Beau October 3rd, 2008
The other day my dog had his day, his birthday in fact. And I’ll remember it for a long, long time. It’s hard to believe the big ‘ole yellow lab puppy is 2 years old. Okay, he’s not a puppy anymore, but he sure acts like one. Of course he’s my first Labrador, so maybe they act this way all the time. We pal around everywhere together, especially while I do chores, or while waiting to pick up the boy at the bus stop. His energy and good nature are unstoppable. Nearly. So guess what I did for his birthday? I ran him over with a golf cart. “What?!” I hear you thinking. But it’s true.
So there I go racing down the gravel drive at full golf cart speed, with the 90 pound labrador running along side as usual. We’re going to do some retrieving in the field. Except this time he’s out slightly ahead of me, and cuts right in front and stops! I yell at him and instead of jumping out of the way, he crouches down! I was going downhill too fast to turn or do anything, and if you’ve driven on gravel you know that stopping quickly just doesn’t work. So I cringe as the front tire goes “Whump! Bump!’ right over my lovable dog, and he squirts out the side. I’m on the brakes sliding to a rocky stop in a cloud of dust, horror stricken that I’ve killed my dog.
I jump out and he’s sitting over on the grass looking at me like “What’d I do?!” I’m more stunned than he is, and I check him over carefully and pet him and… he looks okay. He really does. He has a little cut on top of his head, but nothing more. He starts nosing around and waiting for us to do something. I’m not sure, so I slowly walk back to the house observing him, deciding whether to call the vet. The lab is sniffing and running around, and wants to play. Heck, he just escaped death right? Who wouldn’t be happy? It’s time for his supper and he runs to the garage waiting. If you have dogs, you also know they have this amazing, innate sense of time. But I fix a smaller than usual bowl of food with extra vitamins and all kinds of other healthy stuff thrown in to help in case he’s bruised. After he finishes I let him rest in the kennel for a few hours.
Later we go out for a walk and he takes off running down the hill to find his usual smelly spots. The boy and I hike over to the pond with the lab out in front as usual. I’m thinking about the day’s events. Thankfully the tires on the golf cart are big and soft, relatively speaking. And they’ve been low on air and I just haven’t got around to filling them up. And then I wonder, “Maybe I didn’t really run him over… maybe he just got nudged by the side or something?” He’s no worse for wear and I’m thankful.
But my thoughts are quickly answered as I catch up to him, and for the first time I see this faint image of a wide, black tire tread going right across his middle. Damn. I did run over my dog. On his birthday.
If that’s not enough to make you feel bad I don’t know what is. But he’s okay, no bruising or any sign of stiffness. And of course the Lab doesn’t hold it against me. Which doesn’t make me feel any better. But that’s the thing about dogs, and Labs especially-they always want to please. Now I have to add another goal to my list: Don’t run over the dog.
In thinking about the last two years, I couldn’t ask for anything more in a family dog or a friend that what he has become. And to see the smile on the boy’s face as he plays and wrestles with the dog is another joy I didn’t expect. If I’ve had any misgivings about him, they revolve more around my knowledge and ability as his owner, much like reflecting on one’s ability as a parent. At many levels perhaps that’s the greatest testament to the dog he is, and the human I’m still trying to become.
I was looking for a better way to describe how I feel about this dog, but noted Field & Stream columnist and author Gene Hill describes it perfectly:
“He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.)”
“When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful. He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me… whenever… wherever – in case I need him. And I expect I will – as I always have. He is just my dog.”