Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Leader of the Pack

How did Abby and Father first get along? Not too well considering that Father tried to kill her in the first week she was here. This is not an exaggeration or hyperbole. Agitated and confused with Abby’s attempts to roughhouse and play, Father knocked Abby on her back and went straight at her throat. Abby cried out, and I immediately jumped up and gave Father a beating. I didn’t think twice about it. This was the only time I would ever spank Father. Once the spanking was over, Father ran to the fence, jumped over it and ran away.

After the second day that Father was gone, I was sad and concerned that Father would never come back. I was starting to like him, but maybe it was for the best if he was going to try to kill our puppy. However, on the fourth day, he came back.

I had already been keeping a close on eye on Father whenever he interacted with Abby, but now I was going to have watch him even closer. Because Father was a stray and was ‘semi-feral’, I had no idea what his temperament would be, especially around other dogs. It’s very easy for a dog to revert to a ‘pack type’ mentality if it is confronted with what it deems is a threat or a challenge. I imagine that in Father’s mind, Abby’s trying to play with him was an affront to his perceived status in our family’s ‘pack’, and that he was trying to put her in her place

Abby, rambunctious as a puppy and always headstrong, didn’t learn her lesson and within a few days after Father’s return, was giving him hell by tugging on his collar, barking, and growling at him. This was the moment of truth. Father looked up at me sheepishly with a look on his face that read “I know the rules. I’ll behave.” He didn’t attack her, or bark, growl or even snarl his teeth at her.

There would be many more rounds of this when Abby would harass Father relentlessly. Sometimes, Abby would grab Father by the collar and start running at full speed, dragging poor Father with her. Father suffered in silence and never again reacted with hostility to her.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Monday, February 22, 2010

No Returns & No Refunds

“I am taking her back.”

Those were the first words I heard the morning after Abby’s first night at our house. All it would have taken from me was one word in order for me to get my original wish of not having a new dog: Okay. At first I was bewildered and upset that my mom would give up so soon and easily. For me, this was a reflection of a personality trait in her that I didn’t like, but I won’t go into detail about it. I also felt sorry for Abby that someone would so whimsically take her back like she was something bought at a department store at the mall.

Between the coffee table and the couch, Abby was lying on the floor chewing on a bone. She looked up at me with those beautiful green eyes and had such an endearing look. Abby always had expressive looks. I thought she was so pretty that I didn’t have the heart to send her back.

When I asked my mom why she wanted to take Abby back, she said that Abby was restless the whole night, walked around the bedroom, kept her up and used the bathroom on the floor. The neat-freak in my mom was rearing its ugly head.

I made a bargain with my mom. “Let me take her to bed tonight and stay in my bed. If she behaves, then we will keep her.” My bed was already pushed all the way in the corner of the room and had a footboard and headboard. With me at one side of the bed, the bed essentially served as a crate for Abby. I didn’t know about crating at the time, but I luckily stumbled upon on an effective way to keep Abby still at night and from going to the bathroom in the house at night.

My most vivid memory of Abby’s second night with us and her first night in my room was how close she huddled to me that night. She almost smothered me because she was pressed so hard against my face. It was a bonding moment that would characterize the close relationship we would have with each other.

Abby was a very good girl that night. She slept all the way through and didn’t use the bathroom. However, no sooner had I put her on the floor after we woke-up, did she squat down to pee. I immediately snapped her up and carried her outside for her to do her business. Fully housetraining her was going to take a lot of work, and that story will be left for another entry.

Abby was here to stay.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Abby's First Day

In the classifieds of The News & Observer was an ad for Labrador puppies. The litter was in Bailey, a small town around 45 min east of Raleigh. I didn’t want to go and help pick out a dog since I didn’t want the dog or anything to do with the process of finding it. But my cousin, her 12 year old daughter and Nikki did go along with my mom. So, off to Bailey they go in my cousin’s Ford Bronco. It was a two-door built in the late 80s/ early 90s that was at the front of the wave of the rise in SUVs in the 90s.

I know next to nothing about the breeders of the litter that Abby came from. All I do know is that when my mom bought Abby, the breeders said they might stop by sometime to see how Abby was doing. (They never did.)

