What can one say when a beloved dog has died? Sometimes, bereft and numb, there is nothing at all to say. At other times, words tumble out as memories of a long, happy life together are recalled.
For what strikes me most is, simply and utterly, that May and I shared our lives. We spent every day together. My career allowed me to work at home and home is where May always lived. She was never a kennel dog.
May and I had much in common. We both loved the water and swimming. Both of us loved our ritual of daily walks and we loved to eat. And we both loved our work as part of Northwoods Bird Dogs.
May was a black Labrador retriever Jerry and I bought from Dennis and Janice Anderson, owners of BritishLabradors in Houlton, Wisconsin. We had been on their reservation list for a couple years, waiting for a female out of their premier sire, Conneywarren Jason. Jason had a classic blocky head, bright brown eyes, thick glossy coat and the temperament Anderson’s dogs are known for.
It was worth the wait. On that summer afternoon when we picked up our eight-week-old-puppy, it was love at first sight for me.
May was athletic and always seemed to be in shape no matter the season. She was a strong runner with a long, smooth stride and could outpace—at least for a short distance—all our pointers and setters.
She was easily trained and in no time had the basic obedience commands down. She was an excellent retriever, too, although in a very ladylike manner. May never charged into the water, splashing anything within reach. Rather she gently waded in and then swam calmly to the dummy.
May loved chew toys and the bigger the better. She snuffled in the pot where I stored the dog toys and proudly came up with one or even two rawhides or Nylabones. Her teeth were always shiny white.
May got along with all dogs—whether our dogs or dogs in for training and no matter the age, ability or sex. She lived in the house with many of our best including setters Blue Streak, Blue Silk and Blue Shaquille and pointers Dasher, Prancer and Vixen.
May traveled everywhere with Jerry and me. Whether it was vacations in southern Arizona or guiding responsibilities in northern Minnesota, May was with us. When we moved south during the winter months first to Oklahoma and Tennessee and now in Georgia, May always made the cut.
Because of our business, May spent her field time with bird dogs. Jerry and I braced her with all ages and abilities. A very proud day for me occurred during one of those training runs on a good trail in northern Minnesota. May out-birded 2X CH/4X RU-CH Houston’s Belle.
May also had an important responsibility in “gang runs” of puppies when she and I headed into the pasture with a group of puppies for a training walk. The puppies followed May like she was the Pied Piper. When I sang to turn May, all puppies turned. When May stopped at ponds to drink and swim, all puppies stopped, too. The puppies easily learned running to the font, handling to voice commands, dealing with heat and thirst and navigating terrain of woods and fields.
May had an extraordinary debut as a retriever on a duck hunt in 2014. Jerry took photos and wrote about it for a blog post on January 8, 2014.
May died on January 12. She suffered one seizure in October and then a series of them just before Christmas due, most likely, to a brain tumor. Our vet put prescribed Phenobarbital and we had some rough days carrying her in and out. She had slowly regained her former strength and personality as her body adjusted to the drug. But early on that Tuesday she had several small seizures in a row that more medications couldn’t help. Even though she could recognize her name and me, she wasn’t there and clearly it was time to let her go.
I know May had a long, happy life but I miss her every single second. I just can’t shake the feeling that I should see her first thing every morning and last thing at night. And the world’s just not right without her.