Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ode to Shadow

I confess.

I am not a dog person.

Wait! Don't run off to find another blog to read. I'm not a cat person either. I like animals, truly. I love horses. I want my children to have and love animals so they've had everything from rabbits and goats to pigs and kittens. (But sadly, no horses.) I just don't get all oogy-woogy over any of them. Animals I mean. Babies, yes. And baby animals, maybe.

I like dogs. But to really appeal, a dog has to be a good dog. I can't abide dogs that are as dumb as door knobs or denser than a rock. I've met some of those. I don't like loud dogs or disobedient, unruly mutts. I have enough two-legged unruliness to deal with that I don't need a critter testing my nerves too.

I like smart dogs. Trained dogs. Loyal dogs.

So, I don't know how but we have been blessed with the single best dog on the planet Earth. The only dog I have ever loved.

His name is Shadow. The kids named him when we got him. A black border collie. We saw an ad in the paper for a dog in need of a home and went to get him at a vet's office. The vet said he was 5-7 years old based on his dental health. No one knew his history.

That was thirteen years ago.

I don't know if it's possible for my dog to be 18-20 years old. Maybe the vet was a little off.

When we got Shadow he was instantly at home. Like a family member returning to where he longed to be.

I liked him instantly because he was so...smart, obedient and attentive. He rarely barked. He had self-imposed boundaries. He never went on the carpet. He never ventured down the hallway and he never, ever went in the bedrooms. He didn't jump on people or chase chickens or cars. He didn't run the countryside with other dogs.

He has never, ever in thirteen years, been on a piece of furniture. Ever. Holy cow.

He is always great with kids. It took him a bit to adjust to new babies - two arrived after him - but they soon won his heart.

Oh, and I forgot to mention. He only has three legs. But don't tell him. He doesn't know it.

Shadow knew immediately who the Alpha Dog was. He never had to be reminded.


His loyalty to me is humbling. I'm not a dog person. I don't deserve his devotion at all.
But he obeys me, protects me, worries about me...

When I am in my studio he waits outside for me the entire time.

When I sit at the computer, he lays under the desk on my feet.

He must be under the table during dinner.

Of course, he's also very devoted to the kids.

This photo was taken the morning after Neal had returned from living in Hawaii for six months. Neal was handing out gifts. Shadow was waiting for his. He didn't get one. And that was fine with him. He was just very happy Neal was back safe and sound.

One year Shadow had an unfortunate accident and broke his leg. The opposite one from the missing back leg.

It didn't phase him one bit. He would hold his casted leg out sideways and chase squirrels on two legs.

But here's my favorite story about my loyal dog. The dog I don't deserve.

I had a difficult and painful labor when I was pregnant with Samuel. Yes, isn't that the definition of labor? Difficult. Painful. But, I've had seven labors and this one was one of the more unpleasant of them. I was in the bedroom with my attendants. The birth wasn't any fun either with a slight complication afterwards. Can you tell? - I had a homebirth. When the drama was all over and I was tucked into bed nuzzling my new little precious baby my family came in...."Mom, can we please bring Shadow in? He's been camped out in the hallway whimpering and he won't go out. He really wants to come in and check on you." He came in, took a look and a sniff and got a greeting from me. Satisfied that all was well and that my attendants had done a good job under his watch, he went out.

What a dog.

When he was younger he had long silky soft hair.
Over the years it has gotten coarser and thicker it seems.
He prefers to spend his time outside - he is a farm dog after all.

He loves the winter and enjoys the cold.
His coat gets thicker and the weather really reeks havoc on it after a few months.

So his coat is perpetually dirty and haggard looking.

As soon as the weather is warm enough, he gets a shave and a hair cut.

So my dog is somewhere between 16 and 20 years old. Time has taken a toll on this three-legged friend. Arthritis makes it hard to run around much. He prefers to lie around.

His eyesight is poor. Deafness has set in. Also a bit of senility. More than a bit. Maybe because of his diminished abilities he tries harder to do his job of protecting the family. He does things he never did before, like barking a lot. He's nipped at the mail carrier and the meter reader.

But mostly he lays around. Everywhere.

A big furry rug. Faithful but tired.

And he's allowed to come on the new carpet. But since his coat is perpetually dirty, he has a rug.

Shadow - you missed the rug. Get over there.


Good dog, Shadow.

I'm a one dog woman.


  1. wow, mom

    i can only type with one hand now. anyway, shadow is awesome. you def made him look like the best dog ever, there

  2. What a dog. He's part of the family. I love this story.

  3. Oh, that brought tears to my eyes! Man, I love that dog.

    Every time I see him, I figure it's the last time, but then, when I come back, there he is. Maybe he's immortal.

    I'm discovering that I'm not actually a dog person, either. I thought I was because of Shadow. I can't seem to find another dog like him and every dog I find just drives me crazy. Wish we could clone him...

  4. I, surprisingly, got teary too.

    I was thinking too that I kind of understand why some people want to clone their dogs.

    Last night he was panting heavily and restless and then was coughing loudly. Then quiet. I had to come out and make sure he was still breathing. He was. Whew.

  5. He is a good dog, im gona spend a couple more minutes petting him when i come home, i tend to pass him up to fast. And I was in hawaii 9 months


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