Home > Family, FTIAT, Guest blogger, Health, Love > FTIAT: Mama and that Old Brown Dog

FTIAT: Mama and that Old Brown Dog

Lynda (If Only She Had Applied Herself) makes me laugh so often and so loud via her Facebook page, it’s easy for me to forget how much can be concealed by humor.

That all’s my fancy way of saying, “I made the mistake of first reading this post while walking to the grocery store, without a single tissue on hand.” I’d recommend you have a tissue or two on hand as you read, but that you also be prepared to laugh.

My favorite reads are those that call forth tears and laughter alike. It’s these that live longest in my heart. And, indeed, as long as my heart beats, this post will resound within it.

Recommended post: I hope you dance…and other cliches for my daughter

Mama and that Old Brown Dog

My mom hated dogs, and she was quick to give her reasons. They’re loud. They stink. They’re a waste of hard-earned money that should be spent on more important things like food and HBO. I never had a pet as a child, but I guess you don’t miss what you never had because it wasn’t a bone of contention with me. I didn’t ache for a puppy only to be denied by my frugal parents. No, I longed for Barbie dolls. They were much easier to care for anyway, and my Malibu Ken never once left a smelly surprise by the back door.

When 2005 rolled around, we decided to buy a larger home and move my elderly mother in with us. I worried about her being alone and defenseless in her small apartment. She was beginning to have a tough time with even the simple chores of bringing her grocery bags in from her car or toting around a laundry basket. It would be a mutually beneficial arrangement because in exchange for a safe, rent-free home for my mom live in, my 8-month-old daughter and 5-year-old son would get full access to their grandmother, and I would have someone in the kitchen who knew her ladle from a hole in the ground. Win-Win!

What my mother didn’t know was that I was secretly plotting to get a dog for my kids once we moved into the new home. We had a nice backyard with a tall privacy fence. Fido would have room to run and sunbathe and all would be right with the world. I scoured shelter websites looking for the perfect dog to rescue, but it was a daunting task. With so many homeless pups to choose from, we decided to take the family to a farm where the dogs were housed, meet the shelter director and let the dog pick us instead.

It was overwhelming…and loud…and it smelled foul. Dogs barked excitedly and came at us from every direction. Each one met our arrival with a look in their eyes that screamed, “Please pick me,” and I wasn’t prepared for the feeling of sadness in knowing that only one would be going home with us that day. Tiny dogs and big dogs alike clamored for our attention…all except for one. He was an older, non-descript, brown dog that stood off to the side making a noise that was not quite a howl and not quite a bark. It was more a like a scolding for the other dogs that seemed to say, “Settle down, you fools! Don’t you know we have company?”

I liked that brown dog. He wasn’t jumpy or desperate. When I asked the director about his story, she said he didn’t really have one. A Good Samaritan found him by the side of a road and rescued him – no drama, just a plain, brown dog. That was good enough for me, and from a pool of nearly fifty dogs, we decided that laid-back Benji would be coming home with us.

“You mean you’re KEEPING that, that…DOG?”

My mom was less than thrilled with our new four-legged housemate. She scolded him for barking and for daring to laze around on a sofa that was deemed a “No Dog Zone.” She proclaimed her utter disdain for having a mutt inside the house to anyone who would listen to her. She protested even further as we added two more dogs along the way, but although she would never admit it, I could see a soft spot growing for Benji. Being an older dog, he wasn’t interested in the wrestling matches and stair races that kept our other pets busy. There were many evenings when the chaos of our house filled with five people and three dogs became too much for my mom and Benji, and I would find them hiding out in her room watching Law and Order reruns, my mom in her recliner and Benji at her feet. They had a lot in common, those two.

In early June of 2008, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and died two and a half months later. For weeks after her death, I would find Benji in her room alone, once again escaping the noise and drama of the day. He seemed to miss his crime-show-watching partner, pacing around the room while sniffing every square inch. His quiet place would never be the same.

