After our much loved springer spaniel, Gulliver, died in September of last year, Bob and I realized something important was missing from our lives. Gulliver had been our best buddy for 15 years, and suddenly there was a dog-sized hole in our hearts and an empty space in our home. Then, eight months ago, something serendipitous happened. Our daughter Alison and son-in-law Mike decided to build a new house, and while it was under construction, they had to move into an apartment…a very nice apartment, but one that wouldn’t welcome more than one of their two family dogs…and definitely not a dog that weighed nearly 80 pounds. Mabel, their four-year-old English sheepdog, was over the limit. Major problem! What to do? Mabel is a BIG dog.
When we heard that they would have to live in an apartment while their house was built, we joked that they couldn’t all move into our house during the transition, but we would be glad to take in at least one of the dogs. Consequently, eight months ago, Bob and I became foster parents for Mabel. This solved their housing problem, and at the same time filled the huge dog-sized hole in our hearts. It was a solution made in Heaven.
After Mabel moved in with us, she and Bob took daily walks in Chagrin River Park. She also happily shared some of his morning toast, and curled up comfortably on the carpet while he worked in his office. If I sat down to read the paper, Mabel would sit next to me, and if she heard me open the refrigerator door, she would pad into the kitchen on her big paws because it must surely be mealtime if I was making food preparation noises in the kitchen.
Every day when the mail truck pulled up in front of our house, Mabel responded by dashing over to the front window to keep a watchful eye on the postman as he made his rounds. When he approached our house, she would go on high alert, letting out a volley of loud barks as he walked up the drive to deliver our mail. “Stranger approaching!” she announced, and kept a wary eye on the action until he slammed our mailbox shut and continued his route. Unfamiliar dogs walking past our house got the same treatment. Obviously Mabel, the ever-vigilant sheepdog, had assumed the role of our protector. Bob and I had become her sheep.
When we sat down at the supper table, Mabel would stand next to Bob’s chair, hoping for a handout. Although she is actually tall enough to rest her chin next to Bob’s plate, good table manners (ours, not hers) required that she sit quietly next to his chair to wait patiently for a tidbit from Bob’s plate. Later, when we sat on the couch to watch the evening news, Mabel maneuvered herself into the space between us, and if she had to rest her head on one of our laps, that was okay with her…and with us too. On evenings when Bob was out to meet with a client, Mabel wouldn’t settle down until he returned, and if I was out, she never failed to greet me at the door when she heard my car pull into the driveway.
In eight months, Mabel became a full-fledged member of our household. Occasionally she would go to the apartment for a weekend visit with Mike, Alison, Michael, Emmy, and Cooper, but when the visit was over, she joyfully returned and resumed the role of sheepdog for Bob and me. She had achieved dual citizenship and took her new responsibilities seriously!
As anyone who has ever moved into a new house knows, the day construction is complete, the moving truck has come and gone, and the family can settle into their new home, is both joyful and exciting. But while Bob and I were happy to see their excitement, joyful didn’t describe the way we felt when Alison came to pick up Mabel and take her to her new home. The huge dog-sized hole in our hearts has returned, and it is bigger than ever! Like forlorn sheep, Bob and I are holding on to the hope for regularly scheduled visits from our sheepdog.