I am especially emotional today. My oldest, a 7.5-8.5 year old Labrador/Rottweiler/Alaskan Malamute mix named Murphy, is displaying some erratic behavior lately. I still need to observe him for another day before I can determine if this is passing or requires Vet attention, but his behavior is definitely not “within the norms” for him.
Murphy came to us on a whim. Memorial Day weekend of 2009, my husband and I were attending a local event and decided it was boring us. (These things happen.) My husband says, “Why don’t we go look at dogs?” I immediately said yes. Off we went to the local Animal Control adoption center, where we saw the most handsome yet saddest looking (what we thought was a) Labrador Retriever in the history of the world.
(Now I know the sad-eye Lab thing is a worldwide phenomenon, but it still amazes me how he could constantly look like we stole his favorite toy, even when it’s right at his feet.)
We went outside with him into a visitor pen, and he came over to us, licking our hands. We were in love. We paid $75 and became dog-parents. Getting him into the backseat of my car was nerve-wracking because we had no idea if he would let us handle him, if he was ok with backseats or cars, if he would snap… Eventually we got him home.
Later that night, paranoia spread. He was acting narcoleptic, wanting to fall asleep where he sat upright, sometimes falling over. He had a hacking cough, and there was crust forming on the front of his nose. I convinced myself I had fallen in love with a dog that was going to die from heartworm disease. But a trip to a vet the next morning confirmed it was a bad case of Kennel Cough, and with medicine he was fine.
Boy was he fine! As soon as he could smell again, he was a leash-pulling machine. Walks were insane, and he would lunge towards anything that moved in an effort to get to it and either love it or play with it. Murphy loves everything, from car rides to other dogs, from children to trips to the vet. He is euphoric when you ask him if he wants an R-I-D-E. He loves W-A-L-Ks. If kids come in his presence, he kisses and licks them clean while they giggle. He is always told he is handsome and one of the prettiest dogs because of his shiny, espresso colored coat and his beautiful amber-color eyes.
And he is my boy. We spent 7 months together bonding while my husband went on a deployment to Africa. During that time, I developed commands that have stuck with Murphy. We took neighborhood walks together and R-I-D-Es to various places. He kept me company when I was sick with the flu and kept the bed warm during cold winter nights. He listens when I talk to him, and he groans when I hug him. He talks back to me when I tell him to do things, and I love every whine, yip, bark, and moan. He is my boy.
Early 2014, we adopted a puppy from foster care. I named her Kili, and she is the annoying little sister to her big brother Murphy. They play and tussle, and when she annoys him he snaps at her to put her in her place. They are night and day in their personalities, with her being a spastic lap dog that barks at everything and him being a calm, independent guard dog that I had to teach to bark.
Kili and Murphy love each other fiercely, and that is how we love them. We love their doggie smells, the way they cock their heads when you talk to them, their frito feet, the web toes they each have, how they play, how they cuddle, how they are happy to see you’re home, and how sad they are to see you leave. They appreciate you in a way that very few people ever will, and they do it believing you are simply part of their pack. They ask for simple things, and they always love you.
I hope whatever is happening with Murphy is temporary. I hope I can have him happy and healthy for a few years more. I want him to be capable of playing with his sister and groaning when you have him move to another spot on the bed. I love my boy, and I need him to stay with us.