Canine Care

By Sam Jacobs

It was seven o’clock at night in March of 2007. I’d just returned home from my friend’s ice skating performance, I walked through the front door and all of sudden there was this crazy animal jumping on me. I knew ahead of time that my family was going to get a dog, but I wasn’t expecting it to be at the time. I had my back pressed up against the wall as I was screaming and trying to tell her to get off. She eventually did and I hid in my room for the rest of the night. That next day, a hyper little puppy and a nine year old girl became best friends. 

Her name was Laney, she was a black lab, with the most beautiful brown eyes and she literally shed her hair everywhere in my house. The vacuum was filled with black hair and my family and I knew exactly whose hair it was. It was not a good idea to wear anything white or you’d be a Laney hair magnet. I didn’t know having a dog would be so much work. I understood why people would compare them to children because it’s so true. You have to clean up after them, feed them, and you have to give them baths, but you also get to love them in a way that you probably never loved something or someone before. 

She was such a happy dog, always full of energy and yet well behaved dog. She would listen to what someone said. A lot of dogs would not drop the ball when their owner says to drop it, but Laney did what we would say and it made life so much easier. She would sit when we told her to and if she didn’t listen, we would do a hand position, which means to sit in dog language and then she would sit. She was already trained when we got her. She was “potty trained,” knowing how to poop in the woods and not in the yard. She didn’t rip up and destroy my house or my car like puppies most likely do. The only thing she would rip up were her favorite stuffed animal dog toys because she just loved them a little too much. Every year on Christmas, she would get a present from Santa, it would always be a stuffed squeaky animal toy. By the end of the night, we would find pieces of stuffing scattered around the house, making a trail leading to where she finally decided she needed to take a nap after a long day of ripping up her present. 

I didn’t think an animal would mean so much to me until I realized that she knew me better than I knew myself. Even though she couldn’t talk, I would talk to her and she would respond with an eye roll or I can sense what she’s saying. She would always be waiting for me at the door when I got home from school, or if I was having a bad day she could sense it and come over to me, putting her head on my lap letting me know she was there. I remember one time I came home from school, crying my eyes out and ran into the living room. She was laying on her tan, camo dog bed and looked up at me as if she was telling me to come over. I ran over to her, sat down and hugged her and cried, told her what had happened and it made me feel much better. I know she was listening, she knew I was sad and started to lick my face, her way of giving kisses.

While she was a puppy, all she wanted to do was play with the other dogs in the neighborhood. Our neighborhood is kind of like a circle, so she would make her way around the circle and stop to say hi to the neighbors outside. She did this almost everyday. It was like part of her daily routine and it was her time to exercise. When she would come home, we would find little treats stuffed in her collar from the neighbors. We didn’t know who had given her the treats but we were so happy that everyone around us loved her as much as we did. Another one of her favorite things to do was to swim in the lake at Shaw Park in Gorham. There were always other dogs there so she was the happiest dog in the world. My brother and I would throw sticks into the water and watch her get all excited, with her tail wagging with joy about playing fetch and getting cooled off in the water.  

In 2011, she ended up tearing her ACL in her left leg, which required surgery and her leg being in a cast, having to sleep in a cage in my parents room because if she had to use the bathroom, we would have to help with a sling outside. I felt so bad for her. She was in pain and all we could do is give her medicine and love. When her leg healed, a year later, she ended tearing her ACL in her right leg, having surgery again. After that, she wanted to play but she couldn’t because her legs were just giving up on her. 

It was the beginning of 2020 when we started to notice changes in her. From being non-stop moving to wanting to lay on her bed and stare out the window wishing she had the energy to do what she wanted to do. I would help her outside and go to the front yard with a blanket and enjoy the nice fresh air with her next to me doing homework. 

  She had turned thirteen on March 23, 2020 and it was when my family went camping sometime in May, we noticed that she barely had moved all weekend. She couldn’t walk down the three steps from the camper to the ground, my dad had to pick her up and put her in his truck and that’s when we were ready to look at the next best choice for our family and for Laney. My family had her for thirteen years, she was part of our squad, she was my shoulder to cry on and the one would brighten up the room with her puppy smile and wagging tale. When we got her, my parents had sat my brother and I down and told us that we needed to know that Laney wouldn’t live forever, that a black lab’s life-span is approximately ten to twelve years. I then looked at my dad and said, “So when I’m twenty one, she’s going to die?” We were very fortunate and grateful to have had her for thirteen amazing years. The last few years, she was getting old, her legs were really giving out on her and she didn’t want to do anything but she was always happy because she was around the people she loved.

