Friday, May 9, 2014

Sawyer, My Walking Companion

I admit, Earl was my favorite. You're not supposed to have favorites, but he was. I never said it in front of Sawyer, or if I did I'd cover her big, floppy ears and whisper out the side of my mouth, sometimes even spelling the words:

"E-A-R-L-Y B-I-R-D I-S T-H-E B-E-S-T D-O-G I-N T-H-E W-O-R-L-D!"

Not that Sawyer is a bad dog. Not at all. She's one of the sweetest, gentlest, most loving creatures I've had the pleasure of knowing. But Earl was my first puppy-to-death dog. The firstborn of our pack. He was my special joy.

In fact, I got Sawyer more for Earl than for me. I'd recently broken up with my ex-girlfriend. She took with her the two dogs she brought into our relationship. I took Earl, who had just turned one. I had picked Earl out from the three puppies available at the St. Joseph shelter. His brother and sister were mostly white, so they looked more like a purebred Great Pyrenees, which is what their mother was. No one new what the father was, which is why these three puppies ended up in the shelter at seven-weeks-old: their owner didn't want to tarnish his bitch's good rep.

I picked Earl precisely because he was the oddball. He had a fluffy mostly-white body, but his head was almost solid black. He was adorable.

Sawyer was also an adorable puppy:

I didn't actually pick Sawyer. She picked me. I got her for free from an ad in the paper. I wanted a puppy companion for Earl, who was lonely in the house all day by himself while I was at work. He had been raised from 7 weeks old around other dogs. He needed a playmate. But also, I decided to get another dog when I saw the ad for free puppies. I was afraid if I didn't adopt one someone else would use it for dog fighting bait. 

Her situation was similar to Earl's. Sawyer's mother was a purebred Beagle. The neighbor's black Lab jumped the fence. That fall, five black little mini-Labs were born. I called the number in the paper. An elderly man answered the phone and told me to come over and pick one out.

I knocked on his door. He had a nasal cannula transporting oxygen to his lungs and he looked about 100 years old. He told me to go out to the back yard and "pick any pup you want."

I walked to the side of the house to enter through the gate. As soon as the lock hit the chain-link fence, five black little mini-Labs and their Beagle mother all ran toward me. Cuteness overload! I sat on the ground and let them crawl all over me. Each one of them, the puppies and the mother, were starved for human attention. I couldn't imagine their owner got out to the back yard very often.

After about twenty minutes of sitting there, soaking up some puppy love, I gave up trying to decide. I stood and announced, "OK, who wants to go home with me?"

I walked toward the gate. When I got there, I looked down and there was one puppy. I picked it up and took it to the owner's front door. I called through the screen, "I'll take this one."

He used a walker to inch toward the door. "Come inside. D'ya git a girl or a boy?"

"I don't know," I said, laughing.

He looked at me like I was strange and took a peek at the puppy's bottom. "Ya got a girl," he said in babytalk to the puppy's face. It was funny to hear this gruff old man talk to her like that. He pet underneath her chin and said, "Hold on a minute."

He came back with some dog nail clippers and proceeded to slowly clip each one of her nails as he leaned on his walker. "Now, watch her nails. You gotta trim them often."

It was sweet that he seemed concerned about her welfare and not anxious to get rid of her.

If only he'd known he was giving away a "designer dog". Who knew? I certainly didn't. I just wanted a free puppy, but I've since found out that evidently Beagle-Lab mixes are a thing. This description sounds just like her.

She was the perfect companion for Earl. I could go to work each day and leave them alone to play together. And as they got older, and lazier, to nap together.

Now Earl's gone. What's Sawyer's job now that she's not Earl's companion?

This morning I took a look at Sawyer, lying on the couch snoring. She'd made a "Hrmph" noise that sounded to me like she was trying to say, "Mom, I'm sad."

"Come on Girl, let's go for a walk!" I announced. She perked right up.

We haven't been able to take long walks for many months due to Earl's failing health. It was great to walk around the neighborhood with an energetic dog. We took our time and soaked up the sun, smelled the smells, and enjoyed our walk. Just the two of us. Walking Companions.

Sawyer, back home after our good, long walk