I walked to the cabin today, alone. First time. Ever. And to get the newspaper; and to visit the donkeys and up to bed – unnaturally alone. I automatically shut the livingroom door then realized there was no need. I’ve done that ten times. When I come out of my room in the dark, I veer to the left, but there is no need. There was no one sleeping there. I went to town with the strangest feeling just walking out and came home feeling even stranger when there was my arrival went unnoticed.
I knew I’d miss her. I wasn’t prepared for quite THIS much. I see her everywhere – every square in of this place - inside and out. Every way I turn I see a snapshot in my head with her in it. I hear the jingle of her collar and last night, I was sure I heard her bark. I walk around alone and I can hardly stand it. I have an uncontrollable urge to go to her and plead ‘Wake UP, Abby – you HAVE to wake up!’
It’s likely worse because Brian is gone for the week and I don’t do ‘alone’ all that well. I’ve never had to, I had her. I hardly took a step that she wasn’t in the picture somewhere. Sometimes it was an enthusiastic ‘Wait for me, wait for me! I’m coming!’. Often it was just her quiet presence in the background, my silent guard, my shadow of almost fourteen years.
December 4th, 1997 is when she came to be with us. The house was still filled with the noise and chaos of children and teenagers. The yard was filled with chickens & goats & cats & horses & pigs & donkeys and a menagerie of other critters that came and went. All that’s left now are my geriatric long-eared friends and one feral cat that we’ve been feeding for eight years who still refuses to let me touch her.
She got us through the transition of the empty nest. We still got to keep a ‘child’. Someone still to fuss about and fuss over. Being an ‘only child’, it probably was a little bit ridiculous how much fussing that entailed. We would turn the television on for her when we left, so she wouldn’t be lonely. She’s been deaf for at least a year, but we would still have a discussion about what program she’d want on. I’d insist that she didn’t LIKE golf – it was too slow and boring; Brian would say ‘sure she does, she loves sports.’ ‘No. She likes CHICK stuff.’ I’d tell him. More times than I can count, when I’d get in bed, Brian would say ‘Is Abby in?’ I’d say: ‘Really... has Abby EVER spent one night her entire life outside – why wouldn’t she not be in tonight?'
I’d be a little bit put out when Brian was away and he’d call home and only ask how Abby was. I asked why he never asked about the kids, just the dog. He said ‘Well, I KNOW you’ll look after the kids.’ Like as IF I wouldn't look after the dog too. He always fussed and worried about her. He said ‘You know, I could stay in Newfoundland for months if it weren’t for missing Abby.’ I say ‘What about the kids?’ His reply was that he could talk to them, and they’d know he’d be coming back. One night, a number of years ago, she was sick had climbed onto our bed. In the middle of the night when I got up, I tripped over Brian laying on the floor at the end of the bed. ‘What are you doing?’ I asked. He said ‘I didn’t want to disturb Abby when she’s not feeling good.’ was his answer.
Abby came to be with us on December 4th, 1997. There was teacher’s strike at the time and the government had sent families with children in elementary school $400 for the inconvenience of child care. I was leaving for a week long sculpting class in Montana early in the morning on December 5th. It was after supper when we were reading the newspaper and saw an advertisement: “Airedale puppies: $400.” That was about half the usual price because she was unregistered. 'Papers' aren't a pre-requisite for love in our house.
We had made it through the grief of losing our beloved Airedale, Bobbi Jo, in June and we were not coping very well with having no dog. We ignored the lateness of the evening, the impracticality of me leaving the next morning, Christmas in three weeks and the challenges of trying to train a puppy in the winter. We happened to have four hundred dollars that had come unexpectedly, so surely it was a sign. We loaded the four kids in the car and headed off for the hour drive to look at the puppies, knowing full well that there would not be a chance of us coming home without one.
We brought her home and she sat on my bed while I packed my suitcase. We talked about what we would call her and decided on ‘Montana’ because of my trip. I felt a little guilty leaving them all for a week with a new pup, but they managed fine and she had lots of attention. When I arrived home and got to know her, it was quite apparent that her name wasn’t to be Montana. It just didn’t suit her. We tried ‘Striker’ for awhile, because of how we got her, but that didn’t fit either. It was into her third week of really having no identity, when her name presented itself. She was fun and silly and did crazy things all the time. I went out to Brian’s shop and said: “That dog is just not normal. I know her name. It’s Abby. Abby-Normal.”
And hence she was our Abby. Our big beautiful, sweet and gentle friend. The time with her went far too quickly, as time always does. I wasn’t ready to let her go, but of course, I never would have been. We are never ready to say good-bye to our dear friends.