I am not much of a subscriber to any afterlife belief, but this seems to have been a very busy year for the rainbow bridge. Yesterday an old friend went to help keep our dogs company.
Joseph walked into my dog school wanting to buy a fully trained dog. He was a tall, handsome older man and had been forced to retire due to health problems, moving to Florida from Chicago. His cardiologist told him to get a dog and walk it. He was used to buying whatever he wanted, and he wanted a fully trained dog. I didn't have one and told him I helped people train dogs their own dogs, but I might be able to help him find one, hoping to locate one through the local dog network. He liked my flat coats.
At the time I had Jackie Cape's job as rescue coordinator for the FCRSA - still on paper, not computer. The newsletter was typed and stapled. Mary Beth Bissig was in charge of that. That was the year of the first Maryland Specialty. I went there with my Whoopi, Cathie Newitt and her daughter, Jenna, who was a young school girl. Whoopi got her CGC there, it was new, too, at the time. I remember meeting Janet Boss for the first time, she had her first fcr rescue with her. While I in Frederick I got a call about a dog in FL that had been pulled. A young flat coat bitch, no one knew who's (no chips then either). When I got home, she became Marilyn. Maryland -> Marilyn, yeah that’s how my mind works. She fostered with me for obedience and placement.
Marilyn was not a fully trained dog. Marilyn was a barely basic ob level young flat coat. Jumping, counter cruising, party animal. Over a few weeks, Joseph kept coming back to visit us. He and Marilyn fell in love, and I placed her with him. They made a lovely pair walking down the boulevard at Clearwater Beach, a tall tan handsome man with a full head of white hair, and his beautiful flat coat flirt. They made lots of friends on their walks, and Joseph and I became dear friends. He and Marilyn walked the beach for 11 or 12 years, until that got to be too much for her. Then walks in the near neighborhood, and then just sit in the sun together on the dock. Joseph loved Marilyn with all his heart and they were devoted to each other. Inevitably, she got too old and too sick to stay. I drove them to the vet and sat on the floor with her as she crossed over and Joseph's heart broke. He kept repeating that he had hoped it would be him first because he would miss her so much and he knew I would care for her. Marilyn was 13 and change when she died.
Joseph was in poor health. He wanted another dog not long after losing Marilyn, another flat coat or other retriever. I told him no. He simply wasn't agile enough to get an active dog. We started looking for old dogs. There were none. We contacted the rescues and no one, not one of them contacted us back once we explained the situation. He as custodial, me as co owner. Finally he found a shelter that would let him have a dog and took the butt ugliest dog in the place. Well compared to Marilyn, anyway. Princess was a chunky overweight 7 year old ACD mix, maybe some hound. She told me she would bite me the first time I met her without being overt about it. Joseph never was in charge of her, she cared for him and kept him safe from the UPS man and all the boats idling up the canal behind them. He couldn't stop her and didn't have the heart. But they loved each other. She continued to remind me she could take care of Joseph every time, and then we had a lovely visit.
Eventually Joseph got really ill and was hospitalized for a long time. I brought her home with me. Princess had gone from chunky to manatee in the time she was with him. The day after I brought her to my house, she slipped out the door and tried to run home. I outran her in about 30 yards. She thinks I have superpowers. When Joseph came home, I took her back to him. Very soon after, he asked me to take her permanently. He was just too weak and needed care himself. That was 2 years ago last February. It took me a year to get the weight off her and she thinks portion sizes here are seriously lacking.
Joseph and I talked a lot on the phone and I visited. He talked about his dogs and would tear up. He missed them so, but he would never let me bring Princess, he said it hurt too much. This last winter Joseph began failing. When I talked to him all this spring it was obvious the end was near and he was ready. He would ask about "my old dog" and I would tell him her latest antics. He’d get sniffly and teary and we would end the call soon after. I’d hang up and bawl like a baby.
Today I got the message from his daughter that Joseph crossed over yesterday. I told Princess and had a good cry on her shoulder. She is fully my dog now and will be until it's her time to join Joseph and Marilyn. Joseph told her to go with me and I am grateful. Snarky herdy bitch that she is, she takes care of us now, and she takes her work seriously.