I also don’t know much about Abby’s parents. Her dad was a strapping 115 pounder, and Abby’s mom did not like Nikki. As a matter of fact, Abby’s mom and Nikki got into a fight, so Nikki had to spend the rest of the time in the Bronco.

I was curious—years later— how my mom chose Abby from the litter. While my mom, her niece and her grand-niece were looking over the puppies, Abby was the one who followed them around. She was curious, outgoing and seemed to be friendly, so Abby was the one.

The first time I saw Abby, she was sleeping on the grand-niece’s lap. Abby was a floppy and cute puppy, but what does one expect from a puppy? By definition, puppies are cute, so what. I don’t remember much else about that day. It was in late April, sunny and mild. I do remember Abby later walking around the backyard sniffing around curiously. The only other thing I remember about Abby from that day is that she spent the night in my mom’s room.

My mom named Abby in honor of her mom. Even though my grandmother’s name was Pearl, many people called her ‘Abby’ when she was growing up, which is short for Abbott, her maiden name.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Decision to Get Abby

The decision to get Abby was not mine but my mom’s. I had a say and not a vote, and not much of a say at that. My cousin, Nikki’s owner, had been pressing my mom to not only get a dog but a Labrador at that. My mom was having a rough go of it at the time. Her mom had recently died, and she was in the middle of a divorce after 33 years of marriage to my dad who was having a host of legal, personal and financial problems. On top of that, I would be leaving Raleigh in a year or two after I finished graduate school. My cousin thought my mom could use the company as well as a diversion from her problems. My mom had liked Nikki a whole lot, and my cousin thought that a smart, playful dog would be a good fit for my mom who has a big house, big yard and a pool. A dog that likes being outside like a lab and yet would be a good house pet, would complement my mom who likes to spend quite a bit of time in her backyard and in the pool in warmer weather.

My mom blurted out to me one day, “I want to get a dog.” I was fierce and adamant in my opposition to getting a dog. We already had Father. Getting a puppy is time consuming and hard work. Being in graduate school and in the heart of my research, I didn’t have time to dedicate to a puppy, and I knew I’d be expected to help with the care of the dog. Of course, I still wasn’t thrilled about dogs in general at the time, especially big ones. I don’t want a dog that can kick my ass.

My mom said that Labs are sweet and good natured, much like Nikki. “That is a crock of shit”, I thought. My cousin (not Nikki’s owner) had labs that were mean and crazy as hell. My cousin lived just outside a small town in eastern Wake County, Wendell. The town is named after the late Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and even has a sign at the city limits honoring the late justice. Despite the fact that the town is named after Justice Holmes, the locals pronounce it “win-dale’ and not ‘win-del’, but I digress.

One day when I went to see my cousin, Al, his dogs were going berserk. After getting out of the car, Al tells me to cover my eyes with my hands before approaching the dogs. I questioned why, and he said it will calm them down. Sure enough, once we covered our eyes while walking over to them, the dogs calmed down and let us pet them. These are also the same dogs that had flattened car tires after biting them. Labs are not always sweetie-pies that they are made out to be.

Then there is the issue of my mom’s cleaning obsession. As I have mentioned before, she would vacuum at least once a day but usually more than that. And when I was a kid, I didn’t know what a hamper was. Our dirty clothes were to be immediately brought to the washing machine where my mom would do at least one load of laundry a day but usually more than that. So, having a big, sloppy lab gallivanting around the house would be a real strain for a neat freak like my mom.

(I also alluded to my parent’s poor track record with raising dogs. It wasn’t good.)

Without going into much detail about my mom’s personal history, her doctor had prescribed medicine for her recent depression. Not only did it effectively treat what it was prescribed for, it also tempered her cleaning obsession, which would later have a huge and beneficial impact on her interactions with her dogs, but at the time she bought Abby, I didn’t know about this.

