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A Dog’s Best Friend

Gawwwwwwwwwd!!!!!  I have writer’s block.  I have stared at this computer for three nights in a row without laying down a word.  Not even a letter.  This has happened before but not as severe as this.  It is like a palsy.  My hands are frozen in the “start” position over the keys.  I know what I want to write about.  I don’t know where to start.  I’ll just start writing stuff down and see what happens.

I want to write about my chocolate lab. This was during the 70’s.  Her name was Marcy.  When I asked my son about a name for her he didn’t even hesitate.  “I want to name her Marcy after my baby sitter.  I think even at 4 yrs old he was a little taken by his sitter.  He liked her.  Marcy it was.  Cutest puppy in the world.  Neither my wife nor I had ever had a Lab in our families so little did we know that for her first two years, she would eat our books, record albums and shoes in addition to our garbage if she was outside and got loose.  She always got loose.  It is hard to describe the look on her face when we would come home after work and see her lying down on the front porch with her head pointed downward but her eyes looking up at us guilty as hell while at the same time saying “ whaaaat; I didn’t do anything”.  But we, and she, could see garbage strewn over the yard.  She must have had a blast doing that.  She knew that I knew and I just had to smile and say “Come here girl” and she was right there at my feet, smiling, too, and wagging that strong tail.  It cleaned off our coffee table more than once.  I just had to admit that I couldn’t keep her fenced in.  I watched her climb over a 6’ chain-link; find a weak spot in her covered run and climb out of it.  I just had to admire her.  She was the best.

I started taking her steelheading with me and she acted as if she was in heaven. I have known a few dogs like that who are just zoned in watching, listening, waiting for the pull.  We both felt pretty good when river side.  We were on the Tolt River one cool, drizzly, winter day and I had to cross a railroad bridge.  For some reason she didn’t want to cross it.  After I crossed, I turned around to see her looking at me on the other side of the bridge and when she saw me, she dived in the river where the current was cruising on overdrive.  She did her best, but she got swept downstream.  She kept her head up looking for me so I ran down the riverside yelling her name so she could see me.  She finally got into some slower water where I could wade in and pick her up.  I swear she smiled at me and her tail was wagging while I was carrying her up on the shore.  It was like she saved me.  She knew I was safe. I knew, then, I was her best friend.

She also extended best friend rights and privileges to her family my wife Judy and son, Eric.  When we would go camping, she was a friendly sort, but protective of us around our tent.  No other dog (people were OK) could get too friendly with us unless we showed her that the other dog was OK.  We were at Lenice Lake in Eastern Washington, one late spring day in June.  The whole family was there.  Me, Judy, Eric and Marcy.  We all four crowded into the cab or our Datsun pickup.  Real cozy.  I was going down to the lake for some late afternoon fishing and Marcy had to come.  I got to the lake with my float tube. Which at that time, was little more than a covered inner tube with a strap sewn across the bottom of the tube for a seat.  I left Marcy on the shore.  She barked a few times, no doubt worried about me out in the lake with only my chest, shoulders and head showing.  But she settled down and I kept paddling out into the lake and started fishing.  I hadn’t heard Marcy for some time so I assumed she napping.  Everything was going fine until I heard another fisher calling to me “hey, your friend is swimming out to you”.  I looked around and I could see her head just above the surface with a smile on her face, closing the distance between us.  She got up to me and started paddling around the tube looking at me.  I reached over and pulled her onto my lap.  She licked my face and started waggin’ her tail.  She saved me again.  I couldn’t be mad at her, but I couldn’t fish either.  So I paddled ashore and left my tube and gear on the shore.  You could do that in the 70’s. Then Marcy and I made way back to camp.  I was going to leave her there with Judy and Eric, but that clearly wasn’t going to work and besides, they all wanted to go down to the lake. 

It was getting toward sundown, but it was calm with mild temps.  I got into my tube and started fishing.  Judy, Eric and Marcy hiked around the east side of the lake.  When it started getting darker, they all decided to head back to the tent.  It was still light enough to see most everything.  I could see them hiking back around the shoreline.  Then the evening was pierced by the howl of a coyote nearby, but I could not see it.  Of course, then the valley erupted with a chorus of coyote howls and yips. I could still hear the one close-by, but couldn’t see it.  My family made their way over the hill toward camp, out of sight and I could still hear the one coyote.  Something different in its voice.   I started heading in, paddling the long way around and caught a few more fish.  I stowed my tube on shore so it wouldn’t blow away if the wind kicked up.  It can blow angrily and fierce in Eastern Washington sometimes.

When I got back, there was a fire started and we began fixing dinner.  I asked Judy if she heard the coyote.  She got all excited and told me that it followed them about 75’ away and was acting like it was trying to tempt Marcy away from them.  Marcy was having none of that.  She was going to protect her best friends.  She stayed close to them and let out a low growl once in a while to let that desert dog know what was going on.  Judy said that if the coyote came any closer that she feared Marcy would tear into him.  I’m glad that didn’t happen.  She was the best.

While still in my crazy youth I took up jogging.  Marcy would go with me happy to be there.  One evening we were jogging and I noticed her slowing down and finally stopping and lying down.  She looked at me with eyes I hadn’t seen before.  I picked her up and carried her back to the truck and went home.  She wasn’t any better the next day (I am actually tearing up now as I write this) and I took her to the vet.  She was dying as I watched her on the vets table.  She looked at me like she was saying sorry, I can’t take care of you anymore.  It was her heart.  I am sure it burst trying to keep us safe.  The vet didn’t give her much time.  She was euthanized.  I was broken.  Our family was cut apart.

We never got another dog.  I don’t know why.  We love other people’s dogs.  But it is just not time for us, yet.  We were her best friends.

So much for writer’s block.

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