You’ve seen lots of family movies showing cute, but spirited dogs. Beethoven comes to mind as the St. Bernard who lovingly destroyed his family’s home. And there is the Shaggy Dog where the Father is actually transformed into the dog and has many humorous adventures. How many of us read Marmaduke or loved Scooby-Do the dynamic Great Danes of cartoon/comic hall of fame.
As you watch TV you are bombarded with the trailers for Marley and Me. It reminded me when a friend lent me this book when our dog was very young…and very spirited. She didn’t pull tables down, steal the Thanksgiving turkey, or even knock over the Christmas tree. She never really was a fiend for chewing things, but she seemed to have a fondness for retainers (she notched her “collar” with four confirmed kills) and gum wrapped in toilet paper fished out of the wastebasket (all of our cans were converted to ones with lids). She also claimed a great deal of chapstick over the years.
As I look back, it really wasn’t too bad (memories can be kind). As we were going through the two-year-long puppy stage, I couldn’t bring myself to read the book. It was a frustrating time and really didn’t want to read about someone else’s problem dog. I returned the book unread a few years ago.
All of a sudden our dog turned two. She was transformed from the frustrating puppy to the kinder, gentler friend and family member. No more sharp teeth, no more little (and sometimes not so little) presents around the house. I actually thought that this dog thing might just work for us. Our family developed a system to live with a dog and life progressed. The kids grew older. Hampton started to get a little gray in her beard.
She became a trusted member of the family and was allowed on certain pieces of furniture. She had a favorite ottoman near a window in the den where she watched the neighbors walk by (and barked at them) most evenings. It might sound like she was a good watch dog, but that was not her calling as we often heard folks come to the front door long before she would even stir. Once she got going though her bark was pretty impressive although the wagging tail gave away her true demeanor.
We soon discovered that she only obeyed the furniture rule when we were around and awake. After a few years, she really didn’t even bother hide her larceny until we chased her from the furniture. It was hard to be too mad at her, as she really seemed to love soft places to lie. It wasn’t unusual to catch her on a piece of furniture with her head resting on one of her favorite plush squeaky toys. She was most fond of the ones that squeaked and were in the shape of real animals. Very few of the internal squeakers lasted more than a few days.
One of my favorite things about her was how she seemed to know when I came home before I backed fully into our driveway. Each day when I would back into my spot I could look through our back window and sure enough Hampton would be standing on our love seat looking at me. She had a way of crossing her paws along the back of the chair. I could see the white spots on her front paws.
Her mother was a chocolate lab and we never new much about the father. I joked that it was whatever male jumped over the fence in late September of 2004. When we saw pictures of her litter, she was the only one with the little white on her paws and a white patch on her breast. It’s why we picked her.
I’ll miss seeing her looking at me through the back window most. She seemed healthy until a few weeks ago when everything seemed to go wrong for her. We tried an aggressive treatment regimen and it seemed to be working. I came home from work a few weeks ago and to my delight there she was looking at me. Unfortunately it didn’t last. She fought hard, but we had to let her go a few hours ago. We were all there with her at the end. Intellectually I know it was for the best, but it doesn’t make it any easier. She was with us for too short a time.
We’ll miss you Hampton!