Today has been a rough one. The Rocket Scientist in all his sweetness has written the post that I desperately needed written tonight, but could not do myself.
So, after dinner tonight I sat down at my computer. I went to flickr.com and looked at the pictures that Karen has saved on the website...one thousand eight hundred and seven (yes, really, 1,807). I looked at everyone of them. There were pictures of unfinished yards, finished yards, houses, houses that became our homes, home improvement projects, trips to home improvement stores to buy stuff to do those home improvement projects, and pictures of the Sea Monkeys in shopping carts at home improvement stores. Of course, I lingered slightly longer on those last pictures.
In addition to the pictures of the Sea Monkeys in shopping carts at home improvement stores, there were pictures of birthdays, Christmases, Halloweens, and vacations. I saw kids playing in desert yards, Great Plains yards, and yards buried (and I mean BURIED) under the Greatest Snow on Earth. If you don't believe me, read the license plates. It says so right there. I saw pictures of kids who sneaked off to fall asleep in their beds and pictures of kids who sneaked out of their beds to fall asleep on the floor. There were pictures of kids blowing out candles on cakes, eating cakes, and, of course, wearing cakes. As I looked at these pictures I noticed two things--not a single picture of my beautiful wife and I am (and I can prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt) the most fortunate man who has ever lived. And for that I am grateful. Blessings have been lavished upon me that I will never deserve.... I know that and I acknowledge that.
And despite all the feelings of gratitude, I hadn't found the picture for which I searched. It was a needle in a haystack. See I was looking for this picture (or a semblance, thereof).
See, the yellow lab (to the left) is Sabrina. You've seen a picture of her before. Sabrina is a Guide Dog flunkie. I've been advised to refer to this as a "second career", so as to avoid injuring her delicate self-esteem. Sabrina is my dog. The dog on the right is Penny. We got her as an "oops" from a friend. Penny is Sabrina's dog. I'm certain Penny cannot remember a day in her life without Sabrina.
Sabrina came to us in the summer of 1998, just a few months after we moved into our first house. She was, bar none, the best trained dog in neighborhood...until I got a hold of her. Sabrina has lived in every state in which I have lived. Really. California (for guide dog training). She moved back to Utah in 1998 to become my dog. She moved from Utah to Kansas with me in 2003. She moved from Kansas to Arizona with me in 2004. She was even willing to move back to Utah with me in 2007. For each move, Sabrina rode in the vehicle I drove. We played together, ran together, wrestled together, and hid out in basements during tornadoes together. We traveled the road between Clinton, Utah, and Carlsbad, California, who knows how many times together. I could go on and on about the things we've done together. This picture reminds me of Sabrina's favorite pasttime. I was, so often, the recipient of her expressions of love.
Sabrina and I have spent many days and nights side-by-side. She is gentle and concerned by nature. She is massively expressive with her eyes and eyebrows. She truly broke me in as a pet owner. I have always planned on being the one responsible for all of her care, regardless of what she required. However, I wasn't with her last night. I was 1,442 miles away from home, on business in Nashville, Tennessee, and Huntsville, Alabama. Sabrina left us in her sleep.
I've spent the day trying to occupy my mind with (what today anyways seems so trivial) thoughts of how to ensure the rocket that will someday carry astronauts to the International Space Station & the moon will function properly and meet its intended mission. Each time I lost focus, I had to fight the tears that wanted to flow knowing I will never have the opportunity to see my own "man's best friend" again.
I thought of my wife, who, once again, had to face a difficult challenge alone, because, once again, her husband was across the country (or across the ocean) on business (I am so sorry you had to handle this Karen). I thought of the Sea Monkeys, who, even though they try, will take several weeks to grasp that Sabrina is really gone. Even the First One is struggling with the concept, despite having lost one of our cats a couple of years ago. The Little Jamaican won't get it for several months, or maybe even a couple of years. I think about Penny, who, last night, lost her master, her friend, and really her momma. I've been told her tail has been between her legs all day long trying to figure out why she's alone.
Mostly, I think about Sabrina, and the years we spent as companions...the miles on foot, the miles by car, the of number times I wore my arm out throwing balls for her, the time my dad hit her with an aluminum bat because she was to impatient for the ball to actually get hit far enough for her to run after it, and the amount of things she destroyed even within the last couple of months with her teeth (I thought labs outgrew chewing). Mostly, I think about how grateful I am that yesterday afternoon, before I left for the airport, I had the opportunity to watch her run, full-bore, to her feed bowl. I'm also glad that I heard she ran the yard last night before going to bed. Sabrina, we will all miss you. You're a great pet, great dog, and great companion. I will, however, miss you more than the others...I knew that would be the case, though.
Lastly, I think about the three incredibly kind neighbors (one state trooper, one municipal police officer, and a director of new product training for Novell) who stepped up after I made a single phone call explaining the situation. They took upon themselves the task of removing Sabrina from her kennel and the kennel from the garage so Karen would have so much less to worry. And, to the director, an incredibly deep, heart-felt thanks for taking Sabrina and burying her on your family's farm, where I can stop on my way to or from work and say good-bye to the friend to whom I didn't get to bid farewell.
Good-bye, my friend.
Good-bye sweet puppy, I will miss you, too.
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