This isn’t a mystery novel, and one would have to be dead from the neck up to guess what my mom’s final decision was; she got the dog.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Last of Princess

Over three months after Princess came to our house, three months after I had notified her owners of her whereabouts, and one day after we had buried my grandmother, Princess’s owners came by our house to take her back. That POS knew damn well that we just had a funeral, there were cars everywhere. She would have to be dead from the neck up not to have realized that there was a death in the family. What that owner did along with her timing was a kick in the teeth. We thought the owners had abandoned their dog, and we had become attached to that Princess.

I can still hear the owner’s scratchy, whiney, country-ass voice right now. She was the kind of person who spoke at you, not to you, and she spoke in the same volume regardless if she were outside or in - loudly.

I didn’t know much about her except for the way she treated her dog, which wasn’t well. She was the kind of owner that kept the dog in a runner out in the back along with a bowl of food and water. Princess would escape from her cage from time to time, though I don’t know why she would want to do that. Princess would chase and harass neighbors walking by her yard. She even came close to biting me a few days when I was out running. Fortunately, I had quick reflexes and was able to turn around and confront her by the time she was able to get to me. The garbage man, at another time, was not so lucky. She bit him.

Something else which stood out to me about how poorly Princess was treated was on a particularly cold day when the highs barely made it into the 20’s and the lows were supposed to get into the single digits. Princess was scratching at some dried out leaves trying to make a ‘nest’ in an attempt to stay warm. For someone to leave a short haired dog like that out in those conditions was negligent, irresponsible and cruel. I came very close to a calling animal control that day, but I didn’t. I hate to be the nosy, busy-body type, but looking back, it was something I should have done.

I didn’t like the owner. For some reason, I don’t think she didn’t like us, but for the sake of decency and civility, I will not disclose why I think she didn’t like us. The woman was a bad dog owner. She let her dog stay at a neighbors for several months, didn’t give much attention to the dog in the first place and didn’t’ take care of the dog’s health needs. A few months after Princess was reclaimed, she made an escape and came straight to our house. I noticed two shaved out rectangular patches in her back indicative of her being treated for heartworms. Heartworms is an easily preventable disease involving yearly check-ups and monthly pills, but the owners wouldn’t even do that for their dog. Instead, Princess had to suffer through a very painful heartworm treatment regimen.

On Princess’s last day with us, the owner called her over. Reluctantly and with her head hanging down, Princess skulked away from us to her owner. Princess would visit us from time to time after that whenever she escaped, but we had to turn our backs to her. I know she was confused and hurt, but it had to be done.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What happened to the Dalmatian's last puppy

I remember the last day the puppy was at our house. I returned home after classes one afternoon on a particularly cold and clear January day. (I was in grad school at the time.) My mom was at her lawyers dealing with her divorce proceedings, and my grandmother had gone to the beauty parlor. (Her words-that is what people in that generation called it.) My cousin, Nikki’s owner, knew where we would all be, when and how long, so she snuck to the house to take Father and the puppy to the animal shelter.

Father, too slick and streetwise, slipped from my cousin’s capture attempt. Later in the year when I would go running, Father would tag along with me. Something I noticed was that when a car approached, Father would immediately high-tail it into the woods, only to emerge a few minutes later after the car had safely passed by. It was a survival mechanism that served him well.

The puppy was not so lucky. When I arrived, there was no puppy. I didn’t put two and two together. I thought she was lost, run-over, given away by her first owner or stolen. (I guess in a way she was stolen.) My grandmother, however, knew something was amiss and confronted my cousin about it. Eventually, my cousin admitted to the scheme. She ‘said’ that if no one adopted the puppy at the animal shelter, the animal shelter would contact my cousin who would have then brought the puppy back instead of the puppy being euthanized. I’d like to believe her and in this case, I really wanted, but deep down, I supposed she was lying. I just didn’t want to know the truth.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Father: Part II

In the first three months that Father was hanging around the house, he continued to bark and growl at me and run away. Meanwhile, we adopted Princess (or so we thought), bringing her into the house, taking care of her, feeding her, and all the while not a peep from the owners despite the fact that I had repeatedly told them where their dog was. I never gave any thought to where Father was sleeping or eating and didn’t care.

That winter had been colder than normal, and we had a string of snow and ice storms in January and February 1996. In the last storm of that season, we received a sleet/snow/sleet combo leaving behind a densely packed layer of winter precipitation.

