Saturday, May 19, 2012

Past Deadline: The Golden Appendage

I have never known my parents’ house to be dog-less. If it ever was, it was only for a very short interim between pets.

Even before I can remember, there are pictures of me with dogs. Gosh, I was cute. I mean gosh, we had some nice dogs.

When I was really young there was Tinker the Toy poodle and Chan the Pekingese, followed by Chan II, another Peke. (Pekes are awesome with their bulging eyes and jeep-grill faces and big pom-pom tails.) The last Chan eventually became known as Darth Vader due to his raspy breathing when he got very old.

In the ’90s my parents upsized and brought home a big, beautiful mixed breed named Boots. She was one cool girl. She looked like a wolf and was part Chesapeake retriever.

Then, after Boots and not long before my eldest was born, came Abby.

Abby was a Golden retriever with a lovely disposition. Not that I’ve ever encountered a nasty Golden, but I suppose it could happen. Abby always seemed to be smiling and she was ever eager to play.

My parents were devoted to Abby, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say she was a bit spoiled. I used to joke she was treated better than we kids were. She was their baby.

Abby and Boychild grew up together and were buds. When Girlchild came along, they became pals, too. Abby was great with kids.

Really, though, Abby was best known as my dad’s extra appendage. Let’s call her the Golden appendage. They were joined at the hip.

This was blatantly evident to many in town. My dad began a regular walking program in the mid-’90s, and once Abby got old enough, she joined him faithfully as they trekked a daily route several kilometres across town and back.

Everyone recognized my dad and Abby. Sometimes his walk would take a couple of hours thanks to the multitude of stops required for socializing. School kids would want to visit Abby, and there were many people along the route who looked out for them every day. A few people even packed treats in their pockets in case they happened to see the duo on their travels. (The treats were for Abby, not my dad.)

And then, last summer, Abby wasn’t quite herself. After a visit to the vet, she was diagnosed with cancer, and nothing could be done. She wasn’t able to go on the long walks anymore and all her friends along the route missed her.

When she passed away in September, my parents were devastated, and so were all the people who had become accustomed to seeing my dad and his faithful companion with the big brown eyes.

My parents maintained Abby was their last dog. There would be no more. “It is too hard when a pet dies,” they said.

It’s true. The loss of a pet is heartbreaking. They are so trusting and faithful and they never talk back or disagree (which might be why they get treated better than the kids).

Still, as my parents proclaimed Abby was their last, we merely nodded and said, “Uh huh.” We’d heard it before, and it was hard to imagine no dog in my parents’ house.

Besides, I never got used to seeing my dad walking without his Golden appendage. I can’t count how many people have asked me, and still ask, about Abby.

Sure enough, at Christmas, Mom and Dad announced there would be a new baby in the house. The puppies would be born in March, and they would receive their new Golden in May.

“Ah hah!” we all said.

In the weeks leading up to the big day, there have been updates and photos and many preparations for the new baby. I stopped short of planning a shower.

And so, on the weekend, Bailey came home. He is a lovely blond boy who has taken to the kids in a heartbeat.

All seems right with the world again, and before too long I’m certain Dad and his Golden appendage will be spreading smiles across town, just like before.

Welcome, Bailey!

Published in The Perth Courier, May 10/12

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