Thursday, August 25, 2011

Child's First Best Friend

The summer before my sophomore year in college, I walked through a door and came nose to nose with my best friend, or more accurately tongue to face.  The only thing that made me certain that she wasn't just a bundle of black socks was the quite large, pink tongue that hung sloppily out of her constantly smiling mouth (the better to lick you with my dear).  I loved her instantly. 

From the beginning it was evident that Lannie was clever, usually too clever for her own good.  The day after I brought her home, my roommate had to rescue her out of a toilet; those Labrador Retrievers do love to swim.  She got mad at my other roommate and ate her remote controls.  How Lannie knew the difference between my TV remote and my roommate's VCR remote, I will never know.  But there sat my perfectly intact TV remote and beside it (and scattered to kingdom come) were the remains of a fully dismantled VCR remote.  She became known for her escape prowess, engineering such evidence-free routes that I'm sure there's a prisoner somewhere begging for her services. 

Aside from all the deeds that remain a toss up between good dog/bad dog, Lannie was extremely smart and a gentle giant.  Training her took minimal effort and she seemed to understand even without official command.  The times she would stare longingly, begging for people food, one only had to say, "You're being rude" and she would turn her head and tuck it under her arm embarrassed.  She knew to stand and observe, almost reverently as we exchanged vows on Grayton Beach 6 years ago.  Both times, before we even knew I was pregnant, my normally chilled out BFF became inexplicably protective over me, giving us the first sign that a baby might be on the way.  And once our children were born she would watch over them, let them play with her and be gentle in a way that seemed impossible for her 90 pounds.

Yesterday as I stood at my kitchen sink preparing breakfast, I looked out the window searching for her smiling face as I have every morning for the past 10 years.  And there I saw her.  Illuminated by a sliver of sunshine as if she were asleep. 

After I got a handle on my shock and grief, we knew we had to tell the kids.  My son is two and it was hard enough with him looking around and asking, "whe doog? whe 'annie".  Most people told me to tell my daughter that Lannie ran away.  I decided on the truth.  I am an advocate to being honest with your children, not necessarily all the gory details but I am not going to lie to them.  You do that and you start to break away at trust and that is so hard to grow back.

As my husband and I began to tell her last night (cue waterworks on all three parts) we quickly realized how powerless we are in protecting our children from so many different things.  My daughter asked if Lannie had been "runned over by a car" (because this dog seriously escaped our fortified yard without difficulty).  I told her no, that she had just lain down and died, that she didn't hurt or suffer.  My very grown-up 5 year old told me how she was glad that Lannie didn't have to stay in the doggy hospital for a long time.  And then, eyes still streaming tears, she said, "But Lannie will be in our hearts, right?" (I nod, stifle more sobs) "But she might dig out of my heart and then dig back in".  She slept with one arm hugging a picture of Lannie tight to her chest and the other hugging a near life sized stuffed animal in the form of a Black Labrador Retriever.

Even though my heart is breaking for Lannie, I find myself thankful.  I am thankful that I got to spend 10 years with her and her ways that would have put Marley to shame.  I am so thankful that I didn't have to look into her big brown eyes, watch her suffer and decide when it was time.  I'm so glad my daughter and son got to know her, even though watching my precious daughter in mourning hurts like crazy.  I just hope she doesn't ask for a puppy too soon because I can't stand to see her in pain and that wish would probably be granted before it even escaped her lips.


  1. What a beautiful and extremely touching post! I'm so sorry for your families loss. It is so hard to loose a pet who is a member of the family. I love how your daughter figured it out for herself, that Lannie would live in her heart!! I would have lost it then! Personally, I think you were 100% right to tell the kids the truth. I think kids "know" the truth in some way and If we create the reality we would prefer I think it does so much more damage. Thank you for sharing this. And, again I'm so sorry for your loss.

  2. Oh my gosh. I just balled my eyes out. I am the worst about checking emails and I finally checked this one. You know I never could get that crap across the top of the screen to go away while watching a movie. And believe it or not that VCR lasted until about a year ago. Anna would even complain about the words on the screen and I would tell her about Lannie demolishing my remote. I know exactly what you all are going through. I'm just so glad you didn't have to make that choice. It leaves you always wondering if you did the right thing. She was a beautiful and wonderful girl. One of the sweetest dogs I know. Some interesting conversations can arise from things like this between you and Marlee. Jacquie overheard Anna telling a girl at Chic-fil-A her brother had died. The girl who was around 8 said how sorry she was and asked how old he was. Anna replied "He was 8 and a dog". Jacquie said she couldn't help but laugh. That girl didn't know what to think. I guess that's what happens when you refer to your dog as your first born. Anna says she gets to see Cleetis in her dreams and he is burried behind her swing set at Mom's so he can watch her play. Our pets are such great friends and so hard to part with but you will always have your wonderful memories to look back on and so will Marlee. And so will I. She was a great dog!


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