On one night soon after the storm, I was walking around outside and saw Father in the yard. He tried to run away but was too weak. He lay down on the ice and in a helpless state, surrendered to me. I cautiously approached him as I tried to pet him because I didn’t know if he would try to bite me. After all, he had been nothing but mean and ill-tempered to me in our relations until then. Father didn’t bite me. He was lying prostrate on the ground by the time I got to him.

There were a couple of things that I noted when petting him. First, he was covered in ice. Second, his ribs were protruding from his rib-cage. I had assumed until then that Father was living at a neighbor’s house nearby, but the fact that he was so cold, underweight and malnourished made me reconsider Father’s living situation. Because Father had such a thick coat, it was difficult to judge by sight alone if he was at a healthy weight. Father was weak and underfed and most likely on his way to dying. (As a matter of fact, when I took him to the vet several months later, the vet found that Father had heartworms.)

I put Father on the couch, gave him some of Princess’s food and so began the long, slow process of nursing him back to health. Father wasn’t too keen on being inside since he was ‘semi-feral’. After Father warmed up and had a full meal, I let him out and put a bowl of food on the side porch and left the porch door open. Soon after, we noticed that Father was eating the food and eventually, he began to sleep on the porch. We slowly acclimated him to the house by having him take baby-steps in his familiarization with the surroundings and the family. When Father began sleeping in the house, he would stay in the dining room or living room. He began to move closer and closer to the bedrooms until he did start sleeping in one of the bedrooms. His doing that showed his trust in us and a desire to be closer to us.

There are many more ‘Father Stories’ that I will share, but I will say for now that Father did regain his strength and put on 20 pounds to his ‘ideal weight’ since he first came to our house. It was also painfully obvious that Father had been abused. He was terrified of brooms, and we believe that Father’s old owners beat him with a broom. Father was also scared of men, more so than women. It was rewarding and fun to see Father develop physically and emotionally. It was also sad to see a fully grown dog go through emotional developments that would normally be seen in puppies. Father had been robbed of his youth, but in some way, we were able to give a part of that life back to him.

Friday, February 12, 2010


When I say “Father”, I am not referring to my dad nor a priest but to a stray dog that came to our house in November, 1995. Where Father came from or who his previous owners were, we do not know. We gave him his name out of simplicity or possibly laziness.

We do know why Father started hanging around our house. It was about the same time that a neighbor’s Dalmatian, Princess, moved into the shed in our yard along with her puppy, a raven, long-haired fur ball. (The puppy never had a name.) Father had a majestic mane of long black hair and was a chow/lab mix with a black tongue characteristic of a chow along with a curly tail. Father was the father of the little puppy. Princess was most likely going into heat, and Father was lured by the call of Nature to Princess and subsequently our home.

Princess, in an attempt to save her puppy after her owner had given away the rest of her puppies in the litter, moved to the shed. I told the owners several times the first week that Princess was in the shed where Princess was, but the neighbor’s seemed unconcerned and gave me the ‘yeah , yeah’ treatment. They finally took their dog back home well over 3 months after Princess came to our house.

Princess was nice to us, as was the puppy. Father, on the other hand, hated me and the rest of the family, and I have to admit, I didn’t like him much either at the time. Every time I went outside, he would growl and bark at me and would then run into the woods. He had a high-pitched, shrill bark that penetrated my ears. I can still remember it to this day. At first, whenever we referred to Father, we would say ‘the father dog’. Later, it became simply ‘Father’. And that is how Father got his name.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


My stance towards dogs began to soften when my cousin bought her dog, Nikki. Nikki was a Golden Retriever/Lab mix, though I don’t know where my cousin got her. Although I disliked dogs and was even scared of big dogs, I was never mean to them (except the ones who tried to bite or attack me), but I was stand-offish to them and avoided them when I could.

A couple of days after Christmas in ’93, I was taking the empty boxes by the trashcans at my grandmother’s house to the back of her house where there was a built-in outdoor fireplace by the patio. The garbage collectors would not remove the boxes, so I was going to burn them. The box transfer process took around 10 minutes and involved my slinging the boxes as close to the patio as I could get them. After all the boxes were in the back, I went to the patio to begin tearing them up and then start burning them. Before I could pick up one box, I saw a dog in the corner of the patio huddled by the house shaking in fear. It was Nikki. I had scared the hell out of her during my rambunctious handling of the boxes.

