My beloved chocolate lab, Abby, died today. She was almost 8 years old. She was diagnosed with a very aggressive bone cancer for which there was no real treatment.
I’ll admit that Abby was the kind of dog that only a real dog lover could love. She was not, to be honest, the best trained dog the world had ever seen. She had what I called a “greeting disorder” (she jumped up on people). And she loved human food and routinely jumped up to get it. (Though, as the persistent Abby apologist, I insist that she was trained into this by having 3 kids, as babies, take great glee in feeding her from their high chairs).
All of that said, I tend to distrust people who do not embrace such loving, if a bit rambunctious, dogs. Abby was always happy, she always greeted everyone with a big wag of the tail and a wet kiss. To refuse her love was a sign, I think, of a pitiable hard-heartedness. Her genuine tenderness was hard to miss. It was particularly evident with our children when they were babies. Despite how wild she could be, she was always so careful and tender around the babies. She frequently slept next to their crib, as if to stand guard.
For me personally, she was a dear and loyal friend. Abby ran with me on almost every one of my runs over the last 8 years (I say almost because 14 miles was her limit, so any runs longer than 14 miles I went alone). She joined me on every hike I have been on since I have lived in Utah. She has climbed every mountain I have climbed in this state, camped with me on every camping trip. She was, for me, an ever present companion.
I have always thought that dogs were a sign of God’s great generosity. The world need not have had animals that could be domesticated into loyal companions, but it is a better world for it. Abby taught me a great deal about loyalty. Hers was the loyalty that suffered to be together. She was the kind of dog who would get up and move with you whenever you moved rooms, even if you told her not to since you would be right back. She’d ignore it, groan as she got up from her nap, and follow you there and back. And she taught me a lot about simple joy. When she was let off leash up in the mountains, it was and will always be for me an enduring image of pure and simple joy.
I will miss Abby terribly and am sad, perhaps even embarrassingly sad, over her death. But I am hopeful (contra Aquinas but with CS Lewis) that I will see her again in heaven for a very long trail run.
Requiescat in Pacem, Abby
Abigail (“Abby” / “Monkey”) Kleiner: August 19, 2004 – June 28, 2012