The last word on the dog

Our dog Shalaya still hasn’t forgiven us for this photo.

You’re so lucky here in Idaho, because you haven’t heard all our stories about our dog.

You weren’t at our house in Oregon when my wife insisted our black lab retriever perform her tricks for you, whether you wanted to see them or not.

Here in Idaho, you probably haven’t heard about her magnificent sniffer, known for its ability to find tennis balls hidden clear on the other side of the house.

You probably don’t know about her legendary eating habits, and how her subversive diet would have killed more mortal dogs. This is a dog that ate entire loaves of bread when we weren’t looking – more than once. This is a dog that carried a large butcher knife in her mouth and once tried to chew through an unopened can of chili, turning it into a twisted mass of metal. Amazingly, she did both without losing a drop of blood.

In one of her rare displays of aggression, she broke our large picture window going after the paperboy – most likely because she thought he had Doritos on his person. As for the paperboy, I’m not sure he ever came back. Again, the dog escaped with a minor scratch on her paw.

Shalaya (Shuh-LAY-uh) made us pay if we left the house and forgot to put the garbage can up. More than once, we would come home and find piles of wet garbage strewn through the living room.

I bristled at first when my wife referred to me as the dad to the dog. “Do you want dad to take you for a walk,” she would speak to the dog in a syrupy voice.

“I didn’t help conceive her,” I told her with a smile. It’s not like dogs are people.

There was a time when our dog walked everywhere with me, tugging at her leash with her body corkscrewing every time she saw a cat or a bird.

As she grew older and her body began hurting more, those walks decreased in length until they lasted less than five minutes in duration. During those last few months with me, Shalaya would walk slowly around the block, limping along the way. As she approached the front of our house, the leash stiffened. She knew she was home.

She was the best friend of an autistic boy that we know. When his father died unexpectedly in his sleep, we brought the boy to our house later that morning. As he sat with no expression on the couch, the dog walked over and put her head on his lap.

Somehow she knew.

I think it was for that reason that we could never smell her perpetual dog smell, we allowed her to sleep with Mrs. Henneke and me and turn the backyard into her personal poop minefield.

Only a few weeks ago, the moving truck was loaded and it as time for us to move to Rexburg. Even though we had hours to drive that night, I walked over and sat down next to my dog watching us from the front porch. It was time for Dad to say good-bye.

I’m not embarrassed to say that I talked to her or that I believe she listened to me. My 14-year-old son took his turn before he left, also speaking to her while stroking her fur.

She’s only been a gone a day after we had her put to sleep on Friday. Old age was finally too much for her. When she couldn’t climb on the bed anymore or get in the car for a cherished ride, we knew it was time.

I won’t ever forget watching my 14-year-old son retrieve his camera Thursday night, purposely loaded with pictures of our dog.

I sat next to him on the couch as he clicked through each one. As we shared memories, tears came to us both. To hear him talk you would know without a doubt how special she was, that she was more than just a dog.

So listen up, pooch, wherever you are in heaven. Stop eating peanut butter from the cafeteria Dumpster long enough to hear this.

Your dad says thank you.

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