|Running Dog (Abby)|
Of all the photos I've taken with digital cameras in the last fifteen years, the one above is perhaps my favorite. I call it "Running Dog" and it's a photo of our dog Abby.
She did like to run. That photo was taken in 2007 in our backyard, which was big enough for her to get up a decent head of steam. But she really liked the wide open spaces. Once my wife Joan let Abby off the leash near the lake, and before Joan could reconsider, Abby raced to the water and jumped in, ruffling the feathers of a handful of ducks and covering herself in mud.
Even at home, whenever Abby got through the front door without a leash, she'd take off like a rocket. I used to say, "Abby's heading for Mexico!" But actually, she had no destination. The first time or two, we chased her frantically around the neighborhood. Eventually we learned that she was simply going to run as fast as she could up and down our street until she wore herself out. Then she'd offer herself to the leash and we would bring her home.
She came originally from the Houston SPCA. That was in 1998, I think. I'm a bit uncertain about the year but otherwise I have a vivid memory of my stroll through their kennels. At every pen, dogs were barking. Some were saying "Get away from my pen!" Others seemed to be saying, "Take me!" But they all barked—all but one. In one pen at the end of the long, noisy hallway, a blonde puppy was sitting as far back as she could, trying not to be noticed. I peered in and whispered to her, "Why are you so quiet, sweetie?" She just wagged her tail. My daughter Mary and I took her home and we named her Abby.
Addendum 10/28/15: The year was 1999. Joan found a pair of photos showing me with Abby (in one photo) and Mary with Abby (in another). Abby is a puppy in both snapshots, and both prints are time-stamped June 1999.
|Abby with ribbons and bows|
The SPCA had tagged her as a Chow, which was simply a sign that somebody at the SPCA had no idea how to identify a Chow puppy. Later we decided that she was, more or less, a boutique breed known as Golden Doodle. Sounds like a cookie or a breakfast cereal. She certainly was sweet.
|At the window|
That was sixteen, seventeen years ago. A year or two ago, when she was already getting pretty old, she started to have some serious medical problems. Our great vet, Dr Ken Cantrell at East Dallas Vet Clinic, came back with a diagnosis of Cushing's Disease. We followed his instructions about how to care for her, and she actually recovered. She enjoyed being with us and looked forward to a walk well into 2015. We got a reprieve there and it's been a blessing to have her companionship for a year or two longer than we might have without the good doc's help.
But we knew The Day was coming.
A couple of months ago, the walks became a problem for her. At first, she'd slow down after a couple of blocks, then as weeks passed, she slowed down sooner and sooner. Eventually, she lost interest in taking a walk. Recently, at night, I've been carrying her out to the back yard because walking down the three steps from our deck had become a challenge for her. And because sometimes she seemed to have trouble finding the back yard.
|Abby always loved the cool weather, and she especially loved the snow. I pray that there's snow in heaven for her to bounce around in.|
And then, less than a fortnight ago, her health took a dramatic turn for the worse. She completely lost control of her bowels and grew more and more disoriented.
So I took her to Dr Cantrell this morning, wondering if today might be The Day. It was. After a careful exam, Dr Cantrell told me what I already knew: that she was seriously ill. The details didn't matter much but he said it was probably small bowel cancer, possibly with some other neurological problems. Daughter Catherine and my wife came up to the clinic to say goodbye to her. Tears all around.
Then I stayed with her as the vet put her to sleep just a little after 9 AM. A tech was with us, too. The tech gave Abby a cardboard french fry basket with cheese in it and Abby was eating the cheese as she was injected with an anesthetic. She turned and looked at me, and I caressed her head as her eyes slowly closed.
She wasn't the brightest dog in the pack, and certainly not an alpha. But she was the sweetest dog I've ever known. I hope that theologian David Bentley Hart is right and we are reunited with our beloved pets in Heaven. Until that question is decided, I will miss her and I know my wife and daughters will miss her, too.
Lie down, Abby. Good dog.