So this is a hard one (sorry Patty). As dog #2 was winding down some friends of mine had a litter of labs. Labs come in three colors, black, chocolate and yellow. Dog # 2 was supposed to be a “yellow” but really he was brunt red, a very handsome boy.
So as dog #2 was slowing down I thought I would get a new puppy and maybe dog #2 could teach it the ropes before he passed away, i.e. keep the new lab from chewing my house down. My friends had two puppies not spoken for both black, a male and a female. I had never owned a female dog and I thought, since I had an old male he would react better to a female and wouldn’t be so territorial. Also, I assumed a female wouldn’t battle his dominance as king of the backyard, but having grown-up in a female dominated household I’m not sure why I thought this. Immediately dog #3 exercised her dominance as the ruling monarch. Keep in mind, this was a freaking 20 pound puppy going up against a grizzled 100 pound veteran. I felt bad and embarrassed for him day one.
The pecking order was established immediately. She ate first and if dog #2 attempted to eat she gave him a ferocious puppy growl. If he was in cow trough cooling off in the water she would jump on top of him forcing him to either slide over or get out. Typically he just got out and watched her splash around with shame. Basically the poor guy was hen-pecked, but I knew that he loved having her company and I know she loved him, in fact she worshiped the ground he walked on. I didn’t keep him in a kennel and I bought one for her just to give him a break from all her “love and affection” at night.
As she grew I realized there was something very special about this dog. She never barked, which for me was a new sensation given that dogs #1 and #2 were barkers. The second thing was that she was smart, sneaky smart which you discover is the worst kind of smart. I would find random stuff in my yard like screwdrivers, hammers, a hatchet, shoes, really odd stuff. This went on for weeks. Then one day I was home for lunch and looked out the window to check on my flock and only saw dog #2. I walked outside and called dog #3 and her head popped up over a six-foot high fence on my neighbor’s side. She was climbing on top of our wood pile, over the fence to my neighbor’s wood pile, stealing his stuff and bring it back to our yard. In a word, I was amazed, I couldn’t believe this creature had figured all this out. I was forced to reduce the wood pile and add three feet to the top of the fence but even doing this didn’t stop her from trying to figure out a new route.
What I didn’t tell you about the death of dog #2 was that dog # 3 was cuddled up next to him. She refused to leave his side and I had to put her in the kennel so I could remove his body. For two weeks I would let her out of her kennel, she would pee and drink some water then go back in. She took his passing very hard, grieving with us in her own way.
Dog #3 was two and half years old when dog #2 died. If you remember from the dog #2 story three years old is the magic number with a lab. If you can survive it with all your fingers and toes everything else is downhill. She was settling down, getting close to not chewing up everything in sight but she still had her moments. She was a very calm dog, scary calm at times like she was planning something diabolical, a bank robbery, or a prison yard break we just never knew with her. She had one emotion, stoic, never to high never too low. I called her my Buddha dog, truly she followed the middle path.
Around the first of November she started losing weight. Unlike dog #2 she was not a big lab, short and compact topping out at around 60 pounds, when she lost ten pounds you knew it. Repeated trips to the vet brought us no answers or explanations about what was happening with her. By thanksgiving she weighed 40 pounds and the vet recommended an MRI. What the MRI uncovered was that she had eaten something, some sort of fabric that had twisted up in her intestines. There was nothing we could do for her. One week, before her third birthday we put her to sleep. This one hurt, it still hurts. Seven years later, I haven’t reconciled this loss except for one thing, I will never own another Labrador retriever because I have had the best two anyone could ever love.