She grabbed our emotions from the very beginning in April 2016 and never let go. She was mellow, drawing affectionate pats from neighbors, friends and tradespeople.
Liz and I put Sandy, our beloved Yellow Labrador Retriever, to sleep a week ago. It was the right but wrenching decision. She died peacefully, thanks to the ministrations of Dr. Dean Tyson, a superb Easton veterinarian.
I’ve written before about Sandy, with accompanying pictures. I will miss her greatly. I will now brag about her in the past tense. I will choke up a bit, as I do now.
Her real name was Nor’easter Winds Sands of Time, bred by a couple in Parsonsburg, near Salisbury. After 45 minutes of chatter, with periodic weeping by the woman, her health weakened by several strokes, we left the former owners’ home with Sandy. We could not have envisioned the joy that would come our way by this beautifully white-coated Yellow Lab.
Our lives changed for the better that April 2016 afternoon.
Sandy, who would have celebrated her 12th birthday at the end of this month, was becoming less mobile due to increasingly progressive weakness in her hind legs and non-regenerative anemia. The quality of life for this lovable animal was diminishing.
We watched with distress as she coped with her infirmities. Urging her to get up for walks became more insistent; she seemed content to sit and sleep, seemingly unconcerned about her physical needs until she, and we could not ignore them.
Dogs and other pets improve our lives. They make us better people. We forget ourselves while caring for, and about a being that talks to us by saying nothing, wagging its tail in appreciation and fixing its eyes on us to express emotion, or maybe some longing difficult for us at times to fathom.
Seventy-five pounds with a beautiful white coat, Sandy would endear herself, without hardly trying, to many people. She trusted us two-legged beings to treat her well and respectfully. In turn, she would accept as many pats from strangers as her sometimes impatient owners would allow.
She shed religiously. She left her mark wherever she lay down. I would always alert her legion of admirers to beware if they were wearing dark slacks. Most said, maybe too politely, they didn’t mind wearing part of Sandy’s white coat.
Since Sandy died at the Veterinary Medical Center, I’ve talked with others who have endured the sad deaths of dogs and cats. They still grieve the losses. Time may heal, but not erase the pain.
I doubt we will replace our blessed companion. I’m told our reaction is common. We might change our minds, but I doubt it. Our increasing age is an impediment. Our memory of a pet that seemed so perfect to us is another obstacle.
When Liz and I drove on Jan. 5 to Easton from Annapolis, with Sandy lying quietly on the back seat, we knew we might return to the Western Shore without her. We didn’t voice our thoughts. We chose to keep our impending grief to ourselves. Perhaps we didn’t want to share our stress with Sandy in the car.
Our apartment and our lives are emptier now. Our dog-walking shifts have ceased. Our joy of being the recipient of her attachment to us is gone forever. Our longing for a benign presence embodied in a beautiful, mostly white Yellow Lab will not vanish quickly.
She captured our hearts. We happily submitted to her sweet personality. Sandy is a constant presence in my IPhone’s pictorial album. She will not be deleted.
I’ve never mourned a dog as I have Sandy. She sought food, a few daily walks, a comfortable place to sleep—and consistent love. The latter was an unspoken demand that required little, if any effort and was a joy to provide.
Liz and I felt privileged to share nearly five years of our lives with Sandy. We lovingly cared for her, and she for us.
“If there is no Heaven for dogs, then when I die I want to go where they went,” Will Rogers, the great American humorist, wisely observed. It would be a special place where loyalty is valued, and judgments are disallowed.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.