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,
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
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
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.