Monday, December 26, 2011

A Special Christmas Gift

I grew up in a family that always had a dog, even though the only dog who was a part of my family while I was growing up was our dog Jody. I didn't remember a time without her because my parents got her when I was 1 and they put her down due to old age when I was 13. However, around the time that we were making the decision to put Jody down our neighbors adopted a little yellow lab puppy who they named Gus.

Jody in bed with my brother and I watching Sesame Street

At the time, our neighbors had two little girls which I babysat so it worked out in my favor that while I was sitting for them, I also got to cuddle a tiny bundle of sweet puppy softness. Nothing makes me happier than playing and cuddling with an adorable baby pup. Unfortunately as Gus grew bigger, he also grew farther away from his family. Whether it was his size, or the family's loss of interest in him, they eventually secluded him to a kennel in the backyard that was left over from our previous neighbors.

Jody near the end of her life.

Gus's kennel ran along the fence that separated the neighbor's yard from ours. It consisted of a fenced-in area where the grass had gone bare and it included a ramshackle dog house. Gus spent all of his time in his kennel, receiving the majority of his attention from the daily feeding from his owners. They would come out, fill his bowl, and walk away.

Maybe it was because we recently lost our family dog, or maybe it was because my Dad couldn't stand to see Gus alone day in and day out, but he decided to do something about it. I don't know how exactly it came about but if I remember right, it started with a hole in the fence. One day my Dad got the idea to saw a hole in the fence so that Gus could stick his head through and watch my Dad's never-ending projects, as well as receive a pat on the head every now and then.

Me giving Gus a pat on Easter.

The hole eventually turned into a door that allowed Gus to come all the way into our yard to play and run around. Over the years Gus spent more and more time in the yard with my Dad. Time passed...I left home at 15, my parents divorced, my brother moved out, but my Dad and Gus remained. The neighbors changed too...the girls grew up and the family added a new dog to their household...a smaller, yippy dog that they could carry and walk around the neighborhood with. And yet the attention they gave Gus never evolved past the daily filling of his food bowl.

Gus aged but never lost his spirit. When I adopted Maisy I would take her over to play at my Dad's and Gus would allow her to jump on his arthritic back and he would follow the best he could as she raced around the large yard looking for a squirrel to chase. His tail never stopped wagging even when they would finally lay exhausted in the yard or when they stopped to get a drink of water.

Little puppy Maisy.

In the winter my Dad would bring Gus into the garage to keep him warm and then eventually he bought him a dog igloo that included a heated mat to ease his arthritis. A couple years ago it became achingly apparent that Gus was in a lot of pain. My Dad spoke with the neighbors and not surprisingly they gave my Dad permission to put Gus down. I know it didn't happen right away, I don't think my Dad could bare the thought of losing Gus, but he did eventually make the appointment, and Gus was gone. I don't remember my Dad crying over our other family dogs but I know he cried when he lost Gus, because I heard him.

For the last year or so my Dad had been bugging me about making him a BeBe Baby. He said he didn't care what kind of doll, I think he wanted something he could show his friends. I admit making him a doll wasn't my top priority, but it was mostly because when I make something for someone, I want it to be meaningful, either representative of their personality or significant to their life. So as Christmas rolled around an idea hit me...

I decided to make a little yellow lab BeBe that would have a little dog tag with Gus's name on it. As I worked on him I thought of little things to add like angel wings....

I think my Dad was shocked, and I hope that he is happy with what I came up with for his very own BeBe. It felt good to make something in tribute to a forgotten dog that found a home in an unlikely place. In fact it gave me a bunch of other ideas and feelings about all the puppies that have passed on, loved and unloved. I believe there will be more BeBe tributes to come...

In memory of Gus and all the pups in my life.