Two of my high school buddies, Hannah Matthews and Heidi Flannery, had a yellow and black lab and their dad provided lifestyle that made even those great dogs happy. One thing the labs could do, was chase each other under water to the bottom of the pool to retrieve something the owners threw in there. I always wanted a lab after that. I got one in 1982.
Elsa (think the old movie, Born Free) was yellow, maybe mixed, and her “family” had kept her puppies but put her in the pound. She was still lactating when I adopted her, and probably about two years old, maybe three.
I loved that dog. She was loyal, never ill-tempered, cheerful. When I was experiencing the pain of a divorce two years later, I would be upstairs, and before a tear fell, she would be at my side, somehow knowing I was going to be upset.
When Elsa got much older, we were living in a tiny place on the westside of Colorado Springs and it was a hot summer. I had to go to Denver for the day, and while there were cooler places in the little cottage, and of course I left her water, the temps reached 106, and when I came home, I found her in the back bedroom, on her side, her tongue hanging out, panting only slightly.
I took her to the emergency vet and they put a breathing tube in her and kept her overnight in an air-conditioned cage and put her on fluids. They did x-rays. They ended up telling me that labs have a genetic weakness in a nerve trunk in their necks that causes a weakness, and that she might have had a stroke, and that her lungs were filled with cancer. But when I walked in, and she was on an examining table on her side, she immediately turned to me as I walked in the room, and her eye to my eye, began thumping the tail. As long as she wasn’t in too much pain, and she had that amount of happiness, I was taking her home and I did.
The stroke made it hard for her to walk, to go outside to the bathroom, so I confined her to a plastic covered indoor porch while I was working so she could “go” when she had to, and during the night I would lift her up and take her outside myself. She was such a lovely dog and meant so much to me.
A new young friend from a 12 Step group called Adult Children of Alcoholics came home one night to visit with me, and stopped as she entered the room, saying, “Wow, I can feel the love in this place,” because there was a lot of love going from me to that dog and vice versa. .
Four weeks later, the Lord told me it was time, and I took her to a vet to let her be released. I was at her head, and one of the assistants was behind, stroking MY dog from tail to head and I could barely touch her. I looked up and said, “Hey, I appreciate you love animals, but this one is mine, okay?” And, fortunately for me, she kindly departed the room, having of course meant no harm.
The vet injected her fore(arm?) with the drug to stop her heart and breathing, but she kept looking at me. The vet said, “She’s a big dog, and she’s having a hard time letting go.” I understood, and petted Elsa’s head one last time and looking into her eyes I said, “It’s okay, I’ll be alright, you can go.” And she did.
I had no money nor wherewithal to do a “proper” burial, so I had to take her to the pound wrapped in a sheet for them to cremate the body. One of her silken brownish blond ears fell out from the cover and I gasped as the caretaker took my little bundle from me.
The bible says, I think in Ecclesiastes, man’s spirit goes into heaven (the heavenly realm, which includes both heaven and hell), and animal spirit goes into the earth. When my mother died, I felt her spirit go up; when Elsa died I felt her spirit dissipate horizontally. When I got home and for a few days, there was an anointed and anointing presence in my little cottage that I had never experienced before. I believe at this time, you reader, might just think I’ve lost it here, but I think at this time, “God” gave me a badge… it is like I graduated… and I think there were decisions made at this time about me having a child; for I had aborted my first conception in college; and I had an ectopic pregnancy a few years after college and I think that stuff had to be “cleared” out.
Six months later I conceived my son who was in fact carried full term and born on November 26, 1994. He is 21 years old today and he is well.
Animals are NOT as important as mankind; but they are a close second. They serve us, they love us, they teach us, they show us how to love, they delight us, they scare us (thinking lions right now), and they deserve feelings and devotion from us that borders on worship. I’ve never been hurt by loving an animal, now loving people, that’s an entirely different story!
Sara Stone answered this question in a Quora Session. She has given us permission to reprint it here for you to enjoy. We thank her for her generosity and her ability to be such an “Animal Advocate.”