Shadow was a slobbery, drooling dog, a big black lab mix with overgrown feet and an overgrown personality.
The relationship between man and beast is an interesting one. What is it about dogs that tempts us to repeat the age-old phrase, “dogs are man’s best friend”? My husband contends that we love to make pets out of animals because without free will, they simply absorb all our affection and reflect undivided loyalty back to us. We revel in such devotion and inadvertently become part of a dog’s pack as he bonds with us in a deep manner. This dynamic works for my husband because he is always the alpha of the pack but not for me. Why I don’t even make the beta position. Nope I am usually the omega. So, Shadow simply pushed me aside, almost killing me as he bounded down the stairs ahead of me at least twenty times a day!
Animals are important on a farm. An integral part of my children’s lives for 13 years, Shadow was the most quirky, amusing and utterly annoying pet we have ever owned. Since this dog grew up with cats, they could cuddle up beside him or lay on top of him and he barely raised an eyebrow. He tossed mice and fish around like a cat and even played more like a cat than a dog. What a ridiculous sight, watching a humongous dog bounce around imitating a wiry cat. Neighbouring farmers eyebrows shot up when they caught sight of Shadow, swearing that they had never witnessed anything like it.
Any activity, be it human or animal, was an opportunity for Shadow to engage with other living creatures. Often we would literally trip over him because this pest was following our every move. For instance, every week, we collected day old bread, distributed to families in need and of course fed our own family. Any extra went to the pigs. This jealous dog would dash in to the pigs’ feeding trough, grab a bun or long french loaf and dart away as the pigs charged after him. In a perfect doggy way, he would bury the stolen treasure. Then Shadow would sit, with his back to his stash and guard it. The funniest scene was in the winter when a french loaf was only half buried in the snow. Shadow seemed confident that his bread was invisible. He sat and pretended that he was innocently looking around, enjoying the scenery and not guarding illegal, stolen goods. In addition this jealous dog snuck up and snatched what ever the kids were picking from the garden and eat it be it corn on the cob, green beans, strawberries, raspberries….
Of course Shadow loved to sleep on beds and couches, plastered to someone’s side. I really do not think he realized that he was not a lap dog! The trouble was when he tried to hop up on the furniture to cuddle, he would inadvertently dislodge people, almost pushing them off the couch. When ordered off the furniture, he would slink away with the most pitiful look on his face till one of us laid down beside him on the floor. Then he was content. Of course, it was always a mad dash to open the car door and slam it quickly before Shadow could jump in for a ride. He really liked car rides.Yep, he could not stand to be excluded.
Although this water dog had webbed feet and loved to swim, he was reluctant to get wet at first.The only way to persuade Shadow to swim in the lake and cool off was to cast a bobber with a fishing rod and reel it in as fast as possible. Before we could call his name, Shadow would bound into the water, splashing everyone and every thing, desperate to snatch the bobber with his teeth. At least once every 20 casts, Shadow would actually manage to snap up the fishing bobber. It was hilarious because he would keep diving in after that stupid bobber till he was ready to drop and whine if we wanted a break.
Shadow considered himself not only a water bird dog but a hunting dog as well. We were forced to use guns to scare away predators. If Shadow caught a glimpse of one of the guns, he became excited, agitated and loud, so loud that if we let him out he frightened the predator away. The boys needed their wits to sneak out of the house while other siblings distracted our great hunting dog. It took planning and the whole procedure was always dramatic. Once again our faithful dog desperately craved to be involved in every family activity.
Inspite of his annoying habits, Shadow really was a member of our family. Even Michael has to grudgingly agree.