Yesterday, Sanders was put to sleep. She was 14 years old, and from what I found online, at her size, that translates to around 90 years old in dog years. She had a good life, and even though I wasn’t around all the time for the end of it, it didn’t make it any easier to hear she was gone.
I remember being in elementary school after our old dog a passed away and the excitement of getting a puppy – not just any puppy, but this would be my dog. And we looked in the paper for give-aways and drove down to look at some. One house had puppies that were supposed to be Irish Setter and Cocker Spaniel mixed, but the sheep dog we saw down the road probably had his say in the whole matter.
Of the three left, there was one black puppy with a stubby tail and white stripe on her chest that rolled over and melted for a good tummy rub. We took her home. She slept the whole way next to me in a cardboard box. When we got home, we closed the garage door and put her down. She immediately peed on the floor and ran under the workbench. Two scared eyes peered back at us. Welcome to the family.
In those days she was just a little bigger than a lap, I could run faster than her, and the first time we went for a walk over a half-mile, she came home and slept for two hours. Her fur kept growing and she became a walking black bush. Over winter, visitors would often comment that it appeared we had a bear cub wandering the yard.
Dad taught her the important commands like sit and stay, and I taught her to jump up when I put my hands up and snapped my fingers. It turned out she didn’t care so much about the snapping fingers as she did the hands up. This came in very handy later when Mom’s piano students would be scared and put their hands up and an 85 pound dog would think they wanted to dance.
Sanders loved to ride in cars, sitting in the passenger seat and looking out. If we left her in the motor home and went into a restaurant, she would assume the captains position in the drivers seat and watch traffic go by.
When we first let her into the house, the plan was to have her stay near the entryway on a rug. But she couldn’t see down the hall from there, so soon she was in the kitchen. But she couldn’t see the living room, so she claimed the dining room as her own. We still used the command “rug” to tell her to go back to the entry way, but after we gave up and let her have run of the house, that command lost its context. It still worked; it just meant go lay down and stop bothering me right now. People thought it funny to say “rug” and see her lay down on the carpet by the step.
As far as she was concerned, we were brother and sister, and I spent many afternoons playing in the snow with my dog. My one stipulation in picking a dog was to have a “bow-wow” dog, not a “yip-yap” dog. I wanted a dog that I could play with and would play back.
I got more than a dog. I got a friend. If all dogs really do go to Heaven, here’s hoping that there is a step to lay your head on and someone to feed you popcorn and apple cores on the weekends. I’ll miss you. There never was a better dog.
(And yes, that’s a John Elway shirt with a Vikings hat. And Sanders never said anything about it. That’s true friendship.)