Benji became the grandfather dog of the house in the years after my mom died. His face turned gray and his walk up the stairs became slower, shakier. He no longer raced to lap up crumbs from around the dinner table, preferring to sit in the background while the younger dogs fought over scraps. He would bark to go outside only to turn around and immediately bark to go back inside. (We decided that elderly dogs must suffer from dementia like elderly humans.) His hearing was nearly gone and his eyesight wasn’t too far behind.

After a weekend out of town, we came home last month to find that Benji’s health had taken a catastrophic turn for the worse while we were away. He could barely walk and every breath was a struggle. The vet counseled us as he gently broke the news that he couldn’t fix that Brown Dog our family loved so much. As we huddled around Benji in the exam room, we stroked his coarse coat and told him how much we would miss him…and then he was gone.

I always joked that Benji took my mom’s place as the senior citizen of the house. It just feels wrong for them both to be gone now. The loss of my mother brought heart-wrenching pain, but I’m glad that my children had so much time with her before she left us. If there is any silver lining to such a horrible black cloud of enduring the sickness and death of a loved one, it’s that I know my children learned an important lesson: We MUST take care of each other. Loving and caring for someone (human or critter) even when it’s hard, even when you want to scream and run away, even when you can’t make it better is a legacy that I have left to my children. They know that we are in this for the long run. I will love them and take care of them to the moon and back. I am certain that when my day comes, they will also do the same for me.

It’s the circle of life, and for this I am thankful.

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Categories: Family, FTIAT, Guest blogger, Health, Love Tags: ,
  1. August 31, 2012 at 3:39 am

    Not laughing, crying. A truly beautiful post which hit home. Thank you.

  2. Lani
    August 31, 2012 at 5:20 am

    WOW!! So beautifully written, as always Lynda. Thank you for sharing and reminding of us of this truth!

  3. August 31, 2012 at 5:55 am

    Tears, and smiles, and a very warm place in my heart, for the ENTIRE “cast of characters” in this post. Lovely, lovely, lovely, Lynda!

  4. August 31, 2012 at 6:23 am

    A very touching story well told. Thank you.

  5. August 31, 2012 at 6:36 am

    I am so glad I read this morning. As I prepare to cross the bridge from Bellevue to Seattle and take on the role I have been dreading, this was a much needed reminder to do so with an open heart, compassion and kindness.

  6. August 31, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Beautiful. I was already planning to write about my dad today. I’m so thankful to have found you in this online world. Hugs.

  7. Natalie
    August 31, 2012 at 6:52 am

    I’ve never read your blog before, but I’m glad I read this posting. I know each feeling. It’s happened in the past, and it happened just this year. God, what a tough year…but we endure. Thanks for the cry; we need them, sometimes.

  8. August 31, 2012 at 8:11 am

    I love and needed this. Thank you.

  9. John Erickson
    August 31, 2012 at 11:55 am

    The only time I’ve ever seen my tough-as-nails father cry was when our first dog had to be put down. We had another dog after him, and I’ve had four more pass as members of our (my wife and I’s) family. Despite the pain, they are a great blessing.
    And I had a similar reaction to your mother’s when we got our first cat – compliments of the kitten’s mother slipping into our house, dropping the kitten in the middle of our living room, and slipping back out. My wife had spent a lot of time with cats growing up, but I had no use for them. Self-centered, messy, noisy things. Yep, they are definitely messy, noisy things – all seven of ours! 😉
    A wonderful post, Lynda.

  10. August 31, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Thank you all so very much for reading!

  11. August 31, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    I hope your mama and my mama have made each others’ acquaintance up in heaven. I think they’re proud of their daughters.

    • August 31, 2012 at 7:54 pm

      I think so, too!! ❤

  12. August 31, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Oh Lynda. ♥ ♥ ♥

    While I was indeed reading this through a mist of unshed tears the bigger, more important feelings that came over me were ones of warmth and love. I bet your Benji and my Schmu are curled up together right now. Much love to all of you.

  13. September 10, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Thank you, Lynda, for a beautiful post. It makes me miss my mom and my old brown dog Sam.

  1. August 31, 2012 at 3:54 am
  2. September 14, 2012 at 5:32 am

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