Murphy Girl

Goodbye My Friend

I remember the day I went to get you like it was yesterday. I drove by myself for an hour and a half down to the Connecticut border. A breeder there had 3 lab puppies. It had been almost a year since our Great Dane, Moses, died suddenly of cancer. I was finally feeling ready to open my heart up once again. I had always wanted a yellow lab - a want that probably began when I was a little kid after crying my eyes out over "Old Yeller". As I drove, I was trying out names in my head. Everything I saw along the road I tried out as a name. Then I passed Murphy's Insurance agency. Murphy. Hmmm. Murphy. I liked the ring of it. I was planning on getting a female and it was kind of masculine but then again there was Murphy Brown. Strong. Solid. Irish. Murphy it is.

I arrived to find 2 yellow female pups and a black male. I knew I wanted yellow and a girl so that narrowed my choice down to 2. One pup was tall and sleek and she was prancing around looking perfect. The other pup was a short stocky pup who plopped herself at my feet and started untying my shoelaces. The decision was easy. I reached down and scooped up the puppy at my feet and said, "Nice to meet you, Murphy!" As we drove home I told you lots of stories about all the adventures we would have together and how we were going to be best friends.

I brought you home and introduced you to your 3 "kids" and a variety of kitty siblings. You helped teach the kids patience and kindness and gave them a love for pets so they wouldn't end up like their dad. You taught your girl, Colleen, and her friends about disabilities by chewing the arms and legs off her Barbies and other doll figures. When I found them I stupidly would want to throw them out but Colleen would come save them. Luckily Little Tykes came out with wheelchairs and ramps etc. about that time and our dolls had all they needed to live happily ever after. It was always funny when Colleen had new friends over to play. At first they'd gasp and complain about the "broken" dollies but Colleen would just say, "Oh, that's so and so. They lost their arm but they love to swing." Or "That's such and such. They lost their leg but they can still ride horses." Soon the kids would be madly playing, never giving it another thought. Colleen is one of the most compassionate 13 year olds that I know and has hopes to be a pediatrician and a swim instructor for the Special Olympics and I think we have you to thank for the start of it all.

I'll never forget my surprise when the snow started to melt after your first full winter with us. The back yard was littered with hair scrunchies, socks, Barbie clothes and little girl underwear. That's where they all were! I couldn't understand how Colleen could be going through them so fast. I kept buying them and they kept disappearing.

You shared your life with a variety of kitties and won them all over except one. Don't worry about Bailey. I was the only person to ever win him over and he still nips at me. He even tried to get the vet when she came to the house - and after she called him handsome too! You did win Nala over. That poor feral momma kitty has never quite learned to trust humans but she loved you! I was always so envious of how she'd run to greet you and the 2 of you would nuzzle and she'd wash your ears and kiss your nose. You were her best friend. If only she could trust me like she trusted you. You and Jacob were always friends but after his boy went away to college you two became so close. He is going to miss you dearly. I hope you know he was there with us kissing you goodbye when your time came.

You spent so much time with kitties and being the only dog in a house full of cats, we think you thought you were just a big kitty. You were always trying to eat out of the cat dishes and preferred their food over yours. We also know you used to climb up on the kitchen table and take naps. We found your hair and occasionally caught glimpses of you hopping down when you saw the car pull into the driveway and the pet sitter even got a picture of you up there when you were sleeping so soundly that you didn't hear her arrive. The quickest way to get you to come was to call, "Here kitty, kitty, kitty." Boom! You were there in a flash! And of course you liked to sit on the couch or in our laps just like the kitties.

You were a great vacuum cleaner, especially when the kids were little. You'd follow along behind cleaning up any scraps they let fall or messes they left behind. Pancakes and chocolate chip cookies were your favorite. We often let you have a pancake but you never understood why we didn't give you chocolate chip cookies. We tried telling you that they would make you sick but after the night that you stole a whole rack full off the counter and didn't even get slightly sick, you never believed us. That was the only food you ever took. (Well except for cat food which you were convinced was rightfully yours.) We could leave steak dinners on the coffee table and the kids could leave sandwiches on a plate on the floor in front of the TV and you'd never think of touching them. You were such a good girl.

You were always there for me. Often times I was busy and sometimes I brushed past you as I hurried to do something but you never held a grudge. When I needed some nuzzling or a sloppy wet kiss, you were always there. You always seemed to sense just what I needed. You used to love to come for rides in the car and were always so happy to go pick up the kids with me. Other days we'd run errands and always had to swing through the drive-thru at Mickey D's.

Somehow you always knew when I had gone to Ashburnham Market - even though their plastic bags looked just like all the other store's bags. I always bought you a big soup bone from there and we'd play our game. After unpacking most bags I'd yell out, "Oh my God! Who put THIS in here?!?!?!?" Your butt would wiggle so hard and your tail would wipe out any cats silly enough to be in the area. You loved your bones and would get so worked up when I stole it and pretended to take a nibble and when you got it back you'd settle right down and chew on it for ages.

