Well here I am again, in a familiar albeit heavy hearted state–writing a tribute to a beloved family member–our dog, Mandy. Some eight months after saying good bye to our golden retriever, we now bid farewell to our yellow lab. Sweet Mandy is surely in a better place, or at least that’s what I choose to believe. And if I had to guess what her Heavenly experience resembles, I’d wager there are sand dunes, lake waters and wood-burning fireplaces at every turn.
On Friday night we had to make that decision that millions of pet owners before us have reluctantly had to. We put Mandy to sleep when it became clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that keeping her with us was causing her suffering. I had always imagined with both of my dogs that I’d be there to stroke their ears as they took their last breath, but in neither case would fate allow for it. With an infant and a toddler now in our household, only one parent could get away to take Mandy to the 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital. And rightfully it was the guy who first came upon her as an eight-week old pup, the last remaining member of her litter to be claimed. This is the guy who would so successfully train her that she’d never need to walk on a leash, would stop on a dime if told to halt and obeyed every command ever directed her way. I suspect he wanted to be alone with his girl to say their good byes. How could I argue that?
So my good bye to Mandy took place in the driveway as I helped hoist her failing 90 pound body into the back of our Saturn Vue for her last ride in the car–an activity she had always enjoyed throughout her life. I had only a few seconds to kiss her nose and hug her to my chest before I had to run back inside to make sure our two-year-old wasn’t lying on top of our six-week old. It wasn’t enough of a good bye for a pet that to me was more like another child in many ways, but to prolong our parting would have only prolonged her pain.
I’ve known Mandy about as long as I’ve known my husband. It was she who first greeted me when I made the first trip to my then boyfriend’s home in Chesterton, Ind., when we were newly dating. I was a bit nervous–making this trip from the city to the 219 area code meant we were getting serious. All my nerves went out the window though when a friendly yellow lab greeted me in the driveway putting this dog lover at ease in an instant.
I can assure you that the stories of Mandy and her big heart are many. She was loved by all who ever met her. She was Lassie to our golden’s Marley personality. My husband used to call her the goodwill ambassador, and I can’t think of anything that more accurately describes her nature. We had many other nicknames for her, including “D,” Deeter dog, Mandino and the yellow dog under the bed–(the impetus for a children’s book series I’ve been working on), and I’m sad that I’ll never again be able to call them out and hear the tags on her collar clink in response as she scampered my way.
Mandy loved more than anything to be outside. When I first made her acquaintance, she’d literally tremble for joy en route to the Indiana Dunes State Park to climb and then descend the dunes headed at full speed toward the waters of Lake Michigan. Later when she and her dad moved to Michigan where I had relocated, she enjoyed walks around our neighborhood–anything that would allow her fresh air and a chance to play fetch with a tennis ball or frisbee.
More than once Mandy served as courier between her dad and me. Stressing out over a statistics assignment that had me on the verge of a nervous breakdown during grad school, I looked up one afternoon to see Mandy headed my way with a red rose from dad tied to her collar. Who couldn’t feel a little better with that visual in mind? On another occasion, she couriered a note from my husband to me with some words of love and encouragement that I’ve now since forgotten, but the sentiment is still very much remembered.
Mandy was a teddy bear at heart but was also an astute watchdog letting us know when a stranger was at the door. And when we expanded our family and our infant daughter would fuss, Mandy would pace the floor like a worried mother. She was our ultimate protector, and I don’t doubt that if an emergency had ever arisen, she would have done everything in her power to assist.
Mandy was everything a dog should be, and she is already missed. Seeing her tattered bed out with the garbage cans this morning literally caused my stomach a moment of pain And coming upon her red collar and leash on the counter has had me closing my eyes for a moment to acknowledge again that it’s better for her–and–us–that she isn’t here anymore, not in the state she had been in. The state that had not allowed her to go on a walk in several years. The state that meant if she wanted to join us in our bedroom in her home under the bed that we’d have to carry her up to that spot. The state that meant we’d hear that labored breathing only intensify with time.
So, she has joined her pal Riley on the other side. And one thought that has made me mentally smile since her passing is that some day (hopefully a day far from now) when I go to that side, I’ll be greeted by wagging tails full of enthusiasm. And a fuzzy yellow goodwill ambassador will be there to show me the way to all His wonder.