Although I am passionate about my painting and sharing my experiences with those who are interested, life goes on in other avenues. So, I am writing about losing one of our pups - Andy, a Labradoodle, this past Thursday. He had just turned 9, earlier this month. There was no warning, but according to our vet, via an autopsy, Andy had a condition called Mesenteric Torsion, and he died almost instantly. Our vet said that in his 30+ years of experience, Andy was only the 4th case of this condition he had seen.
This was shocking and sad.
Our pups keep me company while I paint. They will lazily lie around my easel, only to get up one by one and put their muzzles in a dangling left hand when passing by or they will “goose” me on the back of one of my knees with their muzzles. Andy would often politely sit behind me in his military, at attention, posture. I could feel his piercing stare on my back. So, I had to turn around and pay attention. This was, of course, only after he patiently watched me paint for a couple of hours or so.
More often than not, I would draw my inspiration from our pups, simply by the way they looked at me, the energy I got from them, the adoring eyes, always about the connection, which is like connecting to any other animal you meet if you let them into your life or vice versa. They have this stillness about them, allowing them to live in the moment, and keeping you in the moment, allowing you to capture the ah ha glimpses within so many moments in time.
A little about Andy: He had come to us by way of Doodle Rescue. He had been out four times to different families, making us his 5h guardians in his less than 2 years of life. Bred by a breeder and sold in Ohio, he had been tied to a tree for over a year. Then, he was sold to some other folks who gave him to some friends in Saginaw, Michigan, and who then took him to a kill shelter. I understand from his foster mom that the reason he had changed hands so many times was because he nipped (not to be mean). Well, he was half Labrador Retriever. I think the majority of dog people would know that labs like to mouth just about anything (we have had 2 rescue labs). A volunteer at the kill shelter in Saginaw recognized he was a labradoodle and contacted the rescue organization in Montclair, New Jersey, who instructed her to take him home, just hours before he was to be euthanized. He was turned over to a local foster mom who had him for about a week and said he was fine, no problems, but did tend to nip. Then, a family from Potomac, MD, saw him on the rescue site and seemed like normal folks, so it was thought that he had his forever home. They flew their private jet up to Saginaw to pick him up. Well, they had him 4 weeks and called to say they had to give him up because he nipped at the kids (have to be at least 10 years of age to adopt) and workers. The Potomac mom said she tried to walk him on a leash but he wouldn’t walk along with her. She said they groomed him almost every day. Well, long story short, a foster mom in Woodbridge, VA picked him up and took him home, where she and her 3 daughters had to shave him to get the mats out. He also had a full tick above his left eye leaving him unable to open that eye. We got a call about him and the thought was it might not be possible to adopt him out again due to all the negative experiences he had in his less than 2 years of life. We drove right out to the foster mom’s house and picked him up. Yes, he did nip, but he learned from us that was inappropriate behavior. It didn’t take long to teach him that. When he walked with us, we told him to heel, and held him back. We didn’t really have to teach him; he just knew and followed the example of our other doodle walking along side of us. Jerry took him to obedience and agility. He came out first ahead of the German Shepherd, Border collie, Bearded collie, pit bull mixes, terriers and hound mixes. He was amazing. He also had another quirk that our other two doodles did not. He disliked going out in the rain, but when he came in he loved being massaged by the towel rub. One time in the past couple of months, our two other doodles went out in the rain and Jerry corralled them to be dried. As he was drying them, Andy got to the end of the line to also be dried – he was not wet.
I think he knew we were his last hope of redemption after being 5 times out. An animal behaviorist told us that dogs rarely bond the 3rd time out as they just give up. They are generally good for about 2 weeks, and then they go back to what got them given up in the first place. Not, Andy. He would crawl up into our laps and hug us around our waists and lay his head up against our chests, I think to be close to our heartbeats. What an incredible experience. Andy was always polite when he got in and out of the car. He loved to go for rides. In the neighborhood, we go 5-10 miles per hour so they can put their heads out. If we forgot to put Andy’s window down, he would tap on the pane with his muzzle to let us know.
About 3 years ago, Jerry bought Andy a Texas A&M logo collar because Andy had a huge spirit. Jerry’s alma mater is known for their unforgettable spirit. It was something I took for granted but loved because that’s what we knew. I thought it was infectious everywhere. Not until the senior past President Bush said he wanted to be buried at Texas A&M did I really get it. He said it was because no other school in America had that kind of spirit. That was an ‘ah ha’ moment for me.
Andy was in many ways bigger than life, and so much his own man, ‘er’ pup, truly a pup for all seasons. The little man even went out with a bang. He had his teeth cleaned in March and groomed a couple of weeks ago, so he was styled for crossing the rainbow bridge.
Thank you all so much for letting me ramble and share my unforgettable experience with Andy - one of life’s many teachers. He proved over and over again that it is best to take the road less traveled.