I was so lucky to have her for thirteen years of my life, I’m also thankful that I had my son (Carter) when I did because she got to meet him and spent the first two years of his life and they were best friends even before he was born. She knew I was pregnant before I knew I was! She would always come over to me and sniff my belly as if she was looking for something, she would lick and look at me and I just couldn’t figure out what it was until I found I was pregnant and I remember she came over to me and I looked at her and said “You knew it, didn’t you?” And she licks my belly then my face and gives me her sassy eye roll. Carter loved Laney probably more than I did, honestly. He would “play” with his cars with her and drive them on her body, she would lick his face and he would laugh so hard he couldn’t breathe. His first word, besides “mama,” was “Laney,” he would always run up to her and kiss her, he would say, “I love my Laney”. I had taken as many videos and photos of them because I wanted Carter to remember her as he got older, how protected she was of him, sometimes it seems like she was the mother. When Carter was a newborn, I would lay him on his boppy and she would sit right in front of him, like she was his guard to keep him safe.

May 31, 2020 was the last full day of her living her best life. All the neighbors and her doggy friends, our family members, and friends had come over to say their goodbyes and the love that she had gotten that day, was so powerful, she was so happy to see everyone, her tail wagged all day long. Yes, it was sad and I couldn’t stop crying but it was time to set her pain free because we knew that’s what she wanted. June 1st, we dropped my son off at my grandmothers, had him say goodbye to Laney, even though he didn’t know what was happening because he was only two years old. We went to the animal hospital and I had started crying the time I woke up that morning so I was already in tears when we got there. The nurse came and got us and walked through the doors, while holding on to the Laney by her leash. She always hated that thing, she never wore it at home or around the neighborhood because she knew if she saw a car, unless it was one of our cars, to go to the side of the road. We got into the room and they had a pink blanket spread out on the floor for her to lay down. We all sat around her and the doctor was telling us the process that is going to be done, but I really don’t think anyone was listening because all of our minds were somewhere else. They had injected something that made her feel comfortable and to have her fall asleep, as soon as she was asleep they injected the stuff that made her pain free. As she was falling asleep, my parents, my brother and I were all telling her how much we love her and that she was the best dog we’ve ever had. How we would never forget about her and always keep her with us, we will never find another like her again. 

Pet love is the one of the best kinds of love because it’s just like family love. Laney became one of us and we loved her for who she was and how she wanted to make us happy and you could definitely see her personality. Every time I would make a sandwich, she would always be right next to me, waiting for me to let her lick the spoon full of peanut butter. She had her own routine and always slept in my parents room; in the morning she didn’t come down to the living room until 8am and she would go upstairs to bed at 7pm. She was a good ‘ole lady and I miss her everyday. Every so often Carter will be like, “Where’s my Laney?” And luckily he had found a stuffed animal that looked just like the real Laney two days after, calling it his Laney; he sleeps with it every night and brings it to daycare every day. 

She was so full of positivity and loved everyone no matter who you were. After she passed, we got her cremated. We printed pictures of her and the family and hung them on a wall with a shelf that had her ashes in a box on it. My brother and I got little keychains that we put tubes of her ashes on it so she is with us everywhere we go. I have mine hanging in my car because that’s where we had the most fun together, were car rides. Having the windows rolled down and her head out the window with her tongue flapping around, jamming out to some music. I feel like ever since I have put that keychain in my car, I feel her spirit in me. I’ve felt more positive about certain things in life. There was this one day where it was going so bad, I was having the worst morning, I was crying on the way to work and I held the keychain in my hands and said, “Laney, if you’re listening, I really wish you were here right now because I just need my best friend.” And then, I am not joking, I look up in the sky and I see a cloud, shaped like a dog. And I had to pull over because I bursted into tears, I knew she was listening and that sign made me believe it. I will always love this dog, I will keep reminding Carter about his Laney for the rest of his life. She will always be part of my life, and I never ever forget her. I love her so much and I know she’s here with us in spirit. Forever and always Laney girl.

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