I went over to her and asked “Well, who are you? Are you a good girl?” (Yes, I do talk to the dogs, but no, they don’t talk back. It’s not a conversation. I may be a little eccentric, but I’m not crazy.) I went over to pet and console her. I felt bad and sorry for causing her to be so scared and wanted to comfort her. After a minute or so, Nikki began to wag her tail and lick my face. It turns out Nikki was a good girl. She was smart, friendly, and playful and loved to swim, even in the coldest days when there was a thin layer of ice on the pool.

I had spent many fun afternoons with Nikki, and I would even dog-sit her a few times when my cousin would go out of town. It was when Nikki started coming around that I began my habit of speaking to some dogs in a singy-songy voice. In Nikki’s case, I’d say/sing “Nikki, sicky, licky wicky” or just “Nikki Wicky”. The nickname “Nikki Wicky” stuck, and even my cousin’s family started calling her that.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


When I was growing up, my family had a few dogs but many, many cats. It started with one cat, a female named Pootamus, but soon our cat population became an example of exponential growth. One became two, then four then eight until we finally topped off at around 40. Yes, my mom was the crazy cat lady.

Only a few of the cats stayed inside. The remaining stayed outside, mostly hanging around the front yard in site of the porch where their food and water bowls were kept. We had so many cats that most of them didn’t even have names, but the ones who were named had some strange and odd ones. My parents, who were in charge of the cat naming department, gave them names such as Dummy, Fatty, Cry-baby, Tweety, Pawpaw, WeeWillie and Tidy Bowl. That is no typo; we did call one of our cats Tidy Bowl. She was a beautiful slinky black cat with a patch of white under her throat. Her name came about one day when my mom was cleaning the bathroom. In an attempt to get a better view of what my mom was doing, Tidy Bowl jumped up on the toilet believing that the seat was down. It wasn’t. The poor thing splashed into the water. I wished I had been there to see because it sounded funny. Ever since that day, my mom called her Tidy Bowl after the toilet cleaning product, and the name stuck.

Our cats had free run of the house, or the ones that were allowed inside. Just look at them in the photos above. They walked on the kitchen counters, terrified our little dog, Roger, and would even open the cabinet below the sink where the food was kept in an attempt to draw attention to how hungry they were. To their credit, though, they were potty trained and knew how to tell us when they needed to be let outside whenever they had to go to the bathroom. We didn’t even need a litter box.

When I was younger, I liked cats a whole lot more than I liked dogs. Cats have to be loved and appreciated on their terms, not yours. I found that people who didn’t like cats were overbearing, controlling and liked telling other people what to do. Cats will have none of that.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A "Prequel"

Before I go into depth about the babies – Abby and Andy – I want to give some background on my experiences with dogs and subsequently show how drastically my opinion of them have changed since Abby and Andy came into my life. The first two dogs our family had was a mutt named Blacky and a Western Highland Terrier named Macky. I don’t know where my parents got Blacky. They kept him in his own room and rarely let him into the rest of the house. Why my parents treated him this way perplexes me to this day; I felt so sorry for him. I speculate that it could have been due to my mom’s borderline OCD which manifested itself with her constant cleaning. She would vacuum the house two or three times a day. Maybe she was worried about Blacky making a mess in her house. I was never close to Blacky, and he died pitifully of heart failure when he was 9.

Macky was a gift from my dad’s mom. (He is the one pictured above on his haunches.) He was a nice enough dog, but he was also a ‘one-person’ dog, and I was not the one. I neither liked nor disliked Macky. He died when a neighbor backing out of the driveway ran over him. It’s hard to believe that my parents let him run free in the neighborhood, but at the time, it was not my place to question them. Some would say that I should have stood up to them, but my parents were old-school. The children were to be seen and not heard. Any insolence on my part would have been dealt either with sharp words or a belt.

