The tricks an old dog once taught me
More than a year has passed since Ian, our 15-year-old chocolate lab, died.
We knew he was old and our days were running out, but the end came suddenly and hit like a brick. I miss my old friend alot.
I was in the almost-empty waiting area at the veterinarian’s office with my black lab Kelly when Ian entered my life.
A silently weeping woman sat across the room from me while I held a magazine fully before my face to avoid making eye contact. I didn’t need her sorrow.
At her feet lay a wheezing round barrel-of-a-dog. His four legs splayed out from under him like he had collapsed under his own weight. I couldn’t believe she would waste water on a creature as ugly as this.
She continued weeping and I continued hiding, intent on protecting myself.
And then I heard it: the sound of our two dogs playing.
“Isn’t that cute,” the weeping woman gulped.
My magazine wall came down.
“Yeah,” I said.
I lied. Her dog was the ugliest thing I had ever seen.
“This is our last trip to the vet’s together,” she told me.
Though I had done everything I could to discourage conversation, the lady poured her life out to me.
“I’ve tried to find him a home,” she told me. “I’ve tried 12 in the 12 months since my daughter moved. He just keeps coming back. I can’t take care of him anymore. This is our last trip to the vet’s together.”
This lady was going to kill this dog. The sucker in me spoke up.
“Let me try him out,” I heard myself say, temporarily insane.
So Ian moved in with me and Kelly and my two incredulous and angry roommates. His first night, he broke into the Rubbermaid bin and with Kelly ate about 35 pounds of dog food.
I tolerated Ian as I tried to bring his weight down, but his behavior was less than ideal. He got into garbage. He ate miscellaneous laundry. He barked at the UPS man.
He was neurotic, a compulsive retriever if ever there was one and Ian refused to be confined. I tried collar after collar but the dog was a pinhead and slipped out of every last one.
I got him a harness and knew he hated it by the way his tail drooped. I figured I had won.
When Ian didn’t come out of the doghouse the first day in the harness, I knew he had been wholly defeated. I approached slowly and tugged on the runner. The damn dog had gotten away. Like Houdini.
An empty $20 harness sat limply at the end of the chain and Ian was no where to be found.
Once again I was temporarily insane over this dog.
I got in my car and cruised the neighborhood until I found him inside a garbage can. I tossed him in the VW and we drove to the shelter, where in tears I begged,
“Take my dog!”
They didn’t. They wouldn’t. And a week later Kelly died. Ian, by default, became top dog. Like day turns to night, he turned from rotten to good and knew what I needed when I didn’t.
He was with me through my pregnancy and eventually shared his food with the baby (to my dismay). He moved to our new house and swam in Donner by my side. He would leap off a pier 15 feet to the water, was a legend with a pinecone and knew my thoughts.
Ian came to me when he was five and left me deep in sorrow ten years later. I wasted alot of water at my loss.
He taught me that with love and just a little bit of respect, a grown dog makes a wonderful friend. The best friend a girl could have.
In July I adopted a new dog from the shelter. She was four and thin as a twig. I named her Hazard for her antics in traffic the first day she slipped from her collar. She too refuses to be confined.
As much as I miss Ian, the pain is almost gone. And the ten years we had were almost all great.
I know one day Hazard will break my heart too, but today she’s a bundle of fun.
Thank you, Truckee Humane Society.
Anne Grogan is a Sierra Sun reporter . She shares her home with her husband, their child, three adopted pets, one boa constrictor and 14 fish.
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