Lord Byron (the dog)

15 Sep

This is a picture of me and Lord Byron, who is sitting on Santa Paws’ lap.  I answered an ad in the Mpls. Tribune and Bob Besser drove me out into the boondocks to get him.  He was a purebred and I could have bought his papers, but didn’t.  He had the classic Labrador head, but was somewhat small for a lab at sixty-some pounds.  It’s still my favorite breed, although my passion for golden retrievers runs a close second.  I’ve always thought that if I could have found a man who liked large dogs and Jane Austen, I would have married him.

After years of cramped quarters in apartments and freezing because of poor insulation during the winter months, I finally had a house that was comfortable and numerous opportunities opened up for me.  One of those involved having a dog.  I’ve always thought of having a pet as one of those things that offers the ultimate bliss in life.  Because of my brother’s allergies, we were not allowed to have a dog when we were growing up. As a result,  he and I did the same thing once we were able–we each bought  black dogs.  My brother’s dog, Hamshenk, named after his nickname when he worked on a rig in the North Sea, was a Labrador-St. Bernard-Weimaraner mix, but he looked like a lab and that is what probably spurred my interest in getting Byron.

From the beginning, Byron was a barker.  I started him out on my bed, which he liked, until about 4 am in the morning, when he would put his nose in the Venetian blinds and start barking.  Needless to say, the next door neighbor, a woman who unlike her husband had never bothered to invite me into the neighborhood, was at my door the next morning.  Next, he was moved to the back porch, where he would regale the back alley with plaintive howls during the night.  No one could complain because they couldn’t figure out which house the noise was coming from.  All this time I was taking him on long walks and runs when I was not waitressing and we were bonding, and I thought I was potty training him.  However, when I was at work he would often go to the bathroom on the back porch, which was right off the kitchen and my tenant was not too happy.  I could hardly blame her.

My household was not turning out quite the way I had expected.  I had a tenant who was irritated with me because of the malodorous smells coming from the porch and Scott was refusing to come to my house, preferring to meet elsewhere, because of my tenant’s child, a six-year- old  hellion, to whom he referred as the “Bad Seed” after she kicked him with the toes of her decorated sneakers.  It wasn’t until years later when I had a born again Christian tenant, that I found a tenant who actually enjoyed Byron.  I had bought a 10′ X 12′ outside dog kennel by then and put it him in it, and as long as I was in the yard, he seemed happy there.  Often, however, I would have to put him in a small kennel downstairs, because of the calls the neighbors made to Animal Control about his barking.

The trips we made to New York and back showed him to be a dog possessed with the finer things in life, including squirrels and swimming in lake water.  In the car, he would lie next to me with his paw across my thigh, content at last.  He was one happy dog.

When he was around seven, he started having seizures and when I went to the vet he was diagnosed with epilepsy.  I was given a prescription for phenobarbital and he started sleeping much of the time.  His personality started changing and he retreated into himself.  He didn’t bark as much, but he didn’t respond to me as much either.  When he had a seizure, he would lie on his side, foaming at the mouth.  He would howl on and on without stopping.  I would try to talk to him, but he was in another world.

One night when he was nine, he had a terrible seizure and I stayed up with him for part of the night, and then went to bed, exhausted.  When I awoke in the morning, his body had gone into rigor mortis.  I sobbed and sobbed, finally going to my neighbor, Luttie, in tears.  He and his brother came over with some shovels and dug a big grave in my garden.  I kept his green collar and wrapped him in a blue sheet before we put him in the ground.  It’s illegal to bury pets in one’s yard in Mpls., but I didn’t much care at that point.  I just hoped that he had moved onto a happier life.

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