In fall 2010, I was hanging out with a friend down the hall when my dad called and told me to watch an NBC News video, part of their look back at Hurricane Katrina five years later. Watch it, he said — I think I just saw our dog.
The video (at 3:00 here) shows a reporter tentatively approaching a small, black dog on an empty highway overpass, one of thousands upon thousands lost in the storm. The man tries to leave a cup of water near the dog and the camera zooms in. For my dad and me, there was no mistaking that tuft of white fur on the chest, the curly fur on the ears or that snout. We’ll never know for sure, but we believe that was our dog.
See, shortly after Katrina, my dad found a quiet, mixed-breed dog at a Humane Society in Nebraska called Shadz (like shades). She scooted up to her cage’s door to let my dad pet her, a sharp contrast to the shelter’s more energetic occupants. We adopted her and renamed her Shady, which always reminded me of the name Sadie.
She was gentle and sweet — perfect for two quiet guys — but for the first year or so, she was also afraid when left alone. She would howl mournfully and dig through the trash, always apparently searching for semi-edible cardboard. She hid under the bed during storms. In the picture above, she was waiting for my dad to get back even though I was still there. Through the years with us, she feared abandonment less and less.
Shady died yesterday after weeks of declining health. I’ll miss her wet snout poking at my face, and lying down with her at the end of the day, and going on walks, and her habit of collapsing onto her side at our feet. I’ll miss her funny sighs and hums when she stretched, and her full-body tail-wagging, and her insistence on being in the middle of everything, and her watchful, gentle love. I’ll miss her.
The math is unforgiving; if you love a dog, you will lose a dog, and you will suffer the pain and biting lessons that death brings — probably several times over.
This is my obituary, and a shout-out to dog-lovers: Keep loving those dogs.
Thanks for looking,