It’s been three months now and I no longer cry every day, just most days.
It’s all about Luke, our sweet boxer/pit mix who we lost quite suddenly the beginning of May. He was supposed to be our temporary dog, but he turned out to be my boy and the best dog ever.
His beginnings were tough. Abandoned outside a shelter with mange, nursed back to health, adopted, then returned when family circumstances changed, our boy languished in the shelter for more than a year. He was cared for, certainly, but not loved exclusively until our daughter Becca came along. She volunteered at the shelter during her senior year and soon fell for the handsome fellow who brought her a toy each time he saw her and who sat on her lap when she visited in his pen. Soon she asked if we would take him until she graduated from college.
A dogless house so often feels empty, so I agreed readily and Becca and I finally convinced Joe that it would be a good idea. Shortly after, Becca got her job with Copperfield and we knew that Luke had become our forever dog but that was just fine with me. I don’t know if I could have given him over after he wormed his way into my heart.
That dog loved to be close. Recently I was looking back pictures of him and in most every one he is cuddled up to someone. When I broke my ankle, he was my constant companion but he thought all of my visitors were really there to see him. He greeted each with gusto and often leaped up on the couch right next to whomever had come to pay a call. When both Judy and Bette Lou came for an afternoon, they sat like bookends on either end of the couch. He jumped up and spread himself lengthwise between them — but as the afternoon wore on he apparently decided he liked Judy best and ended up completed draped across her, all 60 pounds of him.
He was like that. If he sat near you he would lift his paw into your hand. If I spread out papers to grade on the floor during my teaching days, he’d press his entire length next to my legs just to be near. He loved his couch that gave him a clear view of his front yard and anyone who sat next to him as he was peering out would soon get a doggy chin propped up on their shoulder. He was so friendly we often wondered what would happen if an unwanted stranger came in. Would he do his usual “I love you already!” tail wag and approach for some attention?
Actually, I think not. He was very protective, especially of me. Joe often enjoyed provoking him by putting his wet, cold hands up the back of my shirt after we washed dishes. Of course, I would squeal and Luke would come thundering from wherever he was in the house to lock his jaws gently around Joe’s arm. “I’m here, Joe,” he seemed to be saying as he locked his gaze on my husband. My guess is that “gently” might not apply to anyone outside of the family.
He loved our grandchildren and was so very gentle with them. Braiden and I often played hide-and-go-seek, but it was always Luke who found me first. One time I lay down on the far side of the bed, figuring my grandson would never find me there. Luke hopped up onto the bed and when he saw me there he leaped down, grabbed my arm, and tried to pull me out. It took some convincing to make him realize I was only playing. Yet, when he caught on, he loved to join in on the game. One of my favorite times was when we did hide-and-go-seek partners. It was Becca and Braiden versus Luke and me!
He knew what was his and what wasn’t. He never touched the kids’ toys or bothered anything of ours, but if it was in his backyard, it was fair game. One time Joe was fixing some gutters and accidentally dropped one. Luke took it, shook it, chewed it, ran around with it, and was very proud of his new acquisition. Speaking of the backyard and shaking, we used to have a groundhog problem until Luke came into the picture. One day he caught one, did his victory dance around the backyard, and we never saw another!
The only damage he did in the house was to the couch. It really wasn’t his fault. You see, whereas most dogs, when given a treat, eat it, Luke would celebrate it. He would toss it up in the air, kick it, chase it, and on one particular day he knocked it under the couch. He took his tremendous pit jaws, locked them onto the front of the couch, and pulled the entire piece of furniture out to regain his prize. Afterward he knew he was in trouble, so from that time on he would get his treat, go to the “chasing room,” and bark until I came in and tried to get it away from him. Often when the game was over he would just leave it, only to come back and devour it later in the day.
Yes, he’s left a tremendous hole in my heart. He was a shelter dog who knew he’d been rescued and was ever so grateful, ever so faithful, ever so wonderful.
If you want to change a life, save a shelter dog. I know my darling Luke changed mine.
Pat Gorske Price graduated from Oberlin High School and taught English and drama there for 12 years. In retirement she continues to enjoy writing and theater. Comments can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org.