Meet Sable, a mixed-breed dog who had the coloring of a Corgi, the body of a husky, and the demeanor of whatever breed is the calmest. We lost her ten years ago this past March, but I still think about her at times, and those memories bring laughter, smiles, and still tears.
How she came to be ours is not an exceptional story. Our youngest son wanted a dog for his tenth birthday, and we heard about a family that had puppies to give away. If I remember correctly, there were five puppies in the litter. My two sons and I went to pick out a pup, and when we saw the runt of the litter sitting back while the bigger pups got all the food, we were unanimous in our decision. It had to be the lighter-colored, sweet-faced gal instead of the larger, mostly black brothers.
She was so tiny, and she was shaking as Kevin held her on the ride home. Cautious in nature, she didn’t run around in the house an explore, and I didn’t want to put her outside in the pen with the dog house that first night, so we barricaded off a corner in the dining room with chairs and lined the floor with puppy pads. I just knew she would escape the chairs and pee and poop all over the house that night, but when we got up the next morning, there she was, still curled up in the corner, with no sign of night-time explorations.
I knew then we had a special dog.
As she grew up, she was an outdoor dog by day and slept inside at night. I never–I repeat, never–had to do anything to house train her. She trained herself. She stayed in her pen while we were gone and played outside with the boys when they were home. We never allowed her on our furniture (our sons allowed her on their beds and even encouraged it, but that was behind my back), so she never tried.
You could set a plate full of food on the floor, and she wouldn’t touch it. We even tried to see if she’d eat food off the plate if we weren’t in the room. We’d peek around the corner, and she wouldn’t go near it. Sometimes we’d push the plate at her, and she’d back away from it. Put that same food in her dog bowl or outside on the concrete, and she’d eat it. Maybe she was afraid of the plate, but I like to think she knew we wouldn’t like it if she ate off of our plates or out of our bowls.
I’m a faithful walker, so she became my walking companion. At first, I used a leash, but at certain spots, I’d take her off the leash. I soon learned there was no need of a leash. If a car was coming, I’d simply say, “Sable, over,” and she’d get over on the grass until the car passed. She stayed right with me, never straying more than ten feet from me, never chasing cars, never bothering people who passed by us. Dogs running loose in our neighborhood would run at us, barking, and she’d either ignore them or stare them down until they left us alone. She never fought with them. She just had this…attitude that asserted her dominion over them. Our neighbor called her the queen of the neighborhood.
We didn’t have any part of our yard fenced in when she was alive, but we eventually allowed her to stay outside of her pen. She stayed in the yard, usually on our back deck or our front porch. She never left, and the only thing she ever barked at were the occasional horses that went by. Yes, we live in a rural area and some neighbors not far away used to ride by fairly often. As time went on and she got older, we even left her out in the yard instead of in the house or in her pen while we were gone. I guess, looking back, it was a chance we took and were lucky she was not hit by a car, but the thing is she never went to the road. Our house sits 100 feet back from the road, but still, most dogs would be off exploring, right?
When she waned to come inside, she never scratched at the door or barked. Instead, she stood outside and made a huffing sound.
Time marched on. Before we knew it, she was a permanent inside-the-house dog, or an-out-in-the-yard dog instead of a penned-up dog. She wandered occasionally to the next door neighbor’s yard, but for the most part, she stayed close. The most dog-like things she ever did were digging holes under the deck or under her doghouse and lying in the cool dirt and digging holes to bury things.
She did so many funny things. Like the time she got under my mother’s bed at her house and the hardwood floor was so slick, it was like she was on ice trying to get out. She loved to ride in the car. One morning Kevin was leaving for school and realized he forgot something. He came back in the house to get it and when he got to his car, she was sitting in it and refused to get out. She weighed about fifty pounds, and he didn’t want to pick her up and get dog hair all over him before school, so he drove her around the block, brought her back, and let her out. She got what she wanted.
My sons grew up, went to college, did their thing, and Sable remained. I talked to her, cried to her, shared front-porch sitting time with her, walked with her. She went from being our son’s dog to being our family’s dog. She filled the empty spaces in our home with our sons being gone, and her attachment to us was as strong as our attachment to her.
I can honestly say that losing her was heartbreaking. It wasn’t a matter of being sad a few days and moving on. When we lost her to acute pancreatitis just one day shy of our youngest son’s twenty-first birthday, we grieved as though we’d lost a family member, which to us we had. We had her for eleven years, and so many memories of those years are tied up with her.
Those of you who are dog-lovers can relate to this, I am sure. And I’m sure that, to you, your have or have had the best dog ever. My sons have their own dogs now, and I love them in a special way, but of course, they’re not mine like Sable was. Well, I mean, she was ours. She belonged to all of us, and we all belonged to her.
Yesterday afternoon, I sat on the rocker on my front porch and flashed back to the countless hours I did that with her. I fantasized about getting another dog, maybe a German shepherd or a mixed-breed that looks like one, and I wondered if that dog would be like her, one I could trust to stay by me on the porch and not run into the road, one that never chewed up anything, not even as a puppy, and one that would listen to me talk about what was on my mind.
Maybe someday I’ll get another dog, and I’m sure that, in time, I will love her (I only want a female) just as I loved Sable. Not in the same way, of course, but love nevertheless. And if I do get that dog, she will have unique traits that I will appreciate, behaviors that will make me smile, and her own personality that will make her special.
But whether I do or not, there is one thing of which I am sure. There will never be another Sable. She was truly special.