I have only owned one female dog in my life. Her name is Feather, and I lost her earlier this month.
If you have been reading Pure Florida for a long time, you might be saying, "Hey, wait a minute, what about Lady?"
Good point, but I did not choose Lady, she chose us, and she could have left as she came, suddenly, and without prior notice.
To me there is a difference. I met Lady late in her life and we did not experience that bonding known as puppyhood together.
I loved her, but I don't think I was in love with her ... not like Feather.
It is not the same, as picking out that little puppy from a bouncing pack of pups, which is how I came to "own" Feather.
While I was picking Feather out from the crowd, her brother, Flounder wandered over to chew on my hand, so one became two.
I have never regretted the decision to bring two pups home instead of just one. The two of them had a strong bond and were the best of pals.
They were insane for a few years as all Lab pups seem to be , even though, ... technically, Flounder and Feather were mutts not Labs, a cross between a purebred black lab Mom and a purebred golden retriever Dad. Flounder favored the sire, Feather favored the dam.
Feather put on some weight in her later years, and became pretty sedentary. As the years went by, it became harder to visualize her as the bouncy adolescent dog whose bad manners caused my 6 year old daughter Katie to shout, "GET DOWN YOU BASTARDS!"
That hysterically (to us) funny moment, has become legend in our family ... we don't swear much so we still can't figure out where she got that word from.
I think Flounder and Feather were usually on the same wavelength when it came to the day's chores.
I'm hoping he doesn't feel too lost without her guidance.
She was the patient one, willing to wait at a burrow for ages, waiting for something to appear. More than once, I've looked out the kitchen window to see her, haunches up, nose down and out of sight in a pocket gopher burrow, trying to ambush the little guy when he came up.
She never caught one as far as I know.
She calmed down after she passed ten human years and became the queen of the porch. Her job there was to keep the yard birds in the yard and off the porch.
She failed miserably at this, but we forgave her.
She loved the water and was the one who would actually retrieve stuff thrown into the pond, while Flounder would hang out on the bank and ambush her as she climbed ashore. She was definitely the Labbier of the two siblings.
I'm going to miss that.
On the day she died, I was concerned about her because she had been spending alot of time under the house. Over the summer Feather had experienced a few days where she could not stand. Even though she recovered from whatever it was, she was wobblier than before the incident.
That last morning only Flounder came from under the house when I banged the food can lid.
She did not come out for a meal and Feather NEVER missed a meal.
I worried that she might be too sore to get up, but told myself an old deaf dog just might have slept through the noise.
That afternoon was the Friday before Junior's 18th birthday. After I arrived home from work, I changed into some grubby jeans and went under the house on my belly to check on her.
I feared the worst, but was hoping that maybe she had just had another episode of sore hips or whatever it was that immobilized her a few months before.
I entered the crawlspace on my belly and slid through the dust, dog hair, cob webs, and sand for about 20 feet, and then I saw her.
She was curled up, and for a moment I allowed myself that glimmer of hope that she might just be sleeping. I scooched up to her and took her paw in my hand ... and there was no more denial.
She was gone.
A big sob began working it's way up.
" Feather, I can't cry and do this, not now." I actually said that aloud to no one and the sob went away.
I placed an arm around her gently and slowly began to back out on my belly, pulling my 96 pound dog behind me.
It took awhile.
Eventually, my feet hit daylight, and then my torso, and then Feather.
I wrapped her in a blanket and carried her out to our pet cemetery where a handful of very good dogs are buried. It's a pretty spot, shaded by the pine trees I planted when Feather and Flounder were just pups.
On Sunday, Junior's birthday, I secretly carved her marker while cooking Junior's birthday ribs. As I carved, I continuously peeked out the door to make sure neither Emma, Katie, or Junior surprised me with a visit to the barn.
I did not want to ruin such a happy day. What was done, was done.
The secret could stay with me a little while longer. The fact that both Flounder and Feather spent most of their time under the house and that the week and weekends were so busy made her absence not as obvious as you might think.
That helped with the deception.
Then Kate and Em both got sick during the week, so I kept the sad news inside a little longer. Then, it was Dad's birthday, and I didn't want to ruin that, so I held off telling the kids through a second weekend.
Yesterday, I told them all.
Then, I hopped in the JEEP and drove out into the 57,000 acre Lower Suwanee National Wildlife Refuge where I could be alone.
On the edge of a saltmarsh,with only the sound of the breeze rustling the spartina grass, I found that sob I had stifled under the house over a week earlier... and I set it free.