’re going to miss her doesn’t come close. But we have now, and we have a precious few hours or maybe days with her. I think we’ll take her to the creek, buy her some tomatoes (she’s eaten all of mine), and visit the Colonel for her favorite nuggets. So if you see a car streaking by, windows rolled down, with a wet yellow lab hanging out dripping tomato juice. You’ll know it’s us. And you’ll know one old lab is having one last great adventure with the folks who love her very much.

One day as it says in Isaiah 11:6 when the “…wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together…,” I’m wondering if cats and dogs won’t also snuggle together, and I’m thinking right in the middle of them will be a yellow lab named Freckles.

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