Daisy was a member of the family

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When my daughter, Emma, turned 9 (she’s now 20), she asked for only one thing — a yellow Lab puppy. She had been reading about Labs in library books for weeks, and she knew this was the dog for her.

I tried to talk her into a shelter dog, but it had to be a yellow Lab. And I knew from experience that Labs were great with kids, so this dad just couldn’t disappoint his daughter.

That’s how, in August 1998, we got Daisy. Emma cradled her for two hours on the way home from the breeder.

For several years, Emma’s life revolved around Daisy. She crate-trained her, house-trained her and took her to obedience school.

For three consecutive years Daisy won trophies and blue ribbons at the local county fair. The awards still hang in Emma’s bedroom.

Family dog

As Emma got older and developed other interests, Daisy became more of a family dog. She enjoyed spending time with whom ever was around the house and always enjoyed her daily walks in the woods and fields.

She clearly understood the phrase, “Go for a walk?” And never did she ever wander away from the yard. She was the perfect dog.

By the time Emma left for college two years ago, Daisy was showing signs of age. Her muzzle grew grizzled, and she had trouble keeping up with Pip, our other dog, a little Jack Russell/Chihuahua mutt.

Last summer after we returned from vacation in mid-August, we took both dogs to the vet for their annual check up.

After a cursory exam, he said he’d like to take some X-rays of Daisy. His tone was ominously serious.

Tumor

When he returned 10 minutes later, he said, “I hate to tell you this because I love Labs too, but Daisy has a massive tumor. It’s cancer. She has days, weeks or possibly a few months. All you can really do is make her last days comfortable.”

This news came about a week before Emma was due to return to school for her sophomore year, so she made plenty of time for Daisy. We all did.

Five days after the fateful visit to the vet, Emma was busy packing to return to college the next day. Later that afternoon she and my wife took a walk while I did some yard work. Daisy and Pip stayed with me in the backyard.

After a while, I noticed that Daisy had slipped out of sight. That’s when I heard a sound I had never heard before, and I hope I never hear again.

It was a loud, pained, bleating cry coming from the front of the house. I thought a neighbor’s calf had gotten loose and was on the road calling its mother.

Dying

I ran to the front yard, and there sat Daisy making what I can only describe as a death cry. She was slobbering profusely, and the lenses of her eyes were cloudy. She was blind and dying. It was the first time I’d ever watched an animal die a natural death.

At that very moment Linda and Emma came into view as they returned from their walk. I called to them and quickly explained what was happening.

We carried Daisy to a shady spot of soft grass, held her, and through buckets of tears, watched Daisy fade away. In a matter of minutes, she was gone. She gave us 10 wonderful years.

Daisy was family

It may sound silly if you’ve never had a special pet, but Daisy was family. We wrapped her in a sheet and buried her in the field below the house. We reminisced about our favorite memories of Daisy. Even now, a year later, it’s difficult to tell the story.

Pip

Meanwhile, Pip was curious about what was going on, but he seemed unconcerned. He did not understand Daisy’s lifeless body. He didn’t know it yet, but he had lost his best friend and sleeping companion.

Daisy and Pip had always slept on their pillow in the living room. Because he had never slept alone, my wife and I let Pip in the bedroom that night. He’s been sleeping there ever since.

About the Author

Scott Shalaway, who holds a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from Michigan State University, writes from his home in rural West Virginia. A former faculty member at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Biological Station, he has been writing a weekly nature column for newspapers and freelancing for magazines since 1986. Send questions and comments to scottshalaway@gmail.com. You can also visit his Web site, http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com. More Stories by Scott Shalaway

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