It’s been eight months since I lost my best friend. And I still have a 104 lb. hole in my heart. Only those of you who are dog lovers will understand. And if you’re not, don’t bother reading this post. Suzanna was my black Labrador Retriever. Her “fluffy full figure” caused by table food and her birthday ribeyes weighed her in at 104 lb’s and gave my vet fits at each weigh in. We struggled and did manage to get down to a more respectable 96 lb’s, or maybe the vet just gave up on us!
For all her excesses at the dinner table, Sweet Sue constantly and consistently displayed the best virtues of any humans. In fact, virtues many humans don’t possess. She was strong, stable, kind, devoted, loyal and fiercely protective. Everyone who met her loved her. And Suzie prayed, a lot. OK, I know what your thinking, dog lovers are loony about their beloved canines but I’m telling you this dog prayed? Seriously? Well this dog was my constant companion through many fierce trials including toddlers, the category five hurricane divorce, four major moves and those toddlers turning into teens. Every time I said, “Dear Jesus” this dog got up, put her big head in my lap and closed her eyes. All I could do in response was to put my head on top of hers, stroke her velvety soft ears and keep talking to Jesus. Suzanna never flinched or moved till I said, “amen”, quit crying or both. And there were a few times I had to dry her off with a towel because of my tears.
Consider this, Suzie was such a gentle soul I used to take her to retirement homes to visit the elderly. Sue would always go first to those in wheelchairs and put her head in their laps. But she never closed her eyes and after a good head rub she moved on to the next person.
It’s been several years since Suzanna was able to get out and bring joy to the elderly, my Suzie had gotten quite elderly herself. Every time she fell trying to get up my stomach flipped. Wondering how much pain she was in kept me awake at nights watching her, wondering. It got so hard for her to get in and out of the car that car trips were no more, except for vet trips. So the joy of riding was gone now too. Medications were added, adjusted, treatments suggested and tried. Suzie had already had a hip replacement years ago so now at her age that was not an option. Suzanna was now 105 in dog years… The more my big sweet girl struggled, the more the dread of the inevitable built my heart. How could I lose this dog that was my friend and companion? Why can’t bad people die instead of good dogs?
The struggle ended in February of this year, and the skies over the gulf of Mexico brought forth tropical storm force rains that were no match for the torrent of tears inside my home. My kids and I cried till we were cried out. Then it was time for memories and even some laughter remembering so many funny stories and good times.
In the midst of this grief and celebration of life was Shannon. At ten years of age he was already “old” for a Labrador. But to me he never aged, he was always “Suzie’s puppy”, my kids playmate and swim buddy. The absolute rascal who could get out of any gate, fencing system or locked door. He was totally opposite of Suzie’s sweetness. He was rambunctious and rowdy, a one dog- kid entertainment system who chased balls and kids for hours. My children never swam alone, the black, four-legged life guard was right there on top of them. Shannon never peacefully prayed like Suzanna. Or if he did, it was just a quick, “thank God!” as my daughter rolled him in blankets and put him in her bed every night. He never spent a day of his life without his Suzie Mamma at his side.
Until now. We grieved over Suzanna but showered Shannon with attention. He got a new collar, new blankets, lots of treat food. I thought it may help him to have new things that were not permeated with Suzanna’s smell and presence. But Shannon got sick right after Suzie died. It was one thing after another for months, ear infections, eye infections, skin infections. He was already grey but his entire head went completely grey overnight along with his feet, his chest and tail. Shannon was no longer recognizable as a black Labrador!
One month ago this week, the unthinkable, again. Antibiotics and steroids were no longer helping. I saw Shannon fall down the steps outside and my stomach flipped. He soon quit eating, then drinking. Was it infections? Old age? Or simply grief?
I have no idea…
But I do know that both of these dogs with such different yet lovable and loving personalities are together again and that gives me comfort.
It’s been a devastating blow to lose two family members seven months apart, this year has had more than it’s fair share of drama with the human family members. But I know what I know- Suzanna and Shannon had very long, very good lives and were absolutely cherished by their people. The illness and the ends that brought us so much grief are fading into the memories that grief can not tarnish and time can not take away from us.
So in the end we do get to keep them forever.
And I am so grateful.