“I’ve always loved you without words. So many things you’ve never heard. …” — Morten Harket, “I’m the One”
She knew from the beginning I had a soft spot for her, because she had, well, an adorable little white spot on her back.
Yes, she tricked me from the beginning with that spot – and the fact that she went potty with purpose and showmanship. We expect a lot from a puppy – mainly, to be adorable and not pee on our carpet.
Sadie came into my life with the whimper of a puppy, and she had my heart from the beginning. Her little white spot eventually disappeared into her tri-colored coat, and, despite her initial potty expertise, it took a few weeks before she was properly potty trained.
It didn’t matter. She knew she had me from Day One. She loved me, and I loved her. Every day for more than 12 years.
It wasn’t always easy. Oh, she was a mean little puppy — independent and defiant. When she was a wee thing, she growled and squirmed and refused to be a good dog.
I remember thinking, as she groused and twisted in my arms, she would never be a good dog.
She chewed everything, and nothing was safe from the clutches of her sharp little puppy teeth, which is how she got a broken leg early in life. Just weeks after she was adopted from the animal shelter, she was perched on our bed, being queen of the world at 8 pounds, when she decided to latch on to Amy’s gown, as Amy was getting out of bed.
I still see it, in the slow motion that memories seem to appear, as Sadie flew through the air, her mouth still clamped temporarily to Amy’s gown, and off the bed and … into the wall. Smack.
She looked like Tarzan – if the Lord of the Jungle looked like a fat little ball of fur – leaping from Amy’s gown and into that wall. Whimper! She immediately curled up and went to sleep — the body’s mechanism, we later learned huddled up at the Emergency Pet Clinic, when dealing with pain. She had broken her back right leg. It would heal, and she’d be a normal dog. I, on the other hand, had the indignity of walking a puppy wearing a bright pink cast as she continued to learn all about potty training.
Despite the Tarzan incident, Sadie continued to have a spot on our bed for most of her life. As she grew from puppy to full-size, 60-pound pooch, there was less and less room, but the three of us managed. Well, Amy went to the left, and I went to the right. Sadie pushed her way into the middle, atop the blankets and comforter, and remained there for the night. I had to be careful not to stir too early. If I did, I was forced to take her for a walk. While I slept, she slept. When I awoke, Sadie reminded me I had duties to perform for her. Like I said, she knew who ruled the manor.
As she grew, she took running leaps from the floor into the bed, a good three feet off the ground. It was a nightly ritual that I couldn’t resist.
I was responsible for Sadie -that is, I leashed her up and took her out for bathroom breaks, I fed her, bathed her. Amy and I shared the duty of spoiling her.
For 11 years, while we lived in Erwin, I worked only a few blocks away, so Sadie and I had a lunch date every day. She’d be waiting in her favorite living room chair (a once-beautiful, floral print that eventually had to be discarded because there was more fur on it than upholstery). She’d stretch, plop out of the chair and meet me with a wag of the tail.
When Amy arrived home, every day, it was a spectacle. Sadie knew the sound of Amy’s Mustang. Upon hearing the roar of the engine, Sadie would leap up, run to the door and anxiously await the reward of a few pats on the head and the loving sound declaration of “Good Dog!”
When we moved to Louisiana, Sadie rode the whole way in the back seat and never once complained. She loved her new house and the fenced courtyard where she could watch passersby and cattle egrets.
In Erwin and in Louisiana, things were always the same -wherever Amy and I were, Sadie was there, too. Gone were her independent puppy days. They were replaced with an irrepressible need to curl up on top of me or Amy on the couch, never leaving our sides for a single moment.
I have more than one photo of me and Sadie fast asleep on the couch, letting the world go by, both of us content, just letting sleeping dogs lie, if you will.
She grew fat over the years — a friend of my father-in-law once said she looked more like a ground hog than a dog — probably from the bites she had tossed to her as Amy and I finished a meal.
Sadie slimmed down a little in her last few years, thanks to some help from Dr. Ric Jablonski at the Roan Mountain Animal Hospital.
She didn’t really do any tricks. She wasn’t interested in frolicking outside and playing fetch. She was just a little shadow for me and for Amy. Where we went, Sadie went. From one room to another, she’d follow. From one state to another, she followed.
She always loved us without words. So many things we’d never heard.
And then on a spring day last year, after 12 years of being this man’s best friend, everything changed. Sadie needed me, her “Daddy,” to help her one last time. She needed Amy, her “Momma,” to be selfless. And I helped, and Amy was selfless. And Sadie was gone.
And I’ve never been quite the same since.
(This is part one of a two-part column that will conclude Sunday, Aug. 28, 2013.)