Saturday, May 05, 2007
The vet had looked at Sadie with concern; there was something wrong with her back. At first we thought it might be a muscle strain, maybe she had fallen somehow and caused damage. My other dogs, Myrtle and Duchess looked on with impatience. They simply wanted to be out of the office and back in the car. I told the vet I would watch the seven year old black lab and led her gently from the office.
Sadie was special to me. I have always been a dog person, but this animal and I had a special connection. I got Sadie from a hunter who found her useless: "She swims great," he said. "She just doesn't like the taste of feathers in her mouth."
His loss was my gain. I decided that since Sadie had already received fundamental training, I would take her the rest of the way. I spent the next couple years working with Sadie each day, at least an hour's worth of time. When Myrtle came along, she joined our workouts. Then Duchess, Sadie's puppy, became part of the pack. Each day the three of us would work on some aspect of behavior until the three of them were like a machine.
Taking them to a field, I had them off leash. From at least two hundred yards away, I gave Sadie her hand signal to come. Sadie gleefully charged across field, dropping at the halfway point when I gave her the gesture. Then came Myrtle at her hand gesture, also dropping at the "down" signal. Finally Duchess, who ran like a madwoman, hoping to get as close to me as possible before the "down" command came.
Working with a dog each day, spending time on teaching them behavior builds a special bond.
When Sadie couldn't stand up a few months after that vet visit, I was crushed when we took her to the vet's again. I remember having to carry her out on a board. She was alert and in a good mood but unable to move. The other two dogs looked on, unsure of what was happening, but disappointed that they weren't being allowed to join us in the car.
"I can do surgery on her," said the vet. "She's seven though, and I can't guarantee anything. She'll be in a tremendous pain, and might not get better at all. Putting her to sleep is the best."
I nodded and gave consent. My ex-wife and I went into the back while the medication was administered. As Sadie was being prepped, my ex stroked her.
"When this is over, you can go to park with Dad," she said. Sadie's tail thumped, her eyes brightened. The doctor administered the needle. The last thing that filled my Sadies' mind were images of the park and the promise of a run through the grass.
I have three dogs again: Matilda, Leo, and Bernie. Matilda and Leo were my current spouse's dogs before I came along, although Leo has adopted me as his own. Bernie we got a couple years back. He goes to school with me each day. I still think of Sadie though; still have her ashes and a small statuette of a black lab which sits on my desk.
Posted by Stewart Sternberg at 10:29 AM