You loved that our windows went right down to the floor so you could keep watch of your territory. As far as you were concerned, if you could see it, then it was your land. You'd love to bark at people walking their dogs down by the river and had a field day when the boy scouts would show up at the little house down there for a meeting. Even when you were half blind you'd know the minute that stray black & white kitty showed up. I'd be thinking it was our Nala until you came and set me straight. Speaking of black & white kitties, you always had a fascination with those "special" black & white kitties, getting sprayed numerous times until we were pros at mixing up conconcotions to get the smell off you.

Remember that early spring day a number of years ago when we headed out for our first long walk of the year and half way through the walk you lied down in the middle of the road because you had worn yourself out running back and forth and off into the woods and we found out old age was catching up to you?? That ended up being one looooooooooong walk the rest of the way home.

How about the time I took you to Derek's soccer game and we sat at the top of the hill overlooking the middle school field and out of the blue you took off after another dog you saw down at the bottom and I could get no traction and you dragged me the whole way down the hill on my butt in front of all the other parents?!?!

Then there was that time when you were still a puppy - about 10 months old and while we were bringing in the Christmas tree, you went right underneath it and snuck out the door. As luck would have it, an ancient old lady was walking down our street and you ran up the driveway to just say hello and be neighborly but scared her half to death. I can't say I blame her because she could have been badly hurt if you had knocked her down and you were a typical exuberant lab. After that she never came down our street again without some kind of weapon (ie. stick, cane…) prepared to do battle and hurried by our house in fear even after years passed and you were never loose again.

We had many wonderful years together and you were such a major and integral part of our family. The kids loved you and really don't ever remember life without you in it. Every summer you loved to go out and play basketball in the driveway with us and never realized you weren't always welcomed. You thoroughly enjoyed raking leaves every fall. And there was nothing better than to chase the kids down the driveway when they went sledding in the winter. While kitties were the bosses inside the house, outside you felt you were queen and would occasionally give them a good chase just to let them know that. You and I were always close but after you were diagnosed with a probable brain tumor at the end of last summer we became extra close. We spent a lot of time together, just the two of us. I shared all my thoughts and feelings with you and we had some really special quiet times. It was me and you against the world. You were always there to lick away my tears and I was there to hold you and comfort you during and after your seizures. We'd sit there and stare into each other's eyes and see such complete and unconditional love. You were my dog and I was your mom/girl and we loved each other so much.

And then, of course, there were your two unforgettable encounters with the river this past winter. I know you're a retriever but rivers were not meant for swimming when it's 0 degrees out and the water is half frozen! The first time I felt like the worst dog mom in the whole world. We had let you outside and not kept a watchful eye on you - though you had never wandered off before. I guess you got confused that night and somehow went down by the river. It was dark out and we didn't even think of looking that way first as you had never gone down there. Luckily I ran into that woman who had heard you in the woods and had gone to investigate. Thankfully somehow you had gotten caught on that branch and weren't carried further downstream. I was able to wade in and get a hold of you and pull you out and then dad showed up to help carry you home. I dried you off and crawled into a sleeping bag with you to warm you up. I was so afraid it was going to have been too much for you but after a few days rest you seemed revitalized and way better than before. We joked how it must have been meant to be and how the dip in the river cured you as you stopped having seizures for a while and seemed almost like your old self - playing and running around. It was an adventure I never want to repeat though. I had felt like I was in some kind of real life disaster movie.

But you must have had a thing for the river as just a few months later you headed back in. It was the middle of the night and you had a bad seizure. Dad and I both got up with you. There was a blizzard raging outside. After you have seizures you always have to go the bathroom. Dad let you out and watched you through the window while I hurried and threw some clothes on to stay outside with you. (Sometimes it took you quite a while.) It took me less than a minute to get ready but you had already headed off around the side of the house by the time I got out there. You left a trail in the snow so it was easy to follow your trail but I could not believe it headed straight through the trees and down to the river! I hurried along after you and could not believe how fast you were traveling and through the snow. Your poor old legs hadn't been working too well lately and I didn't know how you were doing it. I saw you up ahead almost at the river and frantically started calling you. You stopped but would not come towards me and moved closer to the water as I approached. As I reached out to grab hold of you, you tried to bite me! What the heck was going on? I tried again but you growled and jumped again. Then the ice at the edge started cracking and we started sliding into the water. I dove forward and grabbed you despite your protests, knowing that if you slipped into the water I would lose you as you'd float down river. You let me hold you but would not let me try to pull you out. I was feverishly hoping your dad would show up to help. The minutes passed and we were getting colder and colder. We were in shallow water and the snow was still coming down. You started struggling again and I didn't know how much longer I could hold on. I had to do something soon. Luckily your collar was a martingale so I grabbed it so it would tighten and started pulling you. You fought like crazy and we slipped in further before finally I was able to pull you out. I knew we had to get inside quickly so I dragged you all the way back up the hill. I was never so physically and mentally exhausted in my life but we finally made it to the house and your dad saw us and helped us inside. (He had been putting on his shoes all that time…….) I thought we both might die that night but somehow we made it.

