Soon after my husband and I moved with our three young sons to a small Ohio
town, one of God's most precious creatures found her way to us.
She was a shiny black Labrador Retriever, perfect in every way, except for the
absence of a tail. She was beautifully trained and, since her coat and footpads
showed no signs of wear or hard living, I assumed she'd just recently gotten
away from her owner.
I advertised in every local paper, and checked with all the vets in the area,
for surely someone was grieving her loss! I leashed her and took her for long
walks, hoping she'd find her way home. The only thing she found was the scent of
a few rabbits that had earlier crossed our path!
When it became clear that we weren't going to find her owner, my boys began the
delicate process of choosing her name. After much deliberation, it was selected
-- Pooch. I thought such a sleek, elegant canine deserved a more suitable name,
but I was resoundingly outvoted.
Since she was a stray, our vet had no way of determining if she'd been born
without a tail, lost it in an accident, or had it surgically removed, nor would
When Pooch found us, she was young, although not quite a puppy. As my boys grew,
she matured along with them. She played ball, absorbed their tears, kept them
warm, and tolerated the gradual addition of three cats to the household.
She saved also our lives. One day, while my husband was at work, my sons and I
went upstairs to take naps. Pooch usually joined us, being careful to share
herself equally between my bed and the boys'. But on this day, she wouldn't
settle down, and persisted in jumping on my bed, head-butting me, and pushing
her cold nose forcefully into my hand. When I didn't get up, she began barking.
Not wanting her to awaken the boys, I followed her downstairs, as she seemed to
want me to do. In the kitchen, I found the pilot light on our ancient stove had
gone out, slowly filling the house with deadly gas!
She never understood that she was a seventy-five pound dog. When a cat sat on
the deep windowsills of our big old Victorian house, Pooch tried to do the same.
When a cat dozed on the arm of the sofa, Pooch attempted to do likewise, with
predictable (and hilarious) results. I tried not to let her see me laugh, for
she had great dignity and would have been humiliated. She thought she was a lap
dog, and would curl herself up into the smallest possible configuration as I sat
reading, my legs falling quickly asleep from her weight.
Years passed, and our sons graduated from high school, went on to college out of
state, and moved on with their lives. Pooch remained with me, my faithful
companion and steadfast provider of vast quantities of unconditional love.
Gradually, she began having difficulty walking, and her eyesight began to fade.
Over time, the vet and I had frequent talks, constantly re-evaluating her
condition because we wanted her to live as long as possible, yet not to suffer
or be in pain.
Eventually, when she was fifteen, the time came for the vet and me to have the
talk that no pet owner ever wants to experience, about a decision no pet lover
ever wants to make.
I went home and brought each of the cats to her to say their goodbyes. I curled
up next to her and had a long talk with her. I thanked her for all the joy she
had brought to us, for being a hero and saving our lives, and I told her how
very much we loved her. Between sobs, I said, "I really don't want to have to do
I wrapped her in her favorite blanket and we got into the back seat of a
friend's car for our last ride together. I talked to her all the way, petting
her beautiful, regal head and hugging her tight against me.
I know the exact moment that her spirit left her body with a sigh.
I carried her into the vet's office and said, "She's already gone."
The vet put a stethoscope to her chest and confirmed what I already knew.
The vet told me, "She knew you didn't want to have to do this, so she made it
easy for you... she always was a good dog."
-- Bobbi Hahn