After Macky’s death, my parents bought another Western Highland Terrier, Roger, from a pet store in the mall of all places. (He is pictured above with me when I was around 11.) This was in the late 70’s, so the concept of puppy-mills was not well known then. I often speculate the conditions in which Roger was breed led to his behavioral problems he had as an adult.

They say that older couples who have lived together a long time start to look like one another. Maybe by extension, pets can take on characteristics of their owners. My dad has male-pattern baldness, and my mom had bleached blonde hair. So, Roger had features that were a combination of theirs. He had white hair, what hair he did have, and from the waist down, he was bald. The poor thing had some skin condition, but to make things worse, he smelled bad. But for me to not love Roger because of his appearance would be superficial and shallow. After all, when Abby was older, she was overweight, was plagued with constant ear infections which didn’t smell good, had fatty tumors all over her and was severely afflicted with arthritis, but in my mind’s eye, she was still that cutey-pie that I knew her from in her younger days.

To put it in a nutshell, Roger was a bad dog. For starters, he was not house trained. Many times we had let him out for an hour or so, and that no sooner had we let him back in would he go directly in the middle of the living room and urinate and defecate, looking you in the eye while doing so. Roger also bit a neighbor, bit a cousin of mine, killed kittens and tried to screw the cats.

However, Roger loved me. When he was two, I saved his life. He almost drowned to death in my grandparents’ pool, and even though my family had been looking for him, it was me who caught a glimpse of him hanging on the side of the pool on a cold winter’s day and pulled him out. I guess the little guy felt indebted to and appreciative of me. I didn’t hate Roger; but I didn’t like him either. I did pity him. I was frustrated that I could not change his bad behaviors.

My mom loved Roger, and he loved her. Nobody else liked poor Roger. My mom’s mom refused to buy new carpet until Roger died because of Roger’s notorious potty issues. So, my grandmother clung on to that gold shag carpet well into the 80’s and into the early 90’s. Roger’s demise was the result of tumors throughout his body. He lost his eyesight and was bumping into furniture. Soon after, he was euthanized. Nobody but my mom missed poor Roger, and my grandmother did indeed live up to her word and bought new carpet.

My mom informed me of Roger’s death by phone. To this day, I don’t know why I reacted the way I did, but I laughed. I tried to cover the speaker w/ my hand, but she could hear me. It was probably one of the most thoughtless things I had ever done to my mom. She didn’t speak to me for two months after that. It took my grandmother’s intervening to smooth things over between us. My grandmother reminded my mom how she had laughed at her grandfather’s funeral (her mom’s dad) just over a decade before that. So, we put the incident behind us.

Even though I never bonded with our family’s dogs, my dislike of dogs resulted from my interactions with dogs outside of my immediate family. For example, my grandparents had a Chihuahua that they had inherited from my grandmother’s parents. This dog was a living legacy of my great-grandparents, and my grandparents loved that dog. I, however, could not stand that little shit. Mimi, pictured above, was the stereotypical Chihuahua – irritable, taciturn, yappy and just plain mean. She would never let me near my grandparents and would snarl and growl at me; sometimes she would even bite me. The little rat would even chase me around the house when I was younger, but when I found out that her bite didn’t hurt, I stopped running from her.

In addition to being bitten by a Chihuahua, I have also been bitten by a Doberman and a St. Bernard. I was actually attacked by the St. Bernard which actually left a scar which remains over 30 years after the attack. I felt bad about the St. Bernard incident because I, along with other neighborhood kids, had relentlessly teased that dog and consequently made him mean. On that fateful day when I went into his cage to retrieve an errant football, it came as no surprise looking back that he attacked me. I got the ball, threw it over the fence, and just as I was about to climb over it, he jumped up, but his paws on my shoulders and started chewing on my back and head. Fortunately, the several layers of winter clothing kept him from puncturing my skin, but I did have some ugly pools of blood under my skin. The situation clearly being my fault, my parents didn’t call animal control, but they told the owners. I was pissed when I heard their response to the news: “He was playing”, the owners said. Believe me, he was not playing. The couple moved soon after, but I found out later that the dog had attacked someone in their new neighborhood. A lawyer called my dad a few years later wanting to know the details of the incident. I don’t know what consequences there were for that couple, but I’m sure it was not happy.