You rallied back and even occasionally had a few spurts of energy. It would only be for a few minutes but you'd be happy. But slowly the good moments became less and less. The sparkle in your eye got dimmer and dimmer. We could no longer get that smile on your face or that tail of yours to wag. You were sleeping about 23 hours a day. For a half hour in the morning and another at night you would eat and pace. You became more and more restless and agitated. You'd walk round and round and round and round. You dragged the feet on your left side and from walking so much the sides of the nails became worn down to the quick and they started bleeding. We couldn't get you to stop long enough so the bleeding could stop and our house started looking like some place Freddy Kruger hung out. When we tried to put socks or bandages on your feet you viciously tried to bite us - this from a dog who didn't even know how to growl her whole life. You still ate but didn't seem to know what you were eating. It was more of a reflex. You even kept trying to eat non-edible things or would nip at hands going by your face. You also started going after you beloved kitties when they'd rub up against you. We know you didn't mean any of this. It was just your illness stealing you away.

I started letting the idea that it was time to let you go seep into my thoughts. It was torture to think about it. My dream for you had become that you would die peacefully in your sleep. After our last horrible weekend I knew I could not let you go on like this. I agonized over the decision. I sat down and looked you straight in the eye and did not like the answer I got. How could I let my baby go? Then again, how could I not? I love you so very, very much and this is what I needed to do for you.

I was very grateful to find a wonderful new mobile vet who agreed to come to our house and do it here so you would not have to endure a painful and stressful ride in the car to that vet's office where you always got very anxious. The vet and her technician were kind and caring. They gave you a sedative first so things would go smoothly but they did have to muzzle you to give you that shot as you were so sensitive. While I hated to see that, it also reconfirmed my feelings as you had never even noticed any other shot or vaccine you had gotten in your life and I knew things were very wrong. The vet gave you a cookie which you happily ate and you soon settled down and relaxed. Colleen, Jake the kitty and I were all by your side as you drifted off to forever land. My heart was breaking and all these doubts came flying back into my head and I wanted to scream and call you back but it was too late.

I know in my heart of hearts that this was the right thing to do but still those "what if"s and "if only"s start popping up and I start wondering if there was more I should have done at some point. It's just so very, very hard to let you go. The thought of not having you here by my side rips into my soul. The idea that you are never going to frolic in the sunshine again or go for a walk on a crisp, fall day or race through the snow again brings more tears to my eyes. How utterly lonely and empty the house feels without you. It feels so unwelcoming to not have you here to greet me. The living room is so bare without you and your bed. It just doesn't feel like a home any more. I even miss stepping over that stupid gate we had to put up for you. I think every one of us tripped over it at some point or other and it was such a pain to carry the laundry over. We were always cursing it but now I'd give anything to have it back as long as it meant you were here too. Hercules misses it too but then again he always loved it as he thought it was a special toy we put up just for him!

It so weird to vacuum and not have to worry about where you are. You were always absolutely terrified of that thing. In your younger days you would race to my bedroom and jump on my bed and quiver until I was done. This past year you couldn't make it onto the bed any more and would race from room to room so we usually vacuumed when you were outside. I feel like I am always washing the kitty dishes now as you aren't here to lick them clean. When I'm cooking supper there is no one to trip over and I don't know what to do with my pizza crusts. Bailey has no one to fight with and Nala has no friend to rub against. The water dish is changed to keep the water clean rather than because it's always empty. Every day my heart races because all of a sudden it dawns on me that you aren't lying next to me and I worry someone let you out and isn't watching you and you've gone to the river. I still go to step real wide as I get out of my computer chair as I'm so used to you being at my feet.

Life just seems to be changing so much. The kids are growing up and heading out into the world. Dad and I are growing older and slowing down and aren't quite what we used to be. And now you are gone. I know that's the way of life but it's sure hard to handle sometimes. I just want things to stay how they were. I know more good times are ahead but it's just hard to fathom at this point. I just know I miss you so very, very much my dear friend. There's a gaping hole in my world right now and my heart aches terribly. When I feel the tears coming I try to remember the following poem that I have always loved and I rejoice in the fact that I was lucky enough to share my life with a dog and best friend as special as you!!

So I am glad not that my loved one has gone
But that the earth she laughed and lived on
Was my earth, too.
That I had known and loved her,
And that my love I'd shown.
Tears over her departure?
Nay a smile
That I had walked with her a little while.