“Lady’s here to protect me”


I lost my best friend today.

I’m not alone… she was important to many of us. She united us as a family. She provided comfort when we needed someone to love us. And by every definition, she was a best friend.

She was there for good times and bad. Since finally moving out of my childhood home, she has lived every place I have. The windows have been rolled down on every car I’ve owned so she could stick her head out and enjoy the breeze.

And now she’s gone.

Back in 1993 I was getting ready to move out of the house. I had moved some stuff to an apartment in Charlestown, Rhode Island, where a friend of mine from work and I were going to live in half of a duplex. On Tuesday night, November 23rd, I slept in the house for the first time, on the floor, because people were coming on Wednesday morning. The bed delivered and cable television set up, my sister arrived and off we went. By noon of November 24th, Lady was in the front seat of my car, sitting on my sister’s lap, with Kei repeating over and over “don’t pee on me” to her. We have rarely been apart since.

I have all sorts of funny stories from the months that followed in that house. Brownies disappearing from counters. Seeing her standing on a coffee table and learning she liked Kahlua and cream. Later that same night, in the early morning hours, finding out that a dog will throw up when she has had Kahlua and cream. On your bed.

Out in the backyard we would play fetch. She loved tennis balls. Crazy about them actually. She would run across the yard and begin hopping. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out what she was doing. It became apparent one day when she was playing fetch with some snowballs. She was listening. She wanted to hear the ball bounce or the snowball smack into the ground. But she couldn’t hear that when she was running full speed across the yard. So… about two-thirds of the way across, she would begin to hop. She’d just start bouncing in the air. Looked like a bunny. And when she heard the ball land, she would turn and grab it.

In 1995 my wife-to-be came over to visit for the first time with her boys. Lady was out back, tied to a deck with a rope. The boys began playing with her, and she ended up sweeping past Justin, catching him with the rope, and giving him a small rope burn on his leg. He forgave her. Terry, Jason, Justin, Lady and I had basically been brought together. (Dare I mention that Terry had met Lady before the boys? She had come over with some friends from work and Lady spent some of the night trying to lift Terry’s skirt. To this day I’ve been accused of training her to do that.)

The next year, Terry and I had begun dating and things were going fantastically. We had pretty much decided to get married. My lease was up, and we were thinking about moving in together. So, early in the summer of 1996 she sat down with the boys to discuss it. They had one very important question they wanted settled…

“Is Lady coming too?”

Terry lived in an apartment on the middle floor of a three level house at the time, with the owner downstairs. She got permission for Lady to join us by offering to pay a bit more in rent each month. With Lady coming along (and the video game systems I owned coming as well), Jason and Justin were on board with the idea of Bob moving in with them. The woman downstairs would later say she never even knew we had a dog.

Lady loved that apartment, but she was very funny there as well. There was a school across the street. She had never lived anyplace with anyone closer than three or four hundred yards to the house. Now she was on the middle floor of a building with an elementary school across the street. During that first summer, she went with the boys to the school yard to play fetch. She got her leg tangled in the rope and we brought her to see a vet. After being fixed a few years earlier, she hadn’t been too understanding when it came to seeing any veterinarian. But she liked the doctor she met that day. And it was comforting for both Terry and I to have that same vet involved earlier this morning. (I have to point out… while I tried to look at her leg that day, she kept trying to lift it up, move around on three legs, and get us to keep playing fetch. Let the record show she wore us out... time and time again.)

Some friends of ours came over to visit one night. First visitors to the place with Lady there. Traffic and noise had made her a bit suspicious and cautious of things. She sniffed them out and decided things were ok. But, watching her, we noticed that all night long, she moved whenever the boys or our guests moved. Yup… she stayed directly between the guests and the boys, protecting her kids. (Over the years those guests, Ellen and Richard, would become a special couple to her. A few days ago, on New Year’s Eve, she strolled in to the room where we were playing cards, went directly to them, and settled in for a nap between their chairs.)

She knocked over a box of donuts one morning in that old apartment, and had at least eight of them before we got home. She would come running… waking from a sound sleep… at the slightest crinkle of a cheese wrapper. One night, while I was trying to get some sleep early in the evening, she tried to punch a screen out of the window so she could get out of the apartment and head across the street to play with some kids at the school.

Around 1997, one of the greatest Lady moments took place. For circumstances I can’t recall at all, Justin was left alone in the apartment while Terry and I were at work. It was only going to be for an hour or two, and a very close friend of ours (Don) lived upstairs at the time. But Justin was young those days, and he was pretty much afraid of the dark. Terry called him on the phone to see if he needed us to come home. His answer?

“Nope. I’m fine because Lady’s here to protect me.”

He knew she wouldn’t let him down (both boys did), and if something was there, she would bark and take care of it.

We had bought some new furniture for that place, and Lady was supposedly not allowed to get on it. But… sure enough… we would come home from work each night, find her under the coffee table… and find the couch had a very warm spot.

We moved again in 1998, out of an apartment and into a house we rented. In 1999, Travis joined our family, and they became quick friends. After some experiences with a kennel earlier… involving Lady expressing her displeasure by peeing on a couch… twice… and later after a different trip getting a bit sick (aches and pains)… we arranged for them to stay at our home whenever we traveled. They’ve basically never been apart since.

Once when Terry and I went away to a wedding, one of them tore apart the sofa. We blame Travis for it… but it could have involved either one. Terry chewed them out when we got home. At the time, they slept in our bed with us. Actually, they took over the bed. Knowing Terry was mad at them, both dogs spent several nights, side by side at the bottom of my side, laying down and staring at Terry.

In May of 2001, Terry and I bought a house. Nice back yard, fenced in, with plenty of room for them to run around and play. It took a little while to get used to the wood floors… I still can recall Lady and Travis sprinting over the kitchen floors on their first visit, getting no traction, then trying to corner at full speed and sliding into the base of the stairs. Yeah… quite a sight.

From ownership of her chair to settling in on her futon to putting Molly in her place when a new puppy joined our gang in August of 2006… Lady was a major part of our family. I’d only be kidding myself if I said anything except that even with Terry in charge, Lady was the true head of our home. (I’m also kidding myself by thinking that I’m recalling even half of the stories I should be, or that these words are making any sense.)

As she noticeably slowed down a bit, I had hoped for a few more quiet years… not months or weeks or days. I’d take care of her. Do whatever she needed. We all would… as long as we knew she wasn’t suffering. What I really had hoped for was a bit strange though. One snow storm. She absolutely loved the snow. Loved it. She would pretend she needed to go out every fifteen to twenty minutes just to get one of us up and outside with her to see if we would throw snowballs to her. In this very strange, very warm winter, I never got to see that wish fulfilled.

Being without her, and the days leading up to this morning, have been some of the hardest moments I can ever recall. I have no clue why, but her loss seems more difficult than any other loss I have ever experienced. Maybe it was because she couldn’t tell us that something was wrong. She just put on a brave face, never complained, and kept wagging that tail every time she saw one of us. Unconditional love...

When we got home today, I gave Molly the collar that Lady had worn. Yes… I understand. But it seemed right. Putting it aside felt wrong. It feels better having it involved. We went out for a walk… Travis, Molly, Terry and I. It wasn’t so much a walk as a pull actually. And when the dogs came in the house after, Travis went in to the living room and got on Lady’s chair.  He’s done it before, but not often. It seemed he knew that he was supposed to be taking over as protector of the house or such. They both know that something is wrong… something is different. And I really believe that Travis thinks he is supposed to be doing something and just has no idea what.

It’s been very quiet around here today. And I think it’s going to be for a while.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com