It wasn’t until I started running in my early 20’s that I started hating dogs. I was amazed and frustrated how many dog owners did not leash their dogs, instead letting them run free. Although I was never bitten while running, I had some close calls with several breeds including Dalmatians, German Shepherds, Dobermans and Pit Bulls. I found it was best to stop and confront a dog in those situations instead of turning ones back and trying to run away.

Monday, February 8, 2010

An Introduction

Who are Abby and Andy, and who am I? Abby and Andy are (were) my dogs, and I am their owner. That clears things up, right?

Abby was a yellow lab that we had ever since she was a puppy. She was born in a small eastern NC town, Bailey, in 1996 and lived to almost 13 years of age – just 8 days shy of her 13th birthday. Andy, born two years after Abby, is also a yellow lab and was also born in eastern NC, but a little further east in Greenville, NC, a college town around 85 miles east of Raleigh.
Even though they are both pedigree dogs with papers, Abby had a more orange tint in her hair, and she had floppy ears and a furrowed brow reminiscent of a hound dogs. I’ve heard that breeders would sometimes crossbreed a hound dog into a Labrador’s lineage in order to boost a lab’s sense of smell. It’s speculative, so I will never know if such a thing happened in Abby’s ancestors. She was definitely a big boned and sturdily built. I often joked that if she were a person, she would have been a softball player.

I still haven’t said who I am. I’m a 41 year old man living at home with his parents, yes, with his parents. What makes this odder is that my parents want me to live at home with them while I am anxious to move on with my life. I took a year off of my life to take care of my ailing dad. Had I not done so, he would have most certainly needed to have gone to a nursing home, which would have devastated my parents emotionally and financially. I am also in the middle of a career change which will involve my going back to school.

For 10 years, I was a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry, but after a round of lay-offs in ’08, I seriously evaluated the direction the industry was going and the sustainability of my career there. After much deliberation, I decided I wanted to become a patent attorney. I’ve been accepted to a couple of law schools, so I will be going to law school in August. In the mean time, I will have a lot time on my hands, so I have decided to use some of it to reminisce on stories about my dogs and share them with whoever would like to read them. Normally, I will try to keep the passages to 3 or 4 paragraphs, but there will be exceptions.

The photo with this entry is one of my favorite photos of the babies. They were in Lake Lynn, and it was our first visit there. Lake Lynn is a man-made lake in west Raleigh, and surrounding it is a trail, most of which is paved and the remaining are wood bridges. A complete trip around the lake is around 2 miles. The path is part of an extensive network of trails, The Greenway System, built and maintained by the Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department. Many of the trails are near or around lakes or creeks, and one is even by a river. The scenery is fantastic. Yet the trails are easily accessible throughout the city. Some segments of the greenway system are sparsely used, but at Lake Lynn, there is a relatively heavy user volume since the trail is close to several developments and apartment complexes.

That picture was taken in the summer of 2000. I was still living in NJ and was down visiting my mom. At the time, the babies were staying with my mom, and I will discuss the ownership of the dogs in more detail at a later time.

From the parking lot to the beach, the walk was about a mile. By the time they had reached the beach, they were tired. Abby had been in a lake once in her life, and Andy had never been in a lake up to that time. (My mom does have a pool) Not knowing how they would react to the different surroundings, I took the dogs off their leashes and let them do what they wanted. Almost immediately, they went into the water, Abby going first. Abby was always an alpha dog while Andy has always been a follower. I had brought a tennis ball, so we played fetch, and they swam quite a bit. Andy, the one with the lighter yellow coat, loves to play fetch. He’s almost OCD about it to the point that if you don’t hide the ball, he will keep going and going to the point of exhaustion. In the meantime, I took some photos of them, not knowing how they would turn out since I had only had the digital camera for a few weeks at the time. When I downloaded the photos, I was especially pleased with this photo. The way they are paired up symbolizes the harmony and closeness they had with each other. People would often ask if they were mother/son or brother/sister - no to both. They did, however, love each other a whole lot.