Monday, September 28, 2009

Goodbye Sweet Girl

Feather, January 1996 to September 2009.

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.

She had the softest muzzle and I loved to bury my face in hers and feel all that soft velvety fur.
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.


Deb said...

I'm sitting here at my desk at work, trying to stifle the tears. So sorry for your loss. In fact, I was just wondering the other day how Flounder and Feather were doing. She was blessed to be loved by such a wonderful human family.

Just the Right Size said...

I'm so sorry FC! My thoughts and prayers go out to you and sweet Feather.

elpbulls said...

:'(....Love you!

Funder said...

You've made me cry. There's just nothing sadder than losing a great dog. My heart goes out to you.

Anonymous said...

It's so sad when they leave us. Feather had a good life, and leaves you with good memories, but it's still a great loss.

I'm sorry for your loss.

Juli said...

You're one tough nut FC. Such strength... wow.

I am so sorry to read of your loss. I've grown to love your critters thanks to the wonderful images and stories you share about them. Feather was one of the lucky ones to have such a loving family and home. Peace to her and may Flounder not feel her absence. Bear needs to divert attention! :)

Bill said...

As one who is a life long dog lover, and often writes about my furry companions, I am grateful that you shared your loss with us.

There is nothing quite like the frienship and partnership that a dog can provide for humans. They help us to see ourselves as we truely are for good or for bad.

Thank you my friend. I am so very sorry for your loss.


Smilin-buddha said...

Sorry for the loss. I hope mine goes peacefully at home. I really hate the vets office visit. Better they pick their time.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Feather looks like she was a good ol' girl! I love the hint of smile on her face while you rubbed her ear.

nfmgirl said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I've lost many a beloved animal, and it never gets any easier. And when it is one of the ones that you are, as you put it, "in love with" it makes it 10 times more difficult. Lucky girl though, to have had you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Hi FC,

I am also sorry to hear about Feather. She was lucky to have one of the finest families that I "know". There are tears in my eyes for Feather and all of my pets that I have lost.

Thinking of you,


ChrisC and JonJ said...

You have just brought back all the memories of us having to put our beloved Rags(our Black Lab---Feather looks so much like her,it's scarey)down.To this day,she is still a part of our family.And we buried her under a pine tree,too.
God Bless......

Doug Taron said...

It's so hard to lose the four-footed members of our families. I'm very sorry for your loss.

edifice rex said...

I'm glad i'm sitting here at home by myself reading this 'cause gosh darn, now i'm cryin'. my heart really goes out to you and your sweet family but think too, what a great home Feather had with ya'll. Hugs to you.

cinbad122 said...

Awww....I am really sorry to hear that. You made me cry! Oh and thanks for you know what. It was AMAZING! I ate it first!

swamp4me said...

Sad times. You know I'm in tears...

Suze said...

Of course I'm crying now. I still can't figure out why God didn't fix it so our pets live as long as we do....

Jen said...

So sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing all the good times with us, and the bad ones too. She was a good dog, and you are a great dad!

troll said...

I'm sorry for your loss.

Island Rider said...

I feared this news as soon as I read the title of this post. I'm sobbing right along with you. I am so sorry for your loss. She was a good old girl and you made her just as happy as she made you, I'm sure.

Pablo said...

You gave her a good life, and she gave back to you. Our Max is starting to falter too. I fear I'm going to be put through the same thing soon.

Hurricane Teen said...

Few things sadder than an old cracker losing one of his favorite dogs.
Guaranteed she had the best life a dog could ask for.
Again, beautifully worded post, as well.

ImagineMel said...

good night sweet girl, sleep well.

Dani said...

I'm so sorry sweetie. Hugs to you and the rest of the family.

marge said...

there's a lot to be said for just curling up and going to sleep where you're used to sleeping, next to a buddy, and being buried where folks will remember you with a smile and talk to you.

LauraHinNJ said...

Ditto Marge's comment... and "the longer we are together, the larger death grows around us."

I think Wendell Berry said that.

I'm sorry your Feather's gone. Sorry too for the burden of keeping that from your family.

I imagine a pretty loud sob.

Felicia said...

How can anyone read that and not cry? I'm so sorry for your loss.

But what a lucky dog Feather was to have had you and your family, and to have passed from earth peacefully, in a cozy place near friends. Darn, now I'm crying again...

Miz S said...

The death of an old and well-loved dog always makes me think of that poem by Lord Byron.

"...near this spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
and all the Virtues of Man without his Vices"

Love to you and your family.

Sayre said...

Our relationship with our Beryl sounds like it was much like yours with your Feather. From pups to prime and the slide to elderly... They are part of us and a little piece goes with them when they die. I know exactly how you feel. Hugs to you and your family.

Ericka said...

well, darnit. yours is the second blog to make me cry today. i'm late in catching up with blogs, and someone posted something for jim henson's birthday. i feel slightly better crying over good dogs than muppets.

from your foreshadowing a week or so ago, i've been waiting for this post. i'm so sorry. saying goodbye sucks.

Hurricane Teen said...

By the way, that picture of Feather with Vader (I think) on her back is my favorite of all you've ever posted on here...And I have read EVERY SINGLE post you have written.
Such great personalities...had me cracking up for a while.

Sharon said...

I'm so sorry :( It's amazing how I've never met you in person (yet! I have high hopes), but I feel like I know you and that you're a friend. I am shedding some tears with you, and I never met Feather either. Hugs to you, my "internet" friend...

Anonymous said...

Pups are funny critters. They make you laugh and frown and smile and cry. They are so loyal and they love you with all their being. The most important thing is that they teach us to be exactly like them. She picked her moment, and so did you. Bless you all!

Kimberlee said...

I can't think of anything original to say. I'm so sorry that you've lost such a sweet girl. I'm afraid the time is not too far away when I'll be experiencing something similar here. May your heart heal quickly.

SophieMae said...

All has been said... and said. I actually read this earlier and had to walk away from the computer for a while. So many miles apart, yet we all feel so close, and so affected by one another's highs and lows. God bless and comfort you all with sweet memories.

(((((((all y'all)))))))))

lisa said...

I am sorry, it is so hard to lose our best friends.

LaDivaCucina said...

Oh dear, I came to your blog to ask you a q and found this terrible news. I'm SOO SORRY. So many have lost dearly beloved pets this year. I loved the way you described her muzzle and could almost feel/smell Feather myself. I'm sorry for your loss.

robin andrea said...

My deepest sympathies to you and your family, fc. Feather was a beauty. I felt like I knew her, and that is the power of your affection and love for your furry friends.

kathy a. said...

feather was such a lovely girl. i'm crying, too.

we have 2 dogs, buddy and cora, and i know it will break my beloved's heart when we lose them. he has a special affection for cora, who is also part lab, and calls her "my sweet baby."

KLS said...

I am very sorry about the loss of your dog.

cndymkr / jean said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Feather seemed to be such a huge, positive influence on your life and you'll mourn her loss for years. Hugs.

Jacki said...

Feather was a very wise girl to pick such a neat human. Sleep well, girl.

jojo said...

on no... so say for you. i loved hearing about feather and flounder. :( There is something about them that live on forever though. I still see, smell, think about my two favorites and smile as i know they lived such long lives, and toward the end both got to romp around on the land i bought for them. :)

All i can say is "long live Bear" May he reign a looooong, long time!