Wednesday, January 11, 2017


A man who lives a long life, will own many dogs, and as the years roll on he will often pass a dog in a park or on a long walk, and in that dog he will see a familiar face, a remembered look, or a recognized bark. And as he walks by, that dog will return a glancing look as if to say "I remember you, do you remember me?"

Madison Aurora Mercedes 2001-2016
In the late spring of 2001 I adopted a 4 month old AKC Registered Black Labrador Retriever, she was from a Championship Blood Line. Yet, I paid the local breeder only $40.00; just enough to cover her first vet visit and shots. You see the breeder had pre sold "yellow labs" from a proven Yellow mother and Yellow father, but when the litter arrived they were are all black, 9 beautiful Black Lab puppies. It happens, but normally Yellow parents mean Yellow pups. Sadly, most of the buyers only wanted a Yellow dog and demanded a full refund of their deposit.

Which meant the breeder had a house full of 9 playful pups, growing bigger by the day into big black dogs.

Even at the shelter black dogs are the always the last to find homes.

For the next three years Madison rode "shot gun" everywhere. Only when work started taking me to Charleston for days at a time did she stay behind. She would later team up with two other adopted Labs, Abby and Callie. But Madison was always the leader to the younger two. Kind and tolerant, crazy smart, full of energy and always ready to lead the way and go for a run.

“People love dogs. This is, I hope, the least surprising sentence you will read in this book. I myself have had long discussions with my dog friends, and by that I mean my friends who are dogs.”  - Bill Nye

Madison AKA @myweatherdog on twitter, CP's weather tweeting sidekick was often the basis for the crazy doggie humor posted between more serious weather notes and updates.

Early last year her stride began to slow and the once steady 70 pounds of puppy playfulness began to fade. As the vet explained to me, "she's nearly 16 and that's 5 years past her expiration date".  The average life span of a Labrador Retriever is about 10 years.

At first it was the long stretch of stairs from the yard to the deck that she could no longer bound up at breakneck speed. Then is was the three steps at the front door. As fall arrived she would often get "stuck" in some far corner of the yard, but with some encouragement or a gentle pull on her collar she could get moving again.

By Halloween her appetite had waned and her tail no longer wagged. But she still wanted to run and a long slow walk wasn't totally out of the question, as long as she didn't have to walk back to the house.

From Thanksgiving on I would carry her outside to use the bathroom 3 or more times a day. Once on all fours she would wobble a little, but she would become a little more steady once she had forward motion. There were times that she thought she young again and she would try to jump over small things and even try to run, but her body wouldn't cooperate. So it was that she spent the last few weeks before Christmas, just laying on the deck in the sun, barking encouragement to Callie who would charge across the yard to let the deer on the golf course know they had been seen.

Sadly the front part of Madison worked fine but the back half was no longer cooperating and while the front half would get up but the back half would not follow. 

As her bladder began to fail she would have accidents, but I didn't mind. The 2 am bark to go out that once was a simple flip the lights on and open the door became an hour long process of carrying her out the front door and following along offering encouragement and leading her around the yard at painfully slow gait. At times she would fall over, or just "sink" into a pile of black fur on the sidewalk, and I'd pick her up and steady her till she could get moving again. Then I'd carry her back inside and softly place her on a rug on the kitchen floor so she could watch all that went on around her.

My goal was Christmas, if we could just make it to Christmas once more, I would tell myself. It wasn't really necessary since, when you have a Lab in the house, every day is Christmas. Every morning to a Lab is another joyous day, rain, snow, cold, hot, the sight of just a leash or food bowl was reason enough to jump for joy as if it were Christmas morning.

When I carried her into the vet's office a few days after Christmas she could barely hold her head up. It was time, even if I couldn't admit it to myself. Her vet Dr. Blair Smith was kind enough to stroke my arm, as I choked back the tears, and tell me it was ok. And in a moment Madison was gone.

“If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons. ”  - James Thurber

Mrs. Cedar and I live on a golf course with 2 dozen acres of wet lands beyond the groomed and manicured fairways. For 16 years Madison would race towards the sand traps on the golf course yet, dutifully stay clear as commanded, least she leave huge dog tracks in the pristine sand.

Madison with Abby close behind heading for the creek. Circa 2007
Madison loved running on the golf course and nothing in my life has ever given me the same joy as watching her unbridled love of running and diving head long into the water, or watching her vanish into the tall broom straw that defines the edge of the golf course and the start of the forest, with only her tail visible as she went into what I liked to call "full dog" mode.

So no better place to spread her ashes than the golf course.

Amazing what little remains of a cremated 70 pound dog.

So late in the afternoon Mrs. Cedar and I let her ashes gently fall into the sand trap behind our home. Finally, after all these years of saying no, she can play in the sand trap. The sand and her ashes blended seamlessly. Inside five minutes the small wooden box was empty. In the fading half-light as a winter day ends, we laugh, we cry, we walk hand and hand home without Madison.

And the joke will always be the same, from now on whenever an unsuspecting golfer hits out of the bunker behind my home, we will be able to say "there goes Madison again" as free as the wind, drifting in and out of sight a never ending explosion of energy and joy.

“If there is a place in heaven for Labrador Retrievers (and I trust there is or I won't go) it'll have to have a brook right smack in the middle - a brook with little thin shoals for wading and splashing; a brook with deep, still pools where they can throw themselves headlong from the bank; a brook with lots of small sticks floating that can be retrieved back to shore where they belong; a brook with muskrats and muskrat holes; a brook with green herons and wood ducks; a brook that is never twice the same with surprises that run and swim and fly; a brook that is cold enough to make the man with the dog run like the devil away from his shaking; a brook with a fine spot to get muddy and a sunny spot or two to get dry.”  - Gene Hill


Anonymous said...

Once again your writing brings tears to my eyes. RIP.

Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful girl. RIP Madison.

Bob said...

Beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. What a great story. Love the "kicker" at the end.

Anonymous said...

She was a beautiful dog and I loved the weather dog. You were very lucky to have each other. I am so sorry for your loss.