They still haven’t invented a good dog that lives as long as the humans who get attached to them. And that’s a shame. I’d like to see more effort from the science people on that front. Recently learned from friends that two more Wallowa County dogs I’ve known for a great long while have gone where the game of fetch never ends. We were sad about that, then started recalling all the other good dogs we’ve scratched behind the ears over the years. Just going down the list of charming creatures we wish could have stayed around longer.
Then I remembered the strange case of Misty, our black lab when I was a kid. She had the “classic” black lab looks, I guess you’d call it. You’d be flipping through a magazine or see a calendar photo involving a black lab and say, hey, there’s Misty.
My mom was driving home with my little sister one day and just as they were turning into our driveway, they both saw Misty stretched out. She wasn’t moving. And she wasn’t in a natural position. She appeared to be very much not alive.
Mom hit the brakes and stopped a couple feet shy of the body. She was surprised, of course, to pull in and discover such a thing, but even more surprised when my sister turned and said, “You killed my dog.” Then Jessica tore out of the car, ran around and gathered Misty in her arms.
Mom remembers that when she stomped on the brakes the anti-lock feature made the rig lurch before coming to a stop. Mom figures that little detail, combined with the shock of Jessica seeing Misty like that, just made her daughter a little less rational in the moment. Because the front bumper was a good two feet from the dog. Enough room for Jessica to now be out there, down on the ground cradling Misty’s head in her lap, having a spirited cry.
Mom left the car at the top of the driveway and hustled down the long driveway to go get our dad to help. The house was surrounded by trees, so you couldn’t see it from the road. She got past the trees and there was Misty, ol’ trusty Misty, laying on the porch alive, well, and wagging her tail now that she saw mom coming. Surprise, surprise.
“Jessica!” she backtracked and yelled up the driveway. “It’s not Misty!”
I mentioned this was a long driveway. Guessing a hundred yards or so. Long enough that Mom’s voice didn’t carry. Mom started jogging again, cut the distance in half and tried yelling once more to let Jessica know. No luck. Finally Mom had to stand next to Jessica, touch her on the shoulder and repeat the message several times to get it through, that this is not Misty. Misty is on the porch. Jess got the message, looked down at the strange dog she’d just been burying her face in and petting, fur wet with her tears, and decided abruptly that the mourning period had gone on long enough.
We called around to all the neighbors. Didn’t locate the owner, but left the unfortunate dog with the classic black lab looks by the roadside overnight and planned to bury it the next morning. But it was gone. Somebody had gone looking, found their good dog and brought it home.
Grief is never much fun, I’ve noticed. But if you have to go through it, I prefer that angry grief, like when my sister came up with a fanciful reason for a result she didn’t want to see. Didn’t make any sense, but you’re not thinking rationally in a case like that, so with that in mind it makes perfect sense. I’m not sure I buy that old line about time healing all wounds, but it does seem to work in some cases. Only took about five minutes for my sister to recover from that shock of Misty’s untimely end.