Saturday, April 21, 2012

A loving farewell to my best friend

Disney, a 10 1/2-year-old black Labrador,
was a great companion.
I lost my best friend recently.
We watched a lot of TV, hung out on our deck, played ball, went for walks together. And she loved it when I rubbed her belly.
The best part? My wife didn’t mind it a bit.
My best friend was Disney, our 10½-year-old black Labrador mix whom we had to put down suddenly a few days before Easter. One morning, Disney and I took a nice walk. Twelve hours later, she had trouble walking. The next day, she couldn’t get up off the bedroom floor.
Just seven months removed from knee ligament surgery (I wrote about her recovery in December), we didn’t want to put our beloved family member through more tests, X-rays or surgery. Maybe the knee surgery and subsequent rehabilitation and recovery put more stress on her body than we thought.
I was devastated. That was by far the most difficult morning of my life. Later that day came the truly hard part — arriving home from work and knowing Disney wouldn’t be racing to greet me with her tail wagging excitedly. I’m not ashamed to admit that for a few days I shed a lot of tears when I approached our front door.
The last image I have is of Disney in my arms as I carried her to the car, then from there to the veterinarian’s office, where she lay with pained eyes on an exam table as we said our goodbyes.
As the shock of her loss wears off as each day passes, I think of all the good times our companion gave us.
Disney was an awesome dog. We got her for $20 from a farm in Douglass (Berks) in August 2001 when she was just a puppy. I repeatedly told my wife it was the best investment we ever made. And yes, Disney was named for the resort which we had visited just a month before she joined us.
Disney wasn’t your typical Labrador; she was actually a pretty laid-back dog. When we tossed a ball to her she’d chase it, but would usually drop it on her return trip. We joked that she was only half of a retriever!
Unlike most Labradors, Disney didn’t like water. We made one visit a few years ago to French Creek State Park with some friends. As our other dog, a yellow Labrador, and our friends’ two Golden Retrievers swam happily in the lake after a tennis ball, Disney would go into the water just enough to get her belly wet.
As she grew older, Disney hated loud noises — especially motorcycles. And she despised thunderstorms. I particularly hated the ones in the middle of the night when Disney would wake up panting and shaking and I’d have to escort her to the basement where she’d settle down and stay until morning.
Our most vivid memories about Disney revolve around food. One Valentine’s Day, my wife gave me a box of chocolate-covered pretzels. I left them on the headboard in the bedroom and we went out that night. Apparently, I didn’t close the box tightly because when we returned, the box was barren — and Disney was the only one home.
On several other occasions we’d arrive home to find an empty bag that once contained bread or rolls on our kitchen floor. We knew Disney was the guilty party.
The best Disney story happened on our wedding night, and my wife and I didn’t find out about it until a few days later.
After taking the wedding gifts, flowers, etc., into the house and getting my stepdaughters situated with a cousin who was going to stay with them for a week, my wife and I left for our airport hotel, from where we would leave the next morning for … Disney World. But in all the commotion of getting everything into the house and put away, several slices of the leftover wedding cake — Orange Creamsicle wedding cake — were left on the kitchen counter.
Well, Disney wouldn’t let this golden opportunity pass.  So she helped herself to a few slices of wedding cake — and had orange icing all over her face. Unfortunately, no one caught it on camera.
These memories and hundreds of others will live on in our hearts, and I hope that we reciprocated Disney’s love. I’m sure she’s been showering angels with all the love and affection that she showed us for more than 10 years.
I just wonder if she ate any of the angels’ Easter candy?

Mike Spohn is The Mercury’s Sunday editor. E-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @Merc_Mike

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