Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Our Molly

As you know if you've read my weblog for any length of time, I am a dog lover. Always have been. I cannot imagine waking up in the morning without a dog licking my face or pushing its head under my hand for attention, then running to the door for the first outing of the day.

The current resident who performs those duties is Molly Brown. She is a beagle-sized hound of indeterminate lineage - we adopted her from a shelter - brown and mostly white who spends her days sleeping in her favorite chair or on our bed. She waits each morning, with impatience, for her food to be poured in her bowl, and, if it gets past her dinnertime in the late afternoon, she follows whoever is at home until her needs are satisfied. Her only other unarguable demands surface when she has to go out, which always seems to occur when I'm most busy, or absorbed in a favorite TV show or movie.

Molly just celebrated her tenth birthday; a milestone I find hard to believe. But then, I'm always in awe of just how fast the years fly by. Anyway, on her special day last weekend, I found myself remembering when she became a member of the family. Our beloved Rascal - still the smartest and most precious dog we ever loved - had been morose over the loss of our goofy Sprocket, the bearded collie who had provided the entertainment portions of our days. Rascal had no one to play with, run around the yard with, or lay beside while sleeping. He really appeared depressed, becoming quite lethargic and acting much older than his years. So, we went in search of a new mate for him, and found this hound puppy, along with several of her siblings. We were assured that she would grow to about the same size as Rascal. We signed the necessary papers, had her checked out by the vet, and brought her home. We named her Molly Brown, a favorite historical character but chosen not because of that reference but because our new puppy had a lot of brown markings on her fur.

Rascal's attitude changed immediately. It was obvious he considered Molly his charge and took his responsibility quite seriously. We believe he was instrumental in seeing that she learned quickly what going outside was intended to accomplish, for which we were grateful, and the two were inseparable from the first day. Although her full growth was only about half that of his, she was the adoring hero worshipper to the wise sage, literally looking up to him.

Because they were so close, we worried when we knew that Rascal's days were coming to an end a couple of years ago. She had never known a day without him by her side, and she still looked to him for leadership. How would she survive when he wasn't here any longer? She did have a couple of anxious weeks after his passing. She looked for him in his favorite sleeping spots, and wandered the rooms of the house as if she hoped to find him in one of them. She would sniff at where his bowl used to be. She refused to sleep on our bed at night, though it had always been her favorite snuggling place. That practice had been given up when Rascal could no longer jump up on the bed; she would lay beside him on the floor. Without him, she seemed to see no reason to resume old habits. She would come and sit in front of me or my husband and her soulful brown eyes would search ours as if asking where he was.

But, as time passed, she seemed to take on the role of principal dog, assuming many of the caring and mature attitudes that Rascal possessed. She felt it her role to become the main guard dog, as well as the sympathetic friend when one was needed. In a two-dog household, she had acquiesced to Rascal's lead; now it was her turn to take what she had learned from him and be our primary protector and comforter. We were relieved and a little surprised at the change. She still has her goofy habits that surface now and then, but she definitely has grown up at this latter stage of her life.

Her ten year milestone made me a little sad. The vet says she is still healthy and she certainly shows no aging signs, other than a few gray hairs, but I know she is nearing the end of her pedicated life span, and I don't look forward to that day that inevitably comes. We have talked about getting her a companion dog for her last years with us. I think another, younger dog is more for our benefit really, to ease the loneliness when Molly leaves us. But I think she'll enjoy having a buddy again. And maybe she can be the wise sage to that furry life as it learns the ways of our household. I hope so.

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