If that's not surprising to you it sure was to me.
I left the Ford at the tune up shop for a smog check earlier today and rode my bicycle home. I got the call that it was done, hopped on my Gary Fisher and went to pick it up. As I got there I saw a man walking two dogs down the sidewalk. One was a female Yellow Lab/Golden mix and the other was a pure bred male Black Lab. They disappeared around the corner and I felt a twinge of disappointment. I was hoping maybe I could chat up the owner and get a little Lab loving fix since Chrisi and Lu are still in Utah. As I turned the corner I was pleasantly surprised to see the owner at the shop door, putting both dogs in a sit/stay before going in.
Now, I'm a respecter of other people's animals. I always ask before I pet someone else's dog. It's only polite and there may be very good reasons not to touch. But as I approached that ball of black furry happiness he started what I call the Lab Wiggle.
Other dogs may have this behavior but I've noticed it most strongly in the Labrador breed. They are smart and want to please so they'll learn a command, such as sit/stay, and execute it very well. But when approached by someone they're absolutely positive has come by just to see and love them (and frankly, that's most everyone they meet) they start Wiggling. He obviously recognized a fellow traveler and a man who cannot resist spoiling a good dog the instant he laid eyes on me.
The Lab Wiggle starts in the eyes, when they recognize you as a friend they've never met. Those soft, expressive brown orbs light up with pure Labrador Joy. Then the tail starts wildly wagging. That wagging immediately infects their butt and it begins to gyrate as it ever so slightly comes up off the ground before their training kicks in and back down it goes. It becomes a sort of bounce, up and down. They start to creep forward ever so slightly as the urge to greet you becomes overpowering. They begin to shake as the friendlies start to take over and consume their entire bodies. They then start licking at the air getting warmed up for the kissing they're sure is going to begin at any moment. It all adds up to the Lab Wiggle as the desire to love and be loved wars with that innate desire to please their master and their training. It is a joy to behold and nearly irresistible to anyone who loves dogs and many who don't. I just couldn't quite help myself.
As I was drawn closer as iron shavings to a magnet, and the Lab Wiggle went into full on almost out of control mode, I did a bad thing. I started the sweet talk. You know how it goes. Most of you have done it yourselves. Don't try to deny it.
"Who's a good boy? Who's a good boy? You are aren't you? Yes you are. You're such a good boy." There was more but my sense of self respect precludes me from going any deeper into my loss of the ability to talk like an adult. Just as I got to him, and it was readily apparent that the Lab Wiggle was about to erode the last vestiges of his self control and he was going to explode from joy and pounce on me, his owner came out.
Luckily for me the man was good natured, friendly and recognized an irresistible force meeting an immovable object when he saw them. He nodded to my questioning look and I started giving Yogi (I later learned) the loving that was his due. He magically transported the two feet separating us and proceeded to rub himself all over me, showering kisses on my face and finally sitting between my feet to allow me to really work over his scratchy spot just under his chin and down his neck. All the while he was gazing into my face in adoration, as if I were doggie crack in human form and asking "Are we best friends now? We are? Oh Joy!"
We talked while Yogi and I became instant fast friends for life. I told him about Trooper and he told me about Yogi. After a few minutes they had to go and with a last shared scratch and kiss Yogi and I parted. It got me thinking.
Lu and I have talked about another dog. Even before Trooper passed we discussed whether or not to get another dog. I told her that I absolutely did not want anyone to 'surprise' me with the gift of a puppy. Maybe I was done all together.
Trooper was a once in a lifetime dog. He was irreplaceable and I'm not interested in trying to find another like him. It can't be done. He was my buddy and my pal and my constant companion and I'll miss him the rest of my life. I loved him as thoroughly as a man can love a dog and he loved me back as only a devoted dog can love his boy. Oddly enough that very thing, that unique relationship Trooper and I shared, now allows me to at least tentatively embrace the idea of another dog. If Trooper can't be replaced and I'm not trying to then maybe there is place in my life for another dog. A different dog.
At first the idea was unthinkable. It'd be a long time, maybe years, before I'd be ready. But I'm also a dog guy, specifically a Black Lab guy, through and through. I love Chrisi and she's really enjoying all the extra attention, but she is Lu's dog. She goes where Lu goes and that is as it should be. I sleep better when we're separated knowing Chrisi is near her, keeping her company and watching out for her and protecting her when I can't.
With the house in Utah needing so much work I'm going to be spending a lot of my time out there. It may be that Lu and I will go ahead and move permanently and rent out the california house but maybe not. If not I'll be spending a lot of time in Utah alone. Lu and I have been married for more than 32 years and I have learned that I'm happiest when we're together. When we can't be a dog really helps keep the lonely's away. It's nice to just have another warm, breathing body in the house, especially one who agrees with everything you say and thinks you're the smartest, most wonderful thing ever placed on God's green earth. I like having someone to watch out for, fuss and fret over. I like being swarmed when I get home by a soul who's only need is to be near me. I like the training and the walks and wrestling on the living room floor. I like training dummies and decoys and walks in the woods. I need the companionship. I'm not happy when I'm alone. I'm not complete without a dog. Who knew?
Maybe. I'm taking the first steps. I'm going to call our breeder Highland Labradors, the family we got both Trooper and Chrisi from, and see if any of their dams line (her name was Sister) is still actively being bred. I'm checking out other breeders. I may head down to the shelter and take a look. I'm still torn but at least the door is partly open and I've seen a crack of light. I don't know. It may be that I can't know until I've decided. One way or the other.
I'd appreciate your thoughts on this. Most of you have gone down this road before but this is a first time for me. If you have any ideas or advice I'd be grateful. I'm still struggling with perspective but maybe I'm gaining some. The worst thing would be to bring in a dog when it turns out I wasn't ready. It'd be a tragedy and unforgivable to me. I won't do that.
But maybe. Perhaps all it took was a big,wonderful, joyous dog named Yogi to show me the way.
To be continued.