Sitting cross legged on the living room floor as puppies with sporadic control over their limbs climbed all over us, jostling one another for high ground so they could lick our faces, is a treasured memory.
The parents of this rambunctious lot were both black labs with loads of energy, which in hindsight should have been a deterrent. The litter was a Neapolitan mix of three chocolate, three black and three yellow labs. We knew we wanted a smaller dog and as soon as we walked in my daughter, who was only six at the time, found a perfect little chocolate female pup. She probably would have been wonderful, but instead one of the larger yellow labs stole my heart and in a decision I occasionally regretted, I overruled her choice.
Moose, as the owners called him, was friendly, outgoing, and full of personality. During feeding time, he would lay down, covering as much food as possible, as it scattered across the floor while his brothers and sisters raced to the bowls. Then he would simply stand and eat the food he had captured. Turns out that was all for show. Once we got him home, we learned that he was the only lab on the planet who actually was not motivated by food. For the first two years of his life, we could actually see his ribs.
We asked the girls to help us name the new pup, but after suggestions including yellow and banana, we realized that they were probably too young to pick a name so in the end he became Mr. Darcy, Our Pride and Joy. It turned out to be too elegant a name for him, but by the time we realized, it was too late.
Our little Houdini would not be crated. He learned how to squeeze out of the narrowest of openings. So, we gave up. We’ve always been dog parents who prefer to snuggle on couches and beds with our dogs anyway so we were never that committed to the crate. I know it’s not for everyone, but it works for us.
With two small girls in the house, we needed a way to help him expend his energy and succumbed to the most extravagant of things Doggy Day Care. Ultimately, he got expelled for escaping during an overnight visit. They found him in the middle of a normally busy road at 2 in the morning and politely told us that he couldn’t come back. It was probably for the best. He already had stitches in his right ear, when on a previous visit a much smaller dog attacked him during play time. It’s amazing how much an ear can bleed. Everybody needs a good scar that tells a story.
He challenged us constantly. I’m fairly certainly I will have arthritis in my ring finger someday from the wrenching it got, when he yanked hard against the leash that I was holding in a successful attempt to run free during an agility training class. While he had a knack for it, we never could get past his overly social nature so we only lasted one session.
I could continue on for hundreds of pages about his misdeeds. His endless escapes from the house, the unfortunate thunder storm that hit while he was waiting in the back of our Taurus while we finished up with our Girl Scout meeting. This caused him to have explosive diarrhea everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I still remember crying when on hour three of cleaning the car, I had to resort to toothpicks to try to get to the last of it. It’s one of my most unpleasant memories, but those are not the ones that are in my heart.
I remember the pup who crawled up onto my chest, put his head on my shoulder, and slept for two hours, so happy to be in my arms. I remember the dog who sat at my feet while I worked, looking at me with such incredibly loving eyes and nudging me under my arm to be sure I remembered to pet him periodically.
I remember the Fourth of July where we threw the ball in the lake for him before our guests arrived in the hopes of tiring him out before our party only to realize he couldn’t be tired out. Five hours later he was still retrieving the ball, although he had cycled through many of our guests, each of whom kindly took a turn throwing the ball for him until they ran out of steam. He never did.
I’m glad he had one last summer at the lake. We weren’t sure that he would. He got sick earlier in the year and the vet gently told us he wouldn’t get better. What we thought might be a bone infection was most likely cancer. It was a slow goodbye as we watch him closely for signs of pain, waiting for him to show us when it was time.
We took him swimming one last time shortly before he died. He no longer had the stamina of his youth, but who does? He managed a few shorter swims, although we had to be sure to lob the ball right in front of him or he couldn’t find it. He didn’t see well anymore and his hearing was completely gone, but he still looked at me with those eyes.
He was so loved. And, he is so missed.
He wasn’t the first dog we lost and he won’t be the last. For me, bliss means having a home with animals. This past November we were ready.
I had avoided the shelter or even looking at dogs needing homes, knowing that as soon as I did we’d be dog owners again. I was right. We went to the Animal Refuge League of Great Portland early one Saturday morning. My one criteria was I wanted an older dog who was potty trained. We came home with a puppy. Life never follows the path you expect.
Neville has filled our home with joy again. He is a sweet boy and he looks at me with those loving eyes. Our cat has fallen into an older brother role, seeming to be annoyed at the puppy’s exuberance, but placing himself close to the pup at every opportunity. I think he missed Darcy too.
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Why does this bring me bliss? Animals bring bliss to every area of my life. I love the energy and love they bring to a home. While there are a million reasons why my animals give me bliss, I will focus on one small one. When I’m lying in bed on a cold night with my comforter covering me for warmth, my dog will stretch out and lean into me and I feel his closeness up and down the side of my body. It makes me feel safe, loved and joyful. It is my bliss.
Do you have animals? What do you enjoy most about them?
I’m participating in a Blogging A-Z Challenge for April 2020. I will be posting new content every day this month except most Sundays. Each post is associated with a letter of the alphabet, starting with A and ending with Z. My theme for the challenge is Bliss. To read more of my A to Z posts from this year, click HERE.