Thursday, November 20, 2008

How do you thank a dog like that?

[Melba with pig's ear - around one year old]

I am sitting in the waiting room with a very sweet young 
thing who rushed from behind the counter when I told her, 
with a cracking voice, what I was there for. She hugged me, 
hard and long, a good hug, a real hug, the kind I like to 
give. She led me over to a bench in a quieter place 
and murmured with me while we waited.

Her office mate reappeared from the back and said, 
'she's beautiful.'

Yes, yes she is...

'We put dogs in a box kind of like a coffin, you can bury her 
in that if you like. It makes it easier to carry - she is a big dog.'

The techs come out the back of the building (they kept her 
overnight till we could prepare the grave) and roll her out to 
my mom-van on a folding cart - the kind they move coffins with.

thank you, thank you, sorry for your loss, thank you

I get in the car and tell Melba

'we are going home sweetheart'

I drive home and back down the driveway all the way 
to the gate to the back yard - I get out and open the 
rear hatch and remove the lid from the coffin-box. 
She really is beautiful   She looks peaceful    
She looks comfortable

I bought Melba back in 1995. I had been divorced nearly 
five years and had just broken up with a man I dated 
for 4. I purchased a cute little yellow farm house 
on a fairly large piece of property for an in town lot. 
Perfect for a dog – a BIG one.

I had looked at several puppies but never came home with 
one. Then one day my friends K and K called and said they 
had gotten a male labrador from a local breeder and there 
was one chocolate female left. I got the number, called 
and rushed out there. The mother was a sweet black lab 
named Miss Julia – she had 11 in her litter – 8 yellows 
and 3 chocolates. There were just 3 puppies left – 2 yellow 
males and one chocolate female. Apparently they were not 
chosen because they all had pink noses and lips and eye 
lids – they were adorable little fat things. The little 
chocolate female was very light – more milk chocolate 
than brown. I asked if they would keep her until she was 
9 weeks old. They agreed and I paid them the money 
and went home to prepare.

We had a dog when I was growing up but nothing in the world 
could have prepared me for raising a spirited lab. She was CRAZY! 
She clearly never got the memo that she was supposed to have 
a soft mouth (so as not to damage the kill when retrieving it) 
I had little tiny green bruises EVERYWHERE from those little  
teeth. Nor did she get the retrieving memo – she would do it 
two maybe three times and then lay down and chew on it.

'You threw it - you get it' she seemed to be saying. I actually 
think that is rather brilliant.

One day I had had it – she wasn't minding and I was pissed. I got 
angry and was dragging her up my back deck stairs when I turned 
around and saw that she was afraid. I gathered her up in my arms 
and sobbed. I WAS my mother – my absolute worst fear. I just 
wanted her to be quiet and behave and not bother me just like 
my mother. I vowed to Melba then and there that things would 
be different.

I hunted around and finally found a trainer who would start 
puppies at four months instead of the customary 6. And so our 
education began. Melba's brother Otis (K and K's dog) was in 
her class. When she would see him she would buck and leap 
for joy. She was clearly the most 'spirited' dog in the class. 
We went for the first level of lessons. Then we went for the 
second level of lessons. Then we went for the third level and 
they began teaching us tricks. I decided that Melba needed 
no instructions in jumping as she had demonstrated her 
prowess whenever she was overjoyed.

When class was over we had a little graduation ceremony. 
The trainer gave Melba 'Most Improved' and everybody shouted 
with glee. Her brother Otis won the top dog spot. And during all 
of this time an amazing transformation had occurred in me. I was 
bat-sh*t crazy about this dog. I took her EVERYWHERE. To my 
softball practices, to my games, to play dates, on vacation and 
on and on... I was committed to her and I didn't feel trapped. 
I never resented having to rush home after work to let her out 
or walk her in the rain or let her out in the middle of the night. 
I was totally and completely in love.

She was a year old when I met Gapetto. I tease him that he 
just liked me because I had such a magnificent dog. Gapetto 
and I had a rocky beginning and Melba was there. Gapetto and 
I broke up and Melba was there. We bought a house and 
Melba was there. We got married in the town square and 
Melba was there.

I finally had a steady, reliable pillar of love in my life and she 
was a beautiful, calm (yes calm) chocolate labrador. She was 
there through my miscarriages and through my fertility treatments, 
holding silent watch when I rested. Life was constantly changing 
and I went through many hard times and my noble Melba was 
always there.

Now things have settled down so much and I am in a really good 
place in my life. I am beginning to believe there are no coincidences. 
Melba hung in there until I was alright and all of the drama was 
gone. She hung in there until I didn't NEED her. 

She hung in there for me.

She was two months shy of her fourteenth birthday.

Gapetto has prepared the hole in the backyard.
The Dolly Llama has drawn a sweet picture of Melba and Josie 
(our young black lab) under a beautiful tree. 

I write on the bottom of the drawing

Melba we love you and we miss you

We take Melba out of the box and settle her comfortably in the 
hole. We place the drawing next to her and we all throw a shovel 
full of dirt on her. The Dolly and I are inconsolable – Gapetto 
and the Bunny Rabbit are stoic. Gapetto places two large square 
pavers on top of the grave and we go inside.

This morning is beautiful and as I walk out the back door 
to talk to Melba I notice a sculpture we bought years ago. 
It is 2 dogs dancing on top of a springy thing – it is pure joy. 
I take it to the very back of the yard and place it on top of 
the flat stones covering her grave – the perfect headstone. 
And I say:

Melba – you were the perfect gift and I love you and 
I will always miss you. I hope that wherever you are  
you are dancing.

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At November 20, 2008 at 7:24 PM , Blogger Debbie said...

What a sweet, sweet post. I'm sorry you lost your precious dog.

At November 20, 2008 at 7:25 PM , Blogger (In)Sanity Gal said...

oh, i'm so sorry. it sounds like she was really loved. and that she really loved you.

At November 20, 2008 at 7:28 PM , Blogger Smiling Mom said...

Nette @

She looks just like my dog. I'm so sorry. The thought of loosing my girl is incomprehensible....

At November 21, 2008 at 2:55 AM , Blogger undercover caterer said...

Sad, too sad, but luckily you had each other for 14 wonderful years. I'm going to hug my dog now.

At November 21, 2008 at 12:48 PM , Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

I'm so sorry, M.

At November 21, 2008 at 1:45 PM , Blogger foop said...

"Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really."
~Agnes Sligh Turnbull

So sorry for your loss.

At November 21, 2008 at 2:25 PM , Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

As someone who is owned by two labs and has spent more than a few years around very spirited ones (personally, I like them that way), I can only imagine what you must be going through.

I'm so sorry for your loss but happy for your gain. Not everyone has a Melba.

At November 21, 2008 at 6:35 PM , Blogger Gary Cooley said...

I knew sweet Melba. She had a very funny and friendly way of greeting us. she would pass between our legs and then come around and do it again. She stayed at our house from time to time and slept at my feet when I worked in my studio. When it was time to go out, she would stand quietly by the door and look over at us as if to say, " I hate to bother you, but when you have a minute I have to pee.
I'll miss you Melba

At November 23, 2008 at 11:25 PM , Blogger LemonySarah said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your precious Melba. Clearly, you love her very, very much.

I hope you and yours are holding up OK.

All my best to you.

At November 27, 2008 at 9:06 AM , Blogger Reluctant Housewife said...

Beautiful post. I'm sorry for your loss.

At November 30, 2008 at 9:44 PM , Blogger Laurie said...

Beautiful dog, beautiful post. You were both blessed.

At February 2, 2009 at 11:18 AM , Blogger The Sour Kraut said...

I'm sobbing right now. We have two Labs, one will be 14 at the end of this month. I'm dreading the inevitable. I understand your appreciation and love for this dog. I feel it too.


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