I’ll always remember the day we went to choose our first little yellow lab puppy. Her mom and dad jumped up on the fence to greet us and immediately set to licking us with a warmth that made me just want to wrap my arms around them. The dogs could barely contain their excitement that visitors were coming to see THEM (never realizing we were there to take one of their babies!). I knew immediately this was the stock we wanted our dog to come from.
We selected the cutest little pup from the litter that was full of energy and affection. We brought her home and loved on her as we trained her and incorporated her right into our daily life. We settled on the name Murphy, in loving memory of my husband’s grandfather, Pete. Pete called everyone Murph….and we missed Pete. Now we had a little reminder of the humor he brought to our daily life.
Our family began to grow a few years later with the birth of our oldest son Tad. Murphy was so great with Tad. She let Tad sit on her, race cars down her back, and although I didn’t realize it until it was too late---he learned how to stand up by holding onto Murphy’s ears and pulling up! Such a sweet, tolerant dog!
One and a half years later we welcomed the surprise birth of our twin boys William and Wyatt. Life was chaotic, to put it mildly. The twins were sick a lot from the age of 6 months to 1 ½ years and after testing we learned they had an anaphylactic milk allergy and a mild dog allergy. The doctors told us this was a contributing factor to the constant ear infections, compromised immune system and persistent wheezing. We explored several options, but when it came down to it, we knew Murphy had to go live somewhere else. :(
Fortunately for Murphy, she was loved by lots of friends who visited. So, there was a line of people interested in taking her as their own. We had to tell Tad, who had taken Murphy on as his own dog, that she was going to be leaving. This was no easy thing for a 3 year old to understand or accept.
Next, we had to decide who to give Murphy to. Around the same time, my neighbors, the Mann’s, mentioned the possibility that they were interested in Murphy too. We were going on vacation so we decided it would be the perfect time for them to see if Murphy was a good match for their family.
When we arrived home from vacation we were eager to see how it had gone. Patty joked, ‘you can’t have her back! She’s a dream dog! So incredibly easy!’ This couldn’t have been a more perfect match for them and for us. We would still get to see her regularly and the health of the twins would not be jeopardized any longer.
The ensuing next year was tough, especially for Tad and Murphy. Tad would sit at the front door and look out at Murphy who was sitting at her front door doing the same thing. Tad would tell me how much he missed her. Then Tad would ask when Will and Wyatt’s allergy would be gone so she could come back to live with us.
I explained that Murphy was now the Mann’s dog several times, but Tad held out hope that Murphy would return. Murphy didn’t fare much better. She spent a lot of time sitting by the front door looking out at our home, wondering when we were coming to get her.
Time has such a healing property though. We knew we needed to put some distance between our family and Murphy to help her understand the Mann’s was her new home. Tad began to ask less frequently when Murphy was coming back to our house. Murphy stopped sitting at her front door and started incorporating into life at the Mann’s. Before too long Brandon, their middle son, could rightfully claim that Murphy was his dog. Murphy could call her new family home now and was surrounded by love that helped her to bond tightly to the Mann's.
Murphy slept in Brandon’s room every night. In fact, if he forgot and closed his bedroom door behind him, she’d stand outside the door all night. She’d just patiently wait for him to remember and let her in! She traipsed around after Brandon in the yard wherever he went. It was a common sight to see her milling around the basketball court while he shot baskets. Brandon’s girlfriend since middle school, Lynn, loved Murphy too. The three of them were tight.
Murphy was a very healthy dog, often mistaken for a puppy even as an old lady! My friend and vet, Dr. Lynn Wimmer, commented how unusual it was that Murphy did not scarf her food down as soon as it was set before her. Just about all labs seem to get fat when they get old, but not Murphy. She’d eat a little and go back for more later.
Then out of the blue, last winter Murphy all of the sudden started showing her age. She went from puppy to old lady in what seemed an overnight process. She cried for Brandon when he was not home. The displacia in her hips made every step seem very deliberate and awkward. She slowed down in a way no one had ever seen from her. Her 11 years were suddenly apparent, unless she was seated. Brandon carried Murphy up nightly to his room since she couldn’t do the steps. She even lost her ability to walk up the two steps to get into the house. This past summer the Mann’s vet said Murphy likely had cancer and wouldn’t have much longer. He prescribed medicine to help keep her comfortable, but alas it was pretty apparent that Murphy’s life was coming to a close. I know how much Murphy meant to Brandon growing up and he was very resistant to the notion of putting her down. He was willing to do whatever Murphy needed to extend her life. So it was a common sight to see him carrying her when she needed it.
Knowing Murphy didn’t have a lot of time left, I wanted to photograph Murphy and Brandon together. Lynn came over to spend time with them too, so the photos were complete! The few minutes we spent in the yard photographing was definately laced with sadness. We all knew these were photos to be a keepsake for Murphy who wouldn't be with us much longer. I wanted my boys to have a few minutes to hug on her too as their own little goodbye.
A few weeks ago sweet Murphy went home to heaven where she’s chasing after the family dogs that have gone before her, Meatball, Willie, Meshach, Tucker and Link. She probably still won’t retrieve, despite her breed, but I’m sure she’s putting smiles on the faces of all around her just like she did here on all who crossed her path. This blog is dedicated to family dogs everywhere that provide us with so many wonderful moments through this journey of life we walk! Run sweet girl